Two months after being waived by the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a breach in contract, Jake Dotchin is back on an NHL roster with the Anaheim Ducks.
The 24-year-old defenceman signed with the Ducks in October and had been playing with the AHL's San Diego Gulls before being called up over the weekend.
Dotchin's time in Tampa Bay came to an ugly end in September when the Lightning waived him for a material breach of contract. TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported Dotchin showed up to the team's training camp 30 to 35 pounds above his playing weight, which led to his dismissal.
Speaking to The Athletic, Dotchin opened up on the experience and took the blame for his exit from Tampa Bay.
“There’s no denying it was a tough time,” Dotchin said. “I put myself in that situation, so the only way out of that situation was to get myself out again. I’m looking forward, I just want to prove I’m supposed to be an NHLer, whether it’s here or up in the NHL. I want to be that presence wherever I am – that guy that’s tough to play against."
The blueliner, who is listed by NHL.com as 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, said he immediately started working to get back in shape after being waived by the Lightning.
“In that month, I got with a guy, Mark Cinq-Mars, a strength coach for the Norfolk Admirals right now,” Dotchin said. “And I put a lot of work in with him and a lot of extra time and got to skate with some of the Admirals guys, tried to keep myself ready to go when I got a chance with a team. Thankful the Ducks took a chance with me.”
In seven games with the Gulls this season, Dotchin posted one point with a plus-3 rating. He has yet to appear in a game with the Ducks since being recalled, but said he's close to being the same player he was with the Lightning.
“I’m getting there – two or three more pounds – and I think I’m right where I want to be,” Dotchin said of his weight. “I’m working on my game, trying not to look back and look forward and take it day-by-day.
“It got me to where I am now. And where I am now, I’m pretty happy.”
Though Dotchin may be trying to put the situation with the Lightning behind him, he admitted that opponents haven't been as quick to forget. He picked up a 10-minute misconduct penalty last week while playing the Bakersfield Condors.
“Every guy on the ice was saying the same thing to me, and I think you know what it is,” Dotchin said. “I’ve heard it every game, so it’s nothing new. They can keep doing what they want to do or what they want to say out there but good for them.
“It was just, ‘Cool, I’m still here. You’re still here. Good for you. Good for me.’”
The NHL Players' Association has filed a grievance on behalf of Dotchin against the Lightning over the termination of his contract last month and the NHLPA told The Athletic a hearing has not been scheduled.