Kaunisto eyes twitter return, not ready for Europe though

Kaunisto Kings AHL MayorsManor“I’ll be back!”

That’s not Arnold Schwarzenegger uttering his famous line, it’s actually NHL prospect Ray Kaunisto talking about his impending return to twitter.

“I’m just taking a little hiatus,” he told us during a recent phone interview from his home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – YooperVille USA, if you will.

Never afraid to speak the truth, Kaunisto came on MayorsManor last summer and threw his wife right under the bus, calling her a ‘lost cause’ when speaking of her devotion to the Anaheim Ducks. He was quickly back at it again this time around, expanding on why he deleted his twitter account.

“I was spending way too much time on it. I have to give my family a little more attention than my twitter followers,” he said. “My wife was kinda getting on my back a little bit.”

After a quick laugh – and a reminder that he may want to listen to her, considering he married out of his league – we got back to hockey.

On June 20th the Kings announced they’d sent qualifying offers to seven of their eight restricted free agents. Kaunisto was the guy left on the outside looking in.

“Actually, I found out on twitter,” he shared.

A few minutes later came the first of several text messages and phone calls to roll in that day. ‘Hey – what’s going on? I saw they didn’t resign you.’ said the text from his now-former teammate in Manchester, Andrew Campbell.

Kaunisto wasn’t really sure how to respond, saying he knew about as much as Campbell at that point.

Even now, some six weeks later, he’s yet to hear anything from the Kings or their AHL affiliate.

“I thought that I at least would have had a phone call or something,” said Kaunisto, who originally signed a free-agent contract with the Kings in March 2010 – just after he completed his college career at Northern Michigan University.

“Sometimes that’s how it goes though,” he theorized. “I’ve had a couple of conversations with my agent. But, I’m not too sure what’s ahead right now.”

He’s had some time to process things, yet it’s still all a bit confusing says Kaunisto.

“I definitely thought I’d be back in Manchester. But, you never know when your contract is up and it’s in the hands of upper management. You just go home and wait to see what happens when you don’t have a contract.”

His agent went to work immediately, scouring the hockey world, trying to secure a job for his client.

“I’m just waiting on a phone call from him,” said the 6-foot-4 forward. “We’ll look at different options. But, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get an NHL contract at this point. That’s what we’re hoping for though.”

Although mindful that beggars can’t be choosers, if given a choice, he’d also like to play center – something he first told us about last September in an article here.

“That’s where I’d like to be,” Kaunisto reiterated. “If you look at my numbers in the past, that’s where I produced the most and have done the best in my career so far. That’s where I was in juniors and that’s where I was my senior year in college.”

So, besides a preference to play up the middle, what’s next for Kaunisto? Where does he go from here?

“I don’t think I want to head over to Europe quite yet,” said Kaunisto, in reference to the possibility of joining his buddy Bud Holloway overseas. “I’ve always been a late developer. So, I feel like I want to take my chances here and see how that goes for a couple more years.”

Given that most minor league teams fill out their rosters with a mix of players assigned to them by their parent clubs and a few free agents, something should be available somewhere. Does that mean if another AHL team doesn’t come calling, the ECHL might be an option?

“If that’s what I had to do, yeah,” said Kaunisto.

After a few second pause, he added – “That’s not ideal. But, if that’s what I had to do.”

How about signing with Anaheim – would that make his wife happy?

“I haven’t talked to her about the Ducks situation,” he said. “But, I think she’s in the same boat as me – I’m just trying to get a job right now. Lately I’ve been telling my buddies, ‘You get lunch this time, I’m an unemployed hockey player.’”

In addition to free meals, Kaunisto has been putting in the necessary time at both the gym and the rink.

“I feel like I’m having a really good summer right now. I’m getting a lot bigger, stronger and faster. I’ve taken a lot of experience and learning out of Manchester – not just on ice stuff either. It’s about being a pro, preparing and stuff like that. So, I feel like I’ll probably be able to get to the next level at some point.”

Regardless of where he lands, a return to twitter won’t be far behind.

“I’ll be back soon, maybe even a few weeks,” proclaimed Kaunisto. “I’ll come back with a bang. I’m not going to change anything up.”

And signing a new contract? When is that likely to happen?

“Depending on the lockout situation, there are just so many different kind of factors involved,” said the 25-year old forward. “I’m just sitting here waiting. But, I know that window of opportunity is dwindling because the summer is almost over. I’m just waiting for something to come up.”

Until then, the only thing on his calendar is hitting up Jordan Nolan’s Stanley Cup party in a few weeks.

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  1. [...] read our recent interview with Kaunisto, click here.  Also, we have exclusive on-ice video from moments after the Kings won the Stanley Cup with [...]