Tag Archives: Offseason

Free Agency, Day 1: Boom Goes the Dynamite

That explosion you heard in the East was not from a Fourth of July celebration.  Or from a round of thunderstorms.

Nope.  That was the Albany roster as we know it blowing up.

On the first day of NHL free agency, a lot of players changed teams, but the AHL Devils took a huge hit, despite picking up three new veteran players that could see significant time here.

-Albany’s top 4 scorers from last season all have new homes, as Matt Lorito signed for two years with Detroit, and Mike Sislo and Jim O’Brien joined former Devil Joe Whitney in Colorado on one year contracts.  You may want to keep an eye on the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado’s AHL affiliate) after the day the Avs had.

-Also finding a new home: Pierre-Luc Leblond, as he signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay.  He’ll most likely be with Syracuse, taking over from David Broll as the primary enforcer (ironically the two fought each other a couple of times last season).

But, all was not totally lost, as New Jersey took care of a few of their free agents (DSP, Beau Bennett, Jon Merrill) and picked up Ben Lovejoy and Vern Fiddler.  And, three new vets who we’ll likely be seeing here come October:

Carter Camper#20 on the Big Board, the 27-year-old center spent all of last season with Hershey, picking up 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists) in 64 games.  He was second in the AHL in playoff scoring, scoring 6 times and assisting on 11 others in 21 games, and lead the AHL in playoff power play points (8).  He only has three games of NHL experience, all with Boston in 2011-12.  This will be his fifth AHL stop behind Providence, Springfield, Binghamton, and the Bears.  You can follow him on Twitter at @carter_camper.

Andrew MacwilliamThe 26-year-old defenseman spent all of last season in Manitoba, scoring once and picking up 14 assists in 72 games.  He started his career with Toronto after finishing his college career at North Dakota, getting in 12 games with the Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 season.

Karl StolleryAnother veteran signing on defense, the 28-year-old spent last season in San Jose with the Barracuda, where in 67 games he scored a career high 6 goals and 18 assists.  He started his career with the Avalanche organization, spending three seasons with Lake Erie before joining the Sharks.  He has some NHL experience, appearing in a combined 12 games with Colorado and San Jose in 2013-14 and 2014-15.  You can follow him on Twitter at @stolleryk.

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2016 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/16)

Happy first day of free agency!  A few pieces of business before we get to the first official tracker of 2016:

-Add Raman Hrabarenka to the unrestricted free agent list, as he was not tendered a qualifying offer by New Jersey before Monday’s 5 PM deadline.  Reid Boucher and Reece Scarlett were tendered offers, and remain RFAs.

-Need a guide to who’s available on the minor league free agent market?  You have two sources to use: the Chirps from Center Ice official Big Board (which I had an assist in helping put together), or Highland Park Hockey’s list.

-Finally, mark your calendars for July 12th-16th, for the annual New Jersey development camp.  I’ll have more details on that later.

And now, your first scorecard for the summer:

Signed for 2016-17:

Pavel Zacha

Joe Blandisi

Damon Severson

Ryan Kujawinski

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

Blake Pietila

Ken Appleby

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Scott Wedgewood

Seth Helgeson

Josh Jacobs

Nick Lappin

Yohann Auvitu

Jan Mandat

Brandon Baddock

Restricted Free Agents (all given qualifying offers):

Reid Boucher

Reece Scarlett

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Yann Danis

Marc Andre Gragnani

Pierre-Luc Leblond

Jim O’Brien

Dan Kelly

Brandon Burlon

Mike Sislo

Rod Pelley

Max Novak

Corbin McPherson

Matt Lorito

Joe Faust

Raman Hrabarenka

Moving On:

Brian O’Neill (signed with Jokerit 5/20)

Chris McKelvie (retired; named assistant coach at Army 5/25)

Graham Black (traded to Florida 6/10)

Paul Thompson (traded to Florida 6/10)

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Offseason Notebook #4

This week in the Notebook:

-The first hint of Albany’s preseason schedule was announced on Wednesday: they will travel to Wilkes-Barre on October 6th to face the Penguins.

And two new sets of birds have joined the AHL fold:

-On Wednesday, the Springfield Thunderbirds, formerly the Portland Pirates,  were introduced to the world.  The name (and in my opinion, the logo) comes from a combination of previous AHL franchises (the Indians, then the Falcons) and a tribute to two local Air National Guard bases.  The bird looks like a newer, more dressed up version of the Falcons previous mascot Screech (who may or may not be previous?  We shall see).

-Yesterday, the former tenants of the Mass Mutual Center, the Falcons, were re-introduced as the Tucson Roadrunners.  Personally I’m a fan of the new logo, reminiscent of former Roadrunner teams that played in Arizona since the mid 1960s, through the old Western Hockey League, the WHA, the Pacific Hockey League, the IHL, and the ECHL.  Then there are the many Looney Tunes puns that could come out of this (Acme sponsorship, anyone?)…

The notebook may be closed for the next two weeks, as I plan on a separate draft entry (which I hope to have out by next Sunday afternoon/evening), followed up by the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer July 1st.

