If you asked Tomas Kopecky, he would likely admit his past couple of seasons weren’t the best of his NHL career, but it’s unlikely the 33-year-old saw himself out of a gig in North America this season. Kopecky is, though, and has signed a one-year deal with the HC Ocelari Trinec in the Czech Extraliga.
Over 113 games with the Florida in the past two seasons, Kopecky, a two-time 15 goal scorer, notched just six goals and 20 points. He saw his average ice time dip significantly from nearly 18 minutes per game during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign to a mere 13 minutes in 2014-15. On several occasions, Kopecky was a healthy scratch in Florida.
The veteran winger did get another shot at the NHL during the off-season, though, as the Chicago Blackhawks, who he played with in 2009-10 and 2010-11, brought him to camp on a professional tryout. However, before camp was through, Kopecky was again looking for a job as the Blackhawks cut him.
Kopecky had offers from the KHL and Swiss NLA before signing a deal in the Czech Extraliga, Kopecky’s agent Vladimir Vujtek told HC Trinec’s website. It was after a meeting with HC Trinec’s vice president John Czudkem that Kopecky finalized his deal with the Czech club.
For Kopecky, his new club is close to home. A native of Ilava, Slovakia, Trinec is less than a two-hour drive from where Kopecky grew up.
Now that he has headed overseas, it seems unlikely that Kopecky will work his way back, especially in a league that is increasingly becoming about the youth and prime-aged players. Kopecky, like other veterans such as Curtis Glencross, David Booth and Lubomir Visnovsky, have had a near impossible time finding work in the NHL despite several teams attempting to fill holes.
Selected in the second round of the 2000 draft, 38th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings, Kopecky is a two-time Stanley Cup winner, having captured the NHL’s greatest prize with the Red Wings in 2007-08 and again with the Blackhawks in 2009-10.
Over his 578 games in the NHL, Kopecky registered 68 goals and 174 points. His best season came in 2010-11, when he notched 15 goals and 42 points in 81 games with Chicago.