Tom Poti won’t be back with the Washington Capitals after a “frustrating” season but one that showed the defenseman could still play in the NHL.
At 36 years old, Poti said he still has the desire to play but acknowledged that his time in Washington is over.
“I think it’s time to move on, and I’ll be looking for a new team to play [for] next year,” Poti said. “I want to give my love to George McPhee and thank him for everything he did for me. I loved playing for the guys with the guys and the trainers and everything were awesome and a great organization.”
Poti was the Caps’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication” to the game after coming back from two years away with a fractured pelvis and groin injuries.
“I was probably one of the few people that didn’t count myself out. A lot of people have counted me out throughout the course of my career,” Poti said, pointing to more than just his injuries. “I think I kind of showed everybody that I was here to stay and I’ve been around for a long time. Just like it is now, I still have that hunger to play and I still have that desire and I definitely want to play as long as I can.”
Poti missed more than two calendar years with injury before returning to the Caps’ lineup Jan. 19. Neck and back injuries hampered him during the season, but he didn’t have any more groin problems.
“The big question with me was, was my groin going to hold up? Was it going to be OK to play in the National Hockey League on a day-to-day basis?” Poti said. “I had all those questions answered for me and I know that I’m never going to have to worry about that injury again to that part of my body. It was a breath of fresh air to know that the year-and-a-half to two years of hard work that I put in paid off and I can continue my career.”
Torn cartilage in his ribs in his back and whiplash that kept him from turning his head knocked Poti out for a while. By the time he was healthy, the blue line was well-established, so he finished the season with just 16 games and two assists.
“It was a frustrating year as far as [injuries],” he said.
That Poti has only played 37 games since the end of the 2010 season is not ideal, but he’s looking at it as being “well-rested.”
“I haven’t played much hockey the past 2½ to 3 years, so my body feels great,” Poti said. “I don’t feel like I’m 36 years old. Never at one point during the season did I say, ‘Man, I feel old, or ‘I feel like I’m getting old.’ My legs felt great and everything felt pretty good.”
Any team that signs Poti would be getting a veteran two-way presence on defense. If potential suitors want to ensure his groin is 100 percent, the Boston native said he’d have no trouble proving it.
His offseason training regimen will be as normal, and he’ll do some off-ice work before resuming skating in mid-to-late July.
Poti will become an unrestricted free agent July 5. At that point he’s hoping to join a contender, and the unbalanced playoff odds of the Eastern and Western Conferences will make a difference.
“It’s definitely going to factor into my opinion because obviously the biggest void I’ve had is no Stanley Cup,” Poti said. “I’d like to take at least one more shot at it, and maybe a couple more if my body holds up. It’s one of the biggest voids of my career and it’s probably a good thing if you can go to a team that has a better percentage of making the playoffs to get that chance to win the Stanley Cup.”