NEW YORK - Petr Nedved's bid to come back to the NHL after a year playing in Europe ended Friday when the New York Rangers released the 36-year-old forward from his tryout.
Nedved tied for the team lead with two goals and three points in three pre-season games this week, but was let go one day before the Rangers were to face New Jersey in their final exhibition contest in North America.
"This is probably it for me as far as the NHL goes," Nedved said Friday. "Obviously, it gave me an indication that I can still play in this league. I'm happy about that, but I don't think I'm going to be trying next year."
The Rangers will fly to Europe on Saturday night to play a pair of exhibition games in Switzerland before taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning twice to open the regular season in the Czech Republic - Nedved's native country.
Nedved was hoping to have a third stint with the Rangers as a third-or fourth-line centre in a crowded mix of younger forwards, including Lauri Korpikoski. Nedved asked to be invited to camp in an attempt to get back into the NHL following a season with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic.
He had a goal in New York's win over Ottawa on Monday night and added a goal and an assist two days later in the Rangers' loss at New Jersey.
Nedved's fate was likely sealed Thursday, when he played for the third time in four nights. He was on the ice for three of Tampa Bay's four goals - including an empty-netter - and finished minus-2.
"I mentioned to him in the summertime that he would certainly get a chance to make this team. We've given him that opportunity," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "I made it clear to him that if it boiled down to a good young player that was offering up similar to him, we would probably take the young player.
"In the best interests of growing our organization, integrating new blood into it to develop this team for the long run, that's what we were going to do. In my mind, that's what it boiled down to. Had we not had the performance of a couple of young people, there's a good chance Petr would be here."
Nedved, the No. 2 overall pick by Vancouver in the 1990 draft, was realistic about his slim chances to restart his NHL career and had already made contingency plans if he didn't make the Rangers. He is expected to play for his hometown team, Liberec, in the Czech League.
"If it was going to be this decision, there was no point in waiting any longer," Nedved said.
In two tours with the Rangers, the first for the 1994-95 season and then from 1998-2004, Nedved had 149 goals and 202 assists in 478 games.
Overall, in 15 seasons with six teams, Nedved scored 310 goals and assisted on 407 others in 982 NHL games. He has also played for Vancouver, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Phoenix.
During the 2006-07 season, Nedved had two goals and 10 assists in 40 NHL games with Philadelphia and Edmonton. He also spent time that season with Philadelphia of the AHL.
In addition to releasing Nedved, the Rangers also reassigned 16 players to Hartford of the AHL, trimming the training camp roster to 26 players. New York is carrying three goalies, eight defencemen and 15 forwards into Saturday's home game.
Sent down to the minors were: goalie Matt Zaba; defencemen Mike Busto, Vladimir Denisov, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Mike Sauer; and forwards Artem Anisimov, Joe Barnes, Dane Byers, Brodie Dupont, Ryan Hillier, Andreas Jamtin, Greg Moore, Tom Pyatt, Justin Soryal, Dale Weise, and Tomas Zaborsky.
Defencemen Maxim Kondratiev and Thomas Pock, and forwards Hugh Jessiman and P.A. Parenteau will continue training camp with Hartford.