There's really only one reason Shawn Szydlowski re-signed with the Fort Wayne Komets on Monday.
"The only goal I have in mind is winning a championship," Szydlowski said. "It's the only reason I keep coming back or else I would have went to Europe by now and tried to make some more money. That's really the only thing I'm coming back for."
The high-scoring right wing is coming back for his fifth season in Fort Wayne, becoming the first player to play that long with the Komets since they joined the ECHL in 2012-13. Kaleigh Schrock played six seasons with the Komets as part of the International Hockey League, the Central Hockey League and the ECHL.
Szydlowski, who turned 27 on Saturday, has been the player the Komets have built their ECHL franchise around. A two-time team Most Valuable Player, he has scored 99 regular-season goals as a Komet along with 241 points over 232 games. Last season he had 25 goals and 66 points and a career-high 94 penalty minutes in 50 games, reaching at least 25 goals for the third season in a row.
If he's able to repeat his normal production this season, Szydlowski will move into the franchise's top 50 career lists for games played and penalty minutes. He's already tied for 37th in career goals, 44th in assists and 43rd in career points.
So why did it take so long for him to sign this summer? Szydlowski said it's because both sides knew there was no rush. Komets General Manager David Franke was busy handling the affiliation details with Arizona and Tucson, and he was considering his options in Europe.
"I entertained a few more offers, but I knew in my heart I wanted to come back and play another year here," Szydlowski said. "I feel it's unfinished business to be honest. We've had a good enough team for at least three of the years that I've been here, and last year left a bad taste in my mouth. After I saw some of the guys that they re-signed over the summer, it excited me.
"A title is still obviously what we're going for. I don't think everyone is coming back here for comfort reasons. I think everyone believes in this team and we get taken care of so well by the Frankes and the fans. A lot of the reasoning, too, is a guy like Hodgie who says winning in this town is unbelievable."
The Komets will probably consider playing Szydlowski on a line with recently signed center Justin Hodgman. Szydlowski is the Komets' fourth and final veteran signed this preseason along with Hodgman, Jamie Schaafsma and Cody Sol.
Along with playing for the Komets over the last four years, Szydlowski has also played 18 games on American Hockey League call-ups. He was also named as an ECHL All-Star Game starter last year.
"This is a big signing for the Komets and our fans," David Franke said in a statement. "Shawn Szydlowski represents what it takes to be a Komet. He is gifted offensively, a solid defender and physical when he needs to be."
The Komets also announced Szydlowski will go back to wearing No. 27 this year since No. 19 is now retired for Terry McDougall.
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.