Deryk Engelland didn’t return for a victory lap.
The 37-year-old defenseman made that clear Wednesday at City National Arena, a day after signing a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Golden Knights that can reach up to $1.5 million with incentives. He’s not thinking about retirement; he believes he has “a few good years left” and wants to spend them with the organization he thinks “rejuvenated” his career.
“You talk to a lot of guys that have retired after long careers, they wish they played longer,” Engelland said. “They just tell you, ‘Play as long as you can.’ I think the body is holding up well, so I’ll keep going and try to help the team to achieve our ultimate goal of winning in any way that we can.”
Engelland was a key part of the Knights’ successful first two NHL seasons with his play on the blue line and penalty kill, locker room leadership (he’s an assistant captain) and community service. The former Las Vegas Wrangler thinks he still has more to give, and incoming president of hockey operations George McPhee felt the same way.
Engelland said conversations during the season between the two made him feel like there was mutual interest in staying together, and he was confident a deal would get done. He said he received one-year offers from other teams but wanted to stay in Las Vegas.
“Ultimately, this is home,” said Engelland, who has played for 10 teams in four leagues during a nomadic professional career. “This is where my heart is. We started such a great culture here, I wanted to see it through to the end.”
What Engelland, who will be 38 at the start of next season’s postseason, still can offer the team remains to be seen. His right-hand shot (the only one on the Knights’ blue line) and penalty-killing prowess fill needs, but he didn’t play as well 5-on-5 last season as he had in the past.
Plus, the organization has a stable of young defensemen ready to make the jump to the NHL, so Engelland will have plenty of competition.
“I think I’m very motivated,” he said. “The first year (with the Knights) I thought was obviously my best year as a player, and last year was a little down. But there’s always room to improve and get better even at this age. If I want to keep playing, I’ve got to come in form and in great shape and do all the things I need to do.”
Engelland wants to hit the ground running in training camp and said the rest of his offseason will consist of “training, skating and family time.” He thinks that will give him the best chance to play well enough to continue his career, because Wednesday he didn’t sound like a man ready to hang up his skates.
“That was the first goal, to stay here and play as long as I can,” Engelland said.