Iafrate contemplating comeback

Al Iafrate, who retired in 1998 before playing a single game for the Carolina Hurricanes, is considering a comeback with the team, according to his former agent.

Knee problems have kept Iafrate, 35, out of hockey since the defenceman played for the San Jose Sharks in 1997-98. Iafrate, six foot three and 235 pounds, signed with the Canes in July of 1998 but retired that September.

"He has been considering the possibility of coming in and trying to play again and testing his knee to see if it can withstand playing professional hockey again," Rick Curran, who was Iafrate's agent during his playing days and remains a close friend, told the Raleigh News and Observer.

"That's where it stands right now. We'd talked last month, and I'm not sure what his status is at the moment and what his plans are."

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford confirmed that Iafrate had contacted him about coming to training camp on a free-agent tryout basis but said nothing had been finalized.

A friend of Carolina owner Peter Karmanos from Iafrate's youth hockey days in Detroit, Iafrate played in 799 NHL games over 14 seasons, skipping the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons because of injury. He was a fan favourite when he played for Toronto.

He signed a $350,000 contract with the Canes in 1998 that could have been worth as much as $3 million with incentives, but retired before training camp.

Iafrate attempted a comeback in December 1998 but never made it to the ice. He had his second back surgery after that, to go with nine or so on his knees.