If Joey Mormina was in his early 20s and without a wife and kids, he may still be a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin.
But at age 31 with a wife and two young children, job security is as important to Mormina as getting a shot at the NHL. That’s why the veteran defenseman opted to sign a two-year contract with the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday, leaving a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team where he spent the last three years and last season was named captain for the first time in his eight-year pro career.
Overall, Mormina spent four seasons in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting 13 goals and 53 points in 233 games.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision,” Mormina said on Saturday. “I spent four tremendous years in Wilkes-Barre and both of my kids were born and raised there.
“It’s definitely hard to move on, but with two young kids job security was at the top of the list.”
Topping the list of Mormina’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton memories are being named captain last season and the move by the club to resign him for a second stint with the team three years ago after a deal to play in Europe fell through.
That decision three years ago essentially gave Mormina a chance to rejuvenate his career.
“The opportunity they gave me to come back and re-establish myself is the biggest thing. I became a better player and a better person, and I’ll forever be thankful to the Penguins organization for that,” Mormina said.
In addition to his solid play on the blueline, being named captain is another attribute that may have made Mormina more appealing to other clubs as a free agent. The title is a reflection of his character and ability to lead — two elements that are sought after in a player.
“Once you get the ‘C’ on the jersey it’s a message to the rest of the league that you can be trusted to make the important decisions,” Mormina said. “And when you’re a captain with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, it carries a lot of weight.”
As a member of the Crunch, Mormina will remain in the East Division, guaranteeing a few return trips to Wilkes-Barre during the 2013-2014 season. How’s it going to feel to skate on the ice at the Mohegan Sun Arena as a member of the visiting team?
“A little difficult, for sure,” Mormina said. “But I hope the people in Wilkes-Barre are as gracious to me then as they were when I was there.”
Mormina is the fifth player from last season’s team to exit, including wingers Chad Kolarik and Phil Dupuis along with defenseman Dylan Reese, all of whom signed in Europe. Forward Trevor Smith signed with the Toronto organization on Friday.
• Pittsburgh signed four players to two-way deals on Friday, including last season’s team penalty minute leader Bobby Farnham. Forward Chris Connor returns to the organization as well. He played with Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons. Newcomers include forward Nick Drazenovic, who spent most of last season with Springfield where he registered 53 points, and Andrew Ebbett, who played in 28 games with the Vancouver Canucks last season.
All were signed to one-year contracts except for Ebbett, who agreed to a two-year deal.
Other unsigned free agents include forwards Derek Nesbitt, Chris Collins, Bobby Farnham and Keven Veilleux and goaltender Brad Thiessen.