Raffi Torres came to the Carolina Hurricanes training camp with a hockey resume that shows 14 years of NHL experience and includes two Stanley Cup finals.
And, yes, five career suspensions for dangerous hits.
Torres brought that reputation with him, too.
Many around the NHL scoffed when the Canes decided to bring Torres into camp on a professional tryout offer. But Torres, 34, has quietly gone about his business in camp, going through drills, skating, working — and nothing close to a crushing hit or collision.
“It’s been fun,” Torres said Thursday. “It’s nice to be back in a training camp, skating with the guys. That’s a positive. I feel good so far.
“The body is all right. I can tell I’m probably thinking it a little too much instead of going out and letting things come naturally to me. The one thing I told myself is to just keep working and stay positive, and whatever happens happens.”
Torres, the fifth overall pick of the 2000 draft by the New York Islanders, has played 635 regular-season games, but has not been in an NHL game since 2014 because of the suspensions and knee problems. An ACL injury kept Torres out of the 2014-15 season, but he said the knee has held up under the strain of camp.
Torres is scheduled to play in the Canes’ exhibition game Friday against Tampa Bay at PNC Arena, in a lineup that should include forwards Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Andrej Nestrasil and the two Finns just in from the World Cup in Toronto — Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho.
“I hadn’t done much battling before I got here and we had a practice the other day with one-on-ones, two-on-twos,” Torres said. “I was fine afterward, which is positive.
“It’s nice to see some things in the offseason paid off. I came into camp in pretty good shape, lost a lot of weight. My body fat is down. That stuff is paying off.”
Playing for the San Jose Sharks in a preseason game last year, the 6-foot, 215-pound Torres slammed into Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg, a blindside hit to the head that resulted in a 41-game suspension. Many believed the illegal hit and lengthy suspension might have made Torres untouchable for a lot of teams.
Torres, who shows a calm demeanor off the ice, said in an interview early this month that he accepts responsibility for the suspensions and is aware he must stop his irresponsible play, although conceding, “I know I say that over and over, but I’ve got to change and I can change.”
Thus far, there have been no flareups on the ice. He’s just one of many forwards in camp, blending in.
It may be that the Canes will release him from the PTO. Then again, Lee Stempniak went to the New Jersey Devils camp on a PTO last year, made the team, had a very productive season and now is with the Canes on a two-year, $5 million contract and on a line with Skinner and Rask.
“It is what it is,” Torres said. “I understand where I’m at and the opportunity that was provided. I’m not a stranger to one-year contracts. That’s another element of experience I bring.
“The year I went to the finals with (Vancouver in 2011) I signed with them a couple of weeks before camp. I thought my career was over then and look what happened. It kind of resurrected my career.”
The Silfverberg hit and an ailing knee almost ended it, but the Canes have given him another chance, albeit with no guarantees.
“It’s been positive and I just want it to get better every day,” Torres said.