Sheffield Steelers exclusive: 'Playing for someone who doesn't want me isn't best for anyone' says departing Evan McGrath
Top-scorer Evan McGrath has accepted a buy-out of his contract from Sheffield Steelers, but admits he was upset at not being retained by the club.
McGrath was the top points' scorer for Steelers last season and had a contract covering 2019/20.
But new coach Aaron Fox – intent on filling every spot with the best available on the market – did not see him as a key part of his line-up.
The two have now parted company.
The Canadian centreman claims that he had initially been told the club were satisfied with his performances, but then feels he was "tagged along" before finally saying goodbye.
In an exclusive interview with The Star, McGrath, aged 33, said retiring was now ‘the best thing for me and my family, moving forward.’
He outlined how he'd discovered there was suddenly some ‘uncertainty with me coming back’ to the Steeler fold.
"I had spoken to Aaron Fox about three weeks before the end of the season last year, and he told me that he was happy and he appreciated everything that I had brought and the player that I was,” he said.
"I came to find out a few days before I was leaving that he was unsure if I would fit in the line-up.
"Unfortunately after leading the team in points and a few different other categories, it is not always the best feeling having someone new come in and say that as I really enjoyed playing in Sheffield."
The former AHL and SHL forward said playing for "someone who doesn't want me isn't the best thing for anyone."
McGrath continued: "Overall it was a great experience until the end and then being told they were not sure if they wanted me back...I was kind of being tagged along a little bit there. I was held in the dark until a few weeks ago."
Reflecting on his year in the Sheffield scene, he said: "The people that I met and the bonds that I had made I will always keep.
"It was a very special place for me, me and my wife and family totally loved it there.
It was a great year for us, unfortunately the success didn't quite come on the ice that the team wanted but that's the way it went."
"I definitely loved my time there. I was treated very well by a lot of people."
McGrath thanked the fans and the Smith family for their unstinting support.
"It is unfortunate with the new person coming in it didn't fit and I am quite upset about it but at the same time that is how things have gone,” he said.
"I definitely wanted to come back, but the way it kind of shaped out at the end of the year there with what I was being told I just thought it was the best.
"But I met a lot of great people.
"I really enjoyed my career and look forward to the future. I have had a couple of opportunities outside of hockey that at this point were very tough to turn down."
McGrath, an intelligent positional player, pipped Josh Pitt last season to top the points-table at Sheffield, scoring 13 goals and 36 assists in 56 League games.
Pitt had led the race until February, but then fell away.
A club spokesman said: "We thank Evan for his time and service with us and wish him well in his retirement."