 

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Offseason Notebook #3

This week in the Notebook:

-On Tuesday, the full New Jersey preseason schedule was announced, and…again no game in Albany.  (Yes, four years later I’m still waiting for the make up from the lockout.)  The schedule begins on September 26th with a doubleheader of sorts…one squad will take on the Flyers in Newark, while the rest will travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens.  They play two at neutral sites…September 28th in Allentown against Philadelphia, and October 8th in West Point against Florida.  Two other matchups are at The Rock: October 1st against the Rangers and October 5th against the Islanders.  Full schedule can be found here.

-On Friday night, a trade with Florida went through that affected New Jersey’s cap hit and shook up the Albany roster.  The Devils acquired Marc Savard and a 2018 2nd round selection from the Panthers for Paul Thompson and Graham Black.  So why acquire a player who hasn’t been on ice since 2011?  Savard’s contract puts the Devils over the cap floor, and another draft selection for the future (between this year and 2018, New Jersey now has a total of 26 draft picks).  But it comes at a cost to Albany’s roster, which has seen four forwards leave before free agency has even begun.  It is most likely you will see both Thompson and Black in Springfield next year…and they will be coached by another familiar name in the Capital Region…

Segway to the latest news around the league…

-On Tuesday, former River Rats captain and assistant coach Geordie Kinnear was named head coach of the new Springfield franchise.  After spending a majority of his playing career with the River Rats, including the Calder Cup team in 1995, he retired as a player in 2001 due to injury and joined the coaching ranks, working as an assistant with the Rats during the last three years of the Carolina affiliation, then moving with the team to Charlotte, where he has remained behind the Checkers bench.

-And finally, break out the black spray paint can.  Congratulations to the Lake Erie Monsters, who finished off an amazing playoff run on Saturday night with their third sweep of the postseason, defeating Hershey 1-0 in overtime at home.  The Monsters, in their first season as a Columbus affiliate, won 15 of 17 playoff games, including sweeps of Ontario and the Bears, and finished the postseason on a 10 game winning streak.  Rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand was named MVP after scoring 10 goals in 17 games, including six game winners and three overtime winners, including the Cup clincher with just 1.9 seconds left in the first overtime of Game 4.

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Offseason Notebook #2

Welcome to the month of June!  And the signings keep coming…

-Per RDS, the Devils signed center Jan Mandat to an AHL contract.  The 20-year-old native of the Czech Republic just completed his second season with Val d’Or (QMJHL), where he picked up 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games.  He added two goals in 6 playoff appearances.

-Also on Tuesday, New Jersey came to terms on a 3 year, 2 way contract with 2014 6th round draft pick Brandon Baddock, just getting in under the deadline to sign ’14 draft selections.  Baddock just finished his fourth season with Edmonton of the WHL, where this year he served as team captain and scored a career high 22 goals in 68 games, along with 13 assists and 143 penalty minutes.  He actually signed an ATO with Albany late in the 2014-15 season, but never appeared in a game.

Now to check on the Calder Cup Finals:

Hershey, after finishing off the Marlies in 5 games, find themselves in a 2-0 hole against Lake Erie as the series shifts to Cleveland on Monday night.   The Monsters have picked the right time to be on a hot streak, winning 13 of 15 postseason games (both losses to Grand Rapids in the second round), including their last seven in a row.  They can wrap up their first Cup as early as next Saturday.  Why so long in between games?  There’s another event called the NBA Finals taking over the Monsters home building this week, as the Cavaliers host Golden State in Game 3 Wednesday, Game 4 on Friday.

 

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Offseason Notebook #1

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.

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2015 Free Agent Tracker (as of 9/1/15)

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

Paul Thompson

Jim O’Brien (from HER 7/1)

Yann Danis (from HAR 7/3)

Marc-Andre Gragnani (from EUR 7/3)

Max Novak

Stefan Matteau

Seth Helgeson

Chris McKelvie

Entry Level Signings:

Joseph Blandisi

Ryan Kujawinski

Blake Pietila

Sergey Kalinin

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

John Quenneville

Pavel Zacha

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Darcy Zajac

Scott Timmins

Corbin McPherson

Joe Faust

David Wohlberg

Maxime Clermont

Moving On:

Scott Clemmensen (retired 6/29)

Joe Whitney (signed w/NY Islanders 7/1)

Tim Sestito (signed w/Dinamo Riga 7/15)

Cam Janssen (signed w/Nottingham Panthers 8/15)

Kelly Zajac (signed w/Lukko 8/30)

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