Welcome to the newest feature, the Offseason Notebook!
Since news sometimes during this time of year tend to be few and far between, what I plan to do is collect pertinent stories from around the Devils and the AHL. It’s a basic roundup, if you will.
First, the latest from the Devil department:
–Brian O’Neill became the first A-Devil to officially move on, signing a contract with Jokerit in the KHL. Acquired in a trade with the Kings just before the start of the season, the 2014-15 AHL MVP with Manchester started the year on New Jersey’s roster, appearing in 22 games and picking up 2 assists. He would spend a majority of the season with Albany, picking up 13 goals and 19 assists in 42 games and an additional 5 points in 9 playoff games. As a result of O’Neill leaving, New Jersey will get back the seventh round pick they gave Los Angeles as part of the deal.
-Also in the Moving On category…forward Chris McKelvie has retired from playing, accepting a job at Army as an assistant coach, joining his twin brother Zach behind the bench. He spent the last four seasons in a Devil uniform after starting his pro career with Hartford/Connecticut. Last season, he appeared in 46 games, picking up a goal and 6 assists, and appeared in 3 playoff games going scoreless. Good luck to Chris as he starts the next phase of his hockey life!
-The first free agent signing of the summer came on Friday, in the form of French defenseman Yohann Auvitu, who was given a one year entry level contract. He has spent the last two seasons with HIFK Helsinki in the SM-liiga, where last season he was named the league’s best defenseman after picking up 21 points in 48 regular season games (6 goals, 15 assists), then appeared in 18 postseason contests with 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists). He also appeared in 7 games for France in the World Championships in Russia.
Meanwhile, around the AHL and the Calder Cup playoffs…
-At the rate the Conference Finals are going…it’s going to be an unlikely matchup for the Calder Cup. Lake Erie swept #1 seed Ontario in four games to take the Western Conference title (side note: you have to love their postseason countdown on the boards). Hershey took the first three from Toronto in near convincing fashion, but the Marlies showed they’re not quite done yet, taking a 5-0 shutout win over the Bears in Game 4 on Friday. Hershey can try again to finish off the league’s best team on Sunday afternoon in Game 5. If necessary, Game 6 is Tuesday in Hershey, Game 7 in Toronto on Thursday.
-It appears another league realignment will be in order for next season. To review: a few weeks ago, Arizona purchased their AHL affiliate in Springfield and moved the team west to Tucson, just a couple hours away from Phoenix. Just as it appeared the home of the league headquarters was going to be without hockey for the first time in decades next season, a miracle happened: out of nowhere, a group in Springfield bought the Portland Pirates, moving that franchise to the Pioneer Valley. Florida, who was Portland’s parent club, has agreed to keep the affiliation with the new Springfield franchise. Tucson will be joining the California 5 with a shortened 68 game schedule. The question now is, who will move over from the Western Conference to take Portland’s spot? And how will that affect who goes in either the North or Atlantic? We’ll just have to wait.
But a lesson can be learned from the Portland move: support your local minor league team. Because one day, they could be gone in a flash.