On July 2, 2007, Scott Gomez made a decision that affected the rest of his career. It was a decision made for financial gain, which was his right as an unrestricted free agent, and it was a decision that would adversely affect his relationship with fans that had supported him for seven years -- in that he left the New Jersey Devils for their arch rivals, the New York Rangers.
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, however, understood that for both Gomez and Brian Rafalski, who signed with Detroit on the same day, it was business. Nothing personal. “They gave us everything while they were here and we'd like to think that we've given them a reciprocal situation,” he said.
So seven years later – after Gomez became an overpriced pariah, involved in one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history and whose inability to score a goal made him a national punchline – the former Devils center, 34, is now an unsigned training camp tryout for the team.
"He felt he still had a lot of hockey in him and he's been working out this summer so I told him to come to camp," Lamoriello said. "There are no promises. We certainly know what he has the capability of doing. This is no different than with Petr Sykora."
Sykora won a job with the Devils as an unsigned tryout in 2011 and proved to be a valuable addition.
"Seeing LeBron (James) go home kind of inspired me to do the same thing. The reception is a little different, but..." Gomez joked.
Gomez was bought out by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 and latched on with the San Jose Sharks the following season, having gone the “unsigned tryout” route with them as well. He was signed by the Florida Panthers last season, scoring 2 goals and 10 assists in 46 games last season.
Lamoriello also addressed the expected fan backlash to the potential reunion: “That's never a concern of mine. A player leaves for whatever reasons.”
You know what? Sometimes time does heal all wounds. And while Gomez’s decision to take the money and run to MSG may have forever changed his reputation with some Devils fans, I’d argue he’s been sufficiently humbled since then. To the point where Scott Gomex rejoining the Devils would be a feel-good story; and I never thought I’d type that back on July 2, 2007.