It took Deryk Engelland parts of seven professional seasons before he played in his first NHL game. One can understand why he's reluctant to close a chapter which was so hard to begin in the first place.
The 37-year-old has now played in 622 NHL games and will get a chance to build on that impressive total after signing a one-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. The deal has a base salary of $700,000 but with incentives could rise up to an average annual value of $1,500,000.
"I'm excited to come back. We've got a bad taste in our mouths after the way last season ended and we have some unfinished business," said Engelland.
Engelland had multiple offers for more money with teams other than Vegas but he and General Manager George McPhee were able to work out a deal which worked for both the team and the player.
"It's not always about more money. I don't want to play anywhere else," said Engelland. "There are other things that factor in at this stage and this is the best situation for me and my family. This is where I want to be."
Words such as those are one thing. But walking away from dollars is an action which defines who Engelland is as well as his affection for Las Vegas.
Engelland's story and connection to Vegas are well known. He played for the Las Vegas Wranglers in the ECHL early in his career and he and his family have made the city their home for several years. Selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft, Engelland has been one of the key faces of the franchise. His Vegas Strong speech following the October 1 tragedy is one of the most iconic moments in NHL history and he was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award at the 2018 NHL Awards.
Engelland has made giving back to the Vegas community a priority and started the Engelland's Vegas Born Heroes Foundation and has been named the Vegas Strong Service Award winner in back-to-back seasons.
Playing at the age of 37 is no easy task. Engelland has become a more efficient skater over the years and his dedication to fitness and working on his game have kept him relevant.
"I don't take much time off after the season," said Engelland, who can be seen daily at City National Arena using the off-ice facilities. On Monday, Engelland led a small group of players through an hour-long skate.
"We've got a few more guys around this year so it's great to be able to get on the ice and work on our games. I still love putting in the work in the offseason. It's part of the job now and I really enjoy it."
McPhee has stated there will be opportunities for prospects to earn work on the blue line in Vegas this season. Engelland was key in the development of Shea Theodore during his first season with the Golden Knights and is looking forward to doing more of the same if and when a prospect is ready to make the jump to the NHL.
"When I came up, it was Brooks Orpik who really showed me around and taught me all the little things which have helped me succeed," said Engelland. "We've got talented young guys in our system and that's part of my job, to pass on what I've learned so they can get the most out of their potential and opportunity."