It wasn’t the year Rochester Americans defenseman Drew Bagnall had anticipated for his eighth season in the American Hockey League.
The veteran defenseman only played in 41 games for the Amerks this year, finishing with 12 points (3+9) and 62 penalty minutes. With his two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres set to expire on July 1, his future status with the organization is up in the air.
Bagnall originally suffered an injury in a Nov. 7 loss to the Binghamton Senators, and missed nearly three weeks. Bagnall returned in late November, and appeared in four games before he was felled with another injury that put him on the shelf until Dec. 27. After staying on the ice for the entirety of January, Bagnall suited up for just one game in February, and returned in early March for the home stretch of the season before missing the final weekend of the season with a broken thumb.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries, but not normally a rash of them like that,” Bagnall said. “Normally you get an injury a year or something like that, but to have three this season with one being prolonged that never really healed. That’s probably the first time that’s happened to me.”
While sitting out games wasn’t easy, returning to the lineup presented some issues as well. Bagnall admitted after a few extended absences that sometimes rust was a factor that set in after missing so much time.
“Coming off injury you always feel like you’re a step behind, but as time wore on I thought I felt better,” Bagnall said. “Then, it felt like I would get hit with another injury. You’ve got to play a certain way to get contracts and win games, and sometimes that ends up getting you hurt.
Now Bagnall faces an offseason of uncertainty. He signed a two-year, two-way National Hockey league contract with the Sabres on July 6, 2013 and that deal is set to expire prior to July 1. While he hopes to return to Rochester again next season, Bagnall is prepared for other scenarios as well.
“I’ve made it known to Buffalo that I would love to come back and be a part of the Amerks next year,” Bagnall said. “I guess we see where it goes and if nothing comes of it, I become an unrestricted free agent and hopefully there is some team out there that thinks I can contribute.”
Count Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy among those hoping for Bagnall’s return in the future. Cassidy noted a number of times during the season what Bagnall’s presence and leadership meant to his young team, particularly with Rochester’s young defensive unit.
“I can’t imagine there are a lot of guys in this league that are better leaders and captains than Drew,” Cassidy said. “He’s always working with the younger players, and he brings a great attitude into the locker room every day. We always talk about the environment we want our players to develop in here, and he is a big part of that.”
The 31-year-old Bagnall has played in a combined 527 regular season and playoff games at the American Hockey League level, and maintains that he still has plenty to offer. Now, all he can do is play the waiting game.
“I still think I’ve got a couple years in me, but we’ll see what happens when I get out there.”