Sunday, March 10, 2019 | 3 a.m.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has worn many hats over the course of his career — representing France at the world championships, playing professionally in Sweden and now acting as alternate captain for the Golden Knights.
This offseason, though, he’ll be something he’s never been before: An NHL free agent.
Bellemare, 34, is one of four Golden Knights eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the year, and he says he hasn’t given much thought to what happens next season.
“Whatever happens in your career, it happens for a reason,” Bellemare said. “It’s just a part of being able to tell your kid a story, an experience.”
Bellemare didn’t plan on being a professional hockey player. He was in chiropractic school when he accepted an offer to play in Sweden, where he won two championships in a nine-year run in the Swedish Hockey League. He then signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, making his NHL debut in 2014.
Bellemare always has an air of gratitude, cherishing however long he may play in the world’s best hockey league. So while he’s here, he’s going to do whatever he needs to do, which in Las Vegas means being one of team’s best defensive players.
“Not everybody can score 100 points a year. I wish I could, but let’s not be kidding ourselves,” he said. “I understood my role in this league quite early when I arrived, and that’s why I think I’m still here.”
He’s played almost every game this year for the Golden Knights on the fourth line. He is often on the top penalty-killing unit, which has helped him to second among team forwards with 43 blocks.
“He’s not the most physical player, but he’ll go into the dirty areas for the puck, and that’s what we need,” linemate Ryan Reaves said. He always seems to be stepping in front of big slap shots that stun him for a little bit, but he gets right back up. He’s a leader and he definitely puts his body on the line.”
The Golden Knights will have a decision to make this summer. After Mark Stone finalized an eight-year deal this week, they won’t have much cap room to spare, which means even Bellemare’s modest $1.45 million cap hit could be a casualty.
It’s not up to Bellemare. If it was, he wouldn’t be going anywhere. But right now he knows he needs to continue to make himself as valuable as possible in as many ways as possible.
“Free agency is going to come, and obviously if Vegas wants me, I will stay,” Bellemare said. “We love it here, but it’s not something I’m thinking about at all.”