By Lindsay Kramer
Former Johnstown defenseman Derrick Walser waited nine years to get a one-way NHL contract.
The last few days of that wait felt like they took longer than the previous stretch combined.
Walser, 29, signed a one-way pact with Toronto earlier in the off-season after a career as mostly an AHLer. The only problem was that he signed it in early July, a few days after the June 30 opt-out date on a deal he signed with a team in Berlin. Walser skated with the Berlin Polar Bears from 2004-06 and was resigned to taking that detour again before the Maple Leafs came calling.
”They offered me what I was looking for. I wasn’t really happy with the way my year ended last year,’’ said Walser, who played 49 games for the Syracuse Crunch and nine in Columbus.
But first, Walser had to get out of his deal with Berlin. It helped that he had a good relationship with management because of his previous run there. After five days of negotiations, the two sides reached an accord that stipulates if Walser plays in Europe in any of the next three seasons, he has to do so with Berlin. If he never goes back, he owes Berlin a buyout fee.
That was the easy part. Now all Walser has to do is make the Maple Leafs.
“It’s worth the gamble. It (a one-way deal) gives me one more legitimate crack at becoming a full-time NHLer,’’ he said. “I waited nine years to get this one-way contract to get on an even playing field against everyone in camp. You go into camp, your mind is at ease.’’