2015 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/15)

One note to add: the first listing under the Moving On category came yesterday, but he’s not going far.  As noted last week, Scott Clemmensen officially retired as an active player to become New Jersey’s goaltending development coach.  Clemmensen closes out a 14 year pro career that started and ended in Albany, with stops in New Jersey, Lowell, Toronto, Florida, and San Antonio in between.

Signed for 2015-16:

Raman Hrabarenka

Reid Boucher

Graham Black

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly

Mike Sislo

Brandon Burlon

Matt Lorito

Rod Pelley

Scott Wedgewood

Entry Level Signings:

Joseph Blandisi

Ryan Kujawinski

Blake Pietila

Sergey Kalinin

Vojtech Mozik

Restricted Free Agents:

Stefan Matteau

Seth Helgeson

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Cam Janssen

Joe Whitney

Tim Sestito

Darcy Zajac

Scott Timmins

Corbin McPherson

Paul Thompson

Joe Faust

Chris McKelvie

David Wohlberg

Kelly Zajac

Maxime Clermont

Moving On:

Scott Clemmensen (retired 6/29)

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On The Market

Before the free agency frenzy begins on Wednesday, two last pieces of business to tend to:

-All teams had until 5 PM today to tender qualifying offers to any restricted free agents.  New Jersey did just that with Stefan Matteau and Seth Helgeson.  However, qualifying offers were not in the cards for Maxime Clermont or Corbin McPherson, making both of them unrestricted free agents.

-Here’s another list to keep an eye on for organizational depth: the annual AHL Big Board is out.  With the original author moving on to greener pastures in Pittsburgh, our friends over at Chirps from Center Ice took over the project and enlisted several other bloggers, including myself, to help put the list together.  Unlike in past years where you had to nearly scroll all the way to the bottom to find any Devils, there are quite a few Albany UFAs in the top 100: Joe Whitney sits at 10, Paul Thompson at 21 (just behind former Devil Bobby Butler at 20), Scott Timmins at 47, Darcy Zajac at 68, and Scott Clemmensen at 72.  The Patriot News (who cover the Hershey Bears) did their own Top 100 list, complete with videos.

Unless anything earth shattering happens before Wednesday…the first Free Agent Tracker goes live at noon sharp on the 1st!

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2015 Draft Wrap

This weekend came the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida, and after some trading around (including landing Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim in a deal on Friday evening), New Jersey had a total of 5 draft selections.  With a new regime in place so to speak and with some clear needs to rebuild the depth in the organization, this is a good start: 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman and 3 forwards.  Time to meet the Class of 2015:

(Note: clicking on the name will take you to their In Lou We Trust profile)

1st Round, 6th Overall: Pavel Zacha, F, Sarnia (OHL)

In what appears to be somewhat of a gamble, New Jersey chooses Zacha, an 18 year old Czech forward who just completed his first North American season with Sarnia.  In 37 games with the Sting he put up 34 points (16 G, 18 A), and he also represented the Czech Republic in both the U18 and U20 World Junior Championships, scoring 6 goals in 10 games.  And…you have to get behind a guy who learned English by watching Dumb and Dumber.

2nd Round, 42nd Overall: Mackenzie Blackwood, G, Barrie (OHL)

Time to start rebuilding the goalie depth, and it begins with Blackwood, a 18-year-old Ontario native who has spent the last two seasons with Barrie of the OHL.  In 2014-15 he posted a 33-14-2 record in 51 games, with a 3.09 GAA and a .906 save percentage.  He also recently received an invite to Canada’s U20 World Jr. camp.

3rd Round, 67th overall: Blake Speers, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Also in rebuild mode, the forward depth.  Adding to that is Speers, another 18 year old Ontario native who just finished his second season with the Greyhounds.  In 57 games in 2014-15, he put up 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and an additional 9 points in 14 playoff games.

4th Round, 97th Overall: Colton White, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

What’s a New Jersey draft without a defenseman?  And the Devils start with White, another Ontario native who, in his second season with the Greyhounds, put up 22 points (6 G, 16 A) and a +38 in 67 games, and also appeared in 14 playoff games with 2 assists.

6th Round, 157th Overall: Brett Seney, LW, Merrimack (Hockey East)

With their final pick, the Devils chose Seney, a 19 year old native of Ontario (I’m detecting a pattern here with these draft choices) who just completed his freshman season at Merrimack.  He put up 26 points (11 G, 15 A) and a +3 rating in 34 games.  Not a big guy (he checks in at 5’9″ and just 159 pounds) but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his speed, as Mike from ILWT notes in his draft profile.

With the draft over with, the next focus is on free agency.  Monday afternoon is the deadline to tender offers to restricted free agents, and the fun begins Wednesday at noon, as the official signing period gets underway.  Also on Wednesday: the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer, so stay tuned.

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News Between the Pipes

A couple of notes to pass along that will affect how the Devils will look in net next season:

-On Monday, restricted free agent Scott Wedgewood was signed to a new 2 year, 2 way contract (and note in the press release…actual salary figures!  I haven’t seen that since the Carolina Rat days).  In 36 appearances last season, he posted a 13-14-6 record with a 2.74 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.  He will be entering his third full AHL season with a chance to claim the #3 goaltender spot in the organization behind Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.  As for who will join Wedgewood here?  That’s a good question because…

-Earlier today per Fire and Ice, there is a chance that Scott Clemmensen could stay in the organization, albeit in a different role.  New Jersey has decided to go in a different direction for a goaltending coach at the AHL level, instead using a roving goaltending instructor that will spend equal time between AHL/ECHL and junior prospects.  With Johan Hedberg exiting, Clemmensen could possibly step in.  In his third tour of duty with the Devils last season, he split time between Albany and New Jersey, appearing in 27 games with Albany going 12-11-2 with a 2.23 goals against average, and 3 games with New Jersey, posting one overtime loss and a 4.71 GAA.  He came up big down the stretch in April, winning 4 out of his last 5 starts, including a shutout of the Penguins in Wilkes-Barre in the next to last game of the season.

-Also announced earlier this week: the annual Developmental Camp will take place July 13-18th.  Once I see a roster I’ll have a post up about that.

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It’s Been Awhile…

…since I last updated this thing.  Before I jump head first into local baseball season (which begins on Friday…those that follow me on Twitter have all been duly warned), how about some updates?

-Congratulations go to the Manchester Monarchs, who in their final season as an AHL franchise captured their first Calder Cup on Saturday evening by defeating Western Conference (now new division rival) Utica in 5 games.  Since I wasn’t able to get to the Aud for a game (when there’s a line around the corner hours before the box office opens, attempting Ticketmaster is pretty much going to be a fail), I did take advantage of the free AHL Live feed and watched parts of 3 of the games…and I have to tip my cap to the Comets fanbase.  You will never find a louder, more loyal group than that in any arena, whether minor or major league.  I even saw it first hand during the All Star festivities (and I’ll confess to jumping in on a few UTICA chants).

-When the first edition of this year’s Free Agent Tracker comes out on July 1st, you will notice that I have added a new list to go with who’s signed and who is up for free agency: those that have signed to entry level deals.  Since my last post, two more names have been added, with both names coming from overseas:

-Back on May 29th, New Jersey signed Russian forward Sergey Kalinin (terms as always undisclosed), who comes to North America after spending the last 5 seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.  In 58 games last season he scored 25 points (12 G, 13 A) while serving as the team captain.

-Earlier today, a signing completely out of left field, as Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik was signed to an entry level deal.  He spent the last 3 seasons with HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga, where last season he notched 29 points in 51 games.  His 10 goals (a career high) lead the league among defensemen.

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Joining the Ranks

It’s been a relatively quiet month of May after a new general manager in New Jersey took the reins and after a sixth Albany season became official.

But…things are starting to pick up a little bit, and today saw the first wave of draft pick signings.  New Jersey announced earlier this afternoon that forwards Ryan Kujawinski and Blake Pietila have been signed to entry level contracts.

Kujawinski was drafted in the 3rd round and 73rd overall in 2013 by the Devils, and split last season between Kingston and North Bay of the OHL, appearing in 61 games and posting 59 points (34 G, 25 A), while adding an additional 9 points (6 G, 3 A) in 15 playoff games with North Bay.

Pietila, a 2011 5th round draft selection (129th overall), just completed a four year collegiate career at Michigan Tech.  He tied a career high with 14 goals during his senior season in 40 games while serving as co-captain of the Huskies.

Meanwhile, in other league news:

-Manchester can finish off the Eastern Conference finals as early as tonight with a victory over Hartford, which would finish off a sweep of the Wolfpack.  In the West, Utica and Grand Rapids are tied at 1, with the series shifting to Michigan beginning on Thursday.

-The 2016 AHL All Star Classic is a go…with Syracuse hosting the event on January 31st and February 1st.  Tickets for both the Skills Competition and the game officially went on sale earlier today.  No, I did not order my ticket…yet.  But all signs point to me making the trip west for the second straight event.

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Welcome to the North

The first steps to the new look AHL arrived yesterday afternoon, as the league announced a divisional realignment for the 2015-16 season.  Three divisions in each conference were reduced to two, with one 7 team division and one 8 team division per conference.  With several teams moving west, a few Western Conference teams were moved east to make room.  Here are the new look divisions:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division: Bridgeport, Portland, Springfield, Providence, Hartford, Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Wilkes-Barre

North Division: Albany, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, Utica, St. John’s, Toronto

Western Conference

Central Division: Charlotte, Lake Erie, Rockford, Grand Rapids, Iowa, Chicago, Manitoba, Milwaukee

Pacific Division: San Antonio, Texas, Stockton, San Jose, Bakersfield, San Diego, Ontario

My take: I got my wish of an all New York division, like in the late 1990s!  For the first time in a few years, Albany will finally get to face old Thruway rival Rochester, and more matchups with Utica look likely (and since the teams are about 80 miles apart…I expect to be going there a lot next season). It’s also an added bonus of having Toronto move over along with St. John’s, who had to fit in somewhere.  Having the New England and Pennsylvania teams grouped together is, well, interesting.  It also breaks up a little of the East Division/I-81 rivalry with Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre and to an extent Syracuse.  Most were expecting the Checkers to move back to the East with closest rival Norfolk gone (more on that in a bit), but it looks like more of  the usual air travel for the former River Rats once again next season.  The two Texas teams join with the new Western teams, who have been rumored to receive an unbalanced schedule due to travel and other factors, but we will have to wait until mid to late summer to find out if that comes to fruition.

So how did this come to be?  Here’s a quick review of all the moves/silly season happenings:

-Manchester will move to Ontario to become the Reign.  The Monarchs will switch to the ECHL and remain a Kings affiliate.

-Norfolk moves to San Diego and become the Gulls.  The Admirals will also switch to the ECHL, but as a Oilers affiliate instead of Anaheim.

-Adirondack moves to Stockton to become the Heat, while Glens Falls receives the Thunder as a Calgary ECHL affiliate. (Side note: I will not be surprised if Albany sends players there instead of Orlando next season.)

-Worcester moves to San Jose and will play as the Barracuda.  As of now no team has replaced the Sharks.

-Oklahoma City moves to Bakersfield to become the Condors.  No replacement for the Barons.

-St. John’s switches affiliations from Winnipeg to Montreal.  Hamilton leaves to join the OHL as the Bulldogs, while the old IceCaps return to Manitoba and bring back the Moose.

-A four way affiliation switch between San Antonio, Portland, Springfield, and Lake Erie: Florida switches from the Rampage to the Pirates; Columbus switches from the Falcons to the Monsters; Phoenix switches from the Pirates to the Falcons; and Colorado switches from the Monsters to the Rampage.

Got all that?  Good.  There will be a pop quiz later.

Anyway, back to the current postseason:

Manchester was the first team to punch its ticket to a conference final, finishing off the Penguins in 5 games last night.  Hershey and Hartford are tied at 2, with Game 5 coming this evening in Chocolatetown.  In the West, Grand Rapids leads Rockford 2-0 (Game 3 tonight), and Utica leads Oklahoma City 2-1 (with Game 3 also tonight).  Bears and Wolfpack fans will also be keeping an eye on Game 7 in New York this evening, as whoever loses between Washington and the Rangers will most likely get help back before Game 6 Friday night in Hartford.

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