For the second time this season, a veteran Albany River Rats forward has taken the money and run.
Dan LaCouture left the team on Sunday for Russia, accepting a lucrative offer to play overseas. His move follows that of Troy native Matt Murley, who did the same three days before the regular season opener in October.
“I told the guys the other day that if it happens again, I’m going to take it personally,” first-year head coach-GM Jeff Daniels said.
Last week, LaCouture said he had been contacted by a team from the Kontinental Hockey League, but turned them down.
“I have an obligation here. I signed a contract,” LaCouture said. “I know guys do it, they have signed contracts and they go over. You break your contract here, and you’re not going to be able to play here again. It’s just one of those things. The opportunity presents itself, and it’s a lot of money, but there’s too many uncertainties, too many question marks.”
LaCouture has been suspended by the parent Carolina Hurricanes, who signed him to a one-year, two-way contract out of training camp. A free-agent invitee, LaCouture began the season with the NHL club, scoring the winning goal in the season opener, before being assigned Nov. 4 to Albany, where he had a goal and five assists in 12 games. LaCouture had played only one of the past 12 games with an injury.
“He skated Saturday with us, and then decided to go to Russia,” Daniels said. “It was on his mind, but he was hurt, and was unable to play. He came back from the break and skated with us, and it was still weighing on his mind. He was here, but with his heart, he was thinking something else. He felt it was best for himself to go to Russia.
“Especially in this league, veteran players are so valuable. Losing another one is tough because you really rely on that experience that the older guys can provide. But like I said when Matt left, other guys are going to get more ice time and they’ll be able to gain that experience.”
LaCouture has played 690 pro games, 337 in the NHL for Edmonton, Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Bruins, Devils and Canes. He has 334 AHL games for Albany, Hamilton, Providence and Lowell.