Jason Pominville said he isn’t retired.
And even though the longtime former Buffalo Sabres forward said he hasn’t had any discussions with the team, or any other NHL team, about continuing his career this season, he hopes that changes.
“Initially I was, I don’t want to say picky,” Pominville said Thursday night at KeyBank Center, as the Sabres welcomed him back along with players from the 2000s as part of the team's 50th anniversary celebration, “but there’s only a few places that I would have liked to play. Obviously, Buffalo was one of them.”
Pominville, 37, played 11 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Sabres and is one of the most beloved players in franchise history, a former second-round draft pick who went on to record 217 goals and 521 points – eighth in team annals – in 733 regular-season games in Buffalo.
He added 12 goals and 28 points in 45 career playoff games with the Sabres.
Pominville’s contract expired after last season, when his 16 goals were fourth on the team, and he was not offered an opportunity to re-sign, even after Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson suffered long-term injuries in November. The Sabres, instead, traded a fourth-round pick to Calgary for Michael Frolik, a 31-year-old on an expiring contract that’s paying him $4.3 million this season.
“[Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill] was great,” Pominville said. “He talked to me throughout the summer, talked to me before training camp, kept me in the loop on everything. I was able to use the gym, use the facility. So he was great.”
But he’s not calling it a career, even as he spends his days coaching his son’s youth team and skating in a weekly beer league in Amherst.
“I’m still in good shape,” Pominville said. “I still work out, still skate. I think now I might be able to be a little less selective, but for me it wasn’t worth going somewhere far where you have to go somewhere on a one-year deal, leave, either bring the family – then you get traded at the deadline because you’re on a one-year deal and the family’s stuck on the West Coast, you’re on the East Coast. It just wasn’t worth it for me.
“But now, if an opportunity arrives, I might consider it, just because there’s not a lot of the season left. But I know realistically it’s tough. Obviously, I’m older and missed a lot. So I’ll still take my time. But I still feel good. I’m healthy. And I guess we’ll see what time, where it leads us.”
Pominville said it was a little unusual walking into the KeyBank Center as an alumnus.
But he enjoyed the camaraderie with his former teammates and the organization including him in the festivities.
“It’s fun. You get treated great,” Pominville said. “They’ve done a great job with the alumni. They keep us involved, they always reach out. ... Even though it’s got to be awkward for them to reach out to me at this time, because [my retirement is] not really official yet, but I’m excited to be part of it. It’s been a lot of fun the times I’ve been here.”
Pominville reminisced about the 2005-06 team that might have won the Stanley Cup if not for a rash of injuries, and his series-clinching, short-handed goal in Game 5 of the second-round series against the Ottawa Senators.
“When you’re playing, you’re just kind of in the moment and we were kind of riding the wave during that playoff run, so I was just young and clueless and having fun and just going with it," Pominville said. “When you take a step back, I think you realize a little bit more how much it meant.”