So far, EP Rinkside has analyzed options in net and on the blue line for NHL clubs looking to strengthen their organizational depth charts, land a first-recall option, and provide a cushion for their young AHL prospects.
The list of available free-agents continues to dwindle even with gaps on AHL depth charts throughout several NHL organizations. Let’s size up the job candidate among forwards.
POUNDING THE PAVEMENT
Forward jobs are not easy to find in the AHL these days, and several proven veterans remain searching for employment this fall.
The list is a varied one as well.
It features a first-round pick in Marko Dano, who went 27th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since then Dano has stalled and drifted to three other NHL organizations. At 24-years-old, his NHL clock is ticking loudly, and he is coming off a season split between the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets organizations. He finished with 12-18-30 in 51 regular-season games with the Manitoba Moose, adding eight games for the Avs and another nine games (two assists) for Slovakia at the IIHF World Championship.
Top-notch veteran T.J. Hensick is coming off a strong performance with the San Jose Barracuda. He signed with the AHL club after a dominant first half in the ECHL for the Toledo Walleye. The 33-year-old added a playmaking element for the Barracuda, who went down to the final week of the regular season for the Pacific Division title with the Bakersfield Condors. After going 6-14-20 in 23 games down the stretch for the Barracuda, he chipped in another 1-2-3 in four playoff games in a tough first-round draw with the San Diego Gulls that ended San Jose’s season.
Down in San Diego is hard-nosed forward Corey Tropp. The chippy 29-year-old established a spot in the San Diego line-up even amid several top prospects, posting 20-20-40 in 55 games during the regular season. In a division brimming with some contentious rivalries, he could handle that tough play as well.
A potential bargain out there is Dave Gust, most recently with Bakersfield. The Ohio State product hit 18-15-33 in 59 regular-season games for the Condors while playing on an AHL contract. He is 25-years-old and does not qualify as an AHL veteran. Daniel Audette could not find a fit as a Montreal Canadiens prospect with the Laval Rocket, but he is only 23-years-old and had 14-25-39 in 71 regular-season games for a non-playoff club.
Also unsigned is Laval teammate Alexandre Grenier and his cannon of a shot. Grenier had 11-16-27 in playing 68 games for the Rocket.
Two AHL mainstays entrusted with key roles this past season remain unsigned. The Vegas Golden Knights teamed Tye McGinn on a line with top prospect Cody Glass this past spring with the Chicago Wolves. That move paid off for all parties – Glass progressed well through the postseason and McGinn broke out with 6-7-13 in 22 games as the Wolves went to the Calder Cup Final. However, that effort has not been enough to secure the 29-year-old a job so far. Lehigh Valley Phantoms captain Colin McDonald, who will turn 35 this September, had 13-15-28 this past season. With Lehigh Valley having stocked up on experience this summer, McDonald’s best bet will be elsewhere, however.
Eric Tangradi, who had 31 goals for the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2017-18, is still available. Injury limited the 30-year-old power forward to 41 games for the Binghamton Devils, and he finished 10-14-24. Jimmy Hayes (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins), Wayne Simpson (Rochester Americans) and Adam Tambellini (Belleville Senators) also remain free-agents.
For a team in need of a handy penalty-killer, there is Grand Rapids mainstay Colin Campbell.
One forward did move off the list, at least for now. Iowa Wild forward Matt Read signed a tryout agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 33-year-old is coming off a 16-21-37 regular season in 61 games for Iowa. He went on to produced 3-5-8 for Iowa in 10 playoff games.
Travis Morin only skated in 13 games for the Dallas Stars across 10 seasons, but he has been an organizational fixture all the same.
The 35-year-old forward announced his retirement last week after playing 10 seasons for the Texas Stars. After lingering on the AHL-ECHL bubble at the start of his pro career Morin converted an opportunity in 2009 with Texas that finished with him first in franchise history in goals (175), assists (385), points (560), and 688 regular-season games.
Texas and Morin made three trips to the Calder Cup Final, winning once in 2014. Their 2017-18 club launched a run that took the regular-season champion Toronto Marlies to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Final with Morin going 7-8-15 in the 22-game playoff journey. That roster graduated Jason Dickinson and Roope Hintz to Dallas with prospects Gavin Bayreuther, Denis Gurianov, and Joel L’Esperance still possibilities for further NHL work. In 2010, Morin’s first AHL final, Texas also featured Jamie Benn.
In the 2014 championship spring, Morin had 9-13-22 in 21 games. That output earned him the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player after he had taken the Les Cunningham Award that goes to the league MVP. His 88 points that regular season also led the AHL. From there Morin went on to captain Texas for two seasons after long-time captain Max Fortunus departed.
Morin will not be going far, however. He will remain in the Dallas organization, basing with Texas as a skills development coach and also taking on a front-office business role. Texas will also retire his number-23 jersey on October 19th.
Morin joined a list of retirees that began in April with Ontario Reign goaltender Peter Budaj, who also played 367 NHL regular-season games. Defencemen Chris Butler (San Antonio Rampage) and Jaime Sifers (Utica Comets) have concluded their careers as have forwards Michael Bournival (Syracuse Crunch), Stephen Gionta (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), Colin Greening (Toronto), Wade Megan (Grand Rapids), and Zack Stortini (Charlotte Checkers).
NEW SEASON, NEW HOMES
The Carolina Hurricanes sent Carrick to the San Jose Sharks for Wood in a trade Tuesday. The 25-year-old Carrick, who represented Charlotte in back-to-back All-Star Classics, will bring a powerful left-handed shot to the Barracuda line-up as well as first-recall potential. He had a 9-38-47 regular-season performance in 71 games for Charlotte followed by 3-9-12 in 16 playoff games. Carrick had spent his entire five-season pro career with Charlotte, but he was stuck on a Carolina organizational depth chart that is heavy on left-handed shots and had only played four career games for the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes continued to make over their roster in Charlotte, where the Checkers won the organization’s first Calder Cup since 1991. Ten players who dressed for Charlotte’s Game 5 Cup-clinching victory against the Wolves on June 8th are no longer in the Carolina organization, along with head coach Mike Vellucci.
While Carrick had been a mainstay in Charlotte, Wood will be joining his fourth NHL organization at age 23. He was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche as a 2014 third-round pick before moving on to the Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes) and San Jose. Wood owns a powerful right-handed shot.
This past season he had 6-29-35 in 68 regular-season games for the Barracuda. He was a member of the AHL All-Rookie Team with Tucson in 2016-17 and also went to that season’s AHL All-Star Classic.
ANOTHER NEW FACE IN HARTFORD
Change continues for the Hartford Wolf Pack at a pace akin to the parent New York Rangers’ own eventful offseason.
The Rangers named Gord Murphy the new associate coach in Hartford, where he will join new head coach Kris Knoblauch. The pair worked as assistant coaches with the Philadelphia Flyers this past season before Murphy was dismissed in an early-season shake-up. The 52-year-old Murphy played 15 pro seasons that featured 862 NHL games before starting a career as an NHL assistant coach that has stretched 16 seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Philadelphia.
Rangers management is desperate to reinvigorate Hartford, where the Wolf Pack have failed to qualify for the postseason in six of the past seven seasons. Hartford finished last in the Atlantic Division this past season after several second-half trades stripped the club of its veteran talent. The Rangers have been aggressive this summer with several signings, including Marlies veteran blueliner Vincent LoVerde, a two-time Calder Cup winner. An influx of veterans will join a group of incoming KHL talent likely headlined by stellar goaