TRAVERSE CITY – For Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo it’s all about having a chance to play in the NHL.
And like many of those years he’s been in the league, the tough guy will be battling for every minute of ice time he gets.
“Every year is a tryout camp for me,” Tootoo said. “That’s how I take it mentally. I just have to prepare myself the best that I can because there are hundreds of other guys that would love to be in your spot. I’m coming into camp with the mindset for fighting for a spot on the team and that’s the bottom line.”
And the forward spot is pretty crowded already.
Tootoo, 30, is one of 17 forwards under contract for next season. That’s three more than the Wings plan to carry.
His name was bantered about this offseason as possibly heading back to Nashville in a trade that would help Detroit free up cap space and trim its roster down.
“For me it’s about having the opportunity to play in the NHL and (being dealt is) out of my reach,” said Tootoo, who scored a goal in Saturday’s scrimmage. “I’ve got to worry about my game and take it one-day-at-a-time and let the business people do that side of things and just come in every day with the right mindset.”
Tootoo has two years left on a deal at $1.9 million a season. He played eight seasons in Nashville appearing in 486 games. He registered 46 goals, 79 assists and 825 penalty minutes.
“I’ve been through a lot of shit over the years,” Tootoo said. “This is what makes you a stronger person, both on and off the ice. It’s about mentally being strong and having the will and courage to overcome hard times. That’s why we have the guys in this dressing room here. We’re all brothers and pick each other up when someone’s down. That’s what’s great about this game.”
Tootoo spent most of the postseason a year ago just like he did in Nashville two years ago, mainly watching from the pressbox.
Tootoo played in just one of the Wings’ 14 playoff games, being a healthy scratch the other 13.
“I thought the (end of season) meetings where good,” Tootoo said. “Obviously, for me, constructive criticism is a good thing. That’s what you have to work on and build off of. But I thought I did everything that was expected, but at the same time it’s basically one-day-at-a-time for me here and that’s been my mentality for the last three years. So it’s been a good summer, mentally refocused and physically I feel great.”
In his only appearance in the playoffs last year he recorded the Wings’ first penalty of the series for a crosscheck that Anaheim promptly scored on just four seconds into the man advantage.
Tootoo played in just three of the Predators’ playoff games a year ago after coming off a career-high 12 postseason appearances where he registered a career-high six points.
“We took a little time off, did some hunting and fishing (this summer),” Tootoo said. “But physically and mentally I did everything that I could to make sure that I give myself every opportunity to make this team. This is where I want to win a Stanley Cup and when you have other guys that want your spot you have to make sure that you bring you’re A-Game every day.”
Tootoo was also a healthy scratch in six of the final 23 games in the regular season. He registered three goals, five assists and a team-high 78 penalties in 42 games in his first season in Detroit.
Tootoo led the Wings with eight fighting majors, which was six behind the league leader this season, Tampa Bay’s B.J. Crombeen.
“The game evolves every year and you’ve got to re-adjust to minor things here and there,” Tootoo said. “I’ve worked on a few things here and there over the summer, but I’m going to keep that to myself and when you’re asked to bring a certain role, you have to work on the little things that make you the best you can be.”
Despite this being a lockout-shortened 48-game regular season, Tootoo registered highest total of fighting majors since totaling 10 in the 2008-09 season with Nashville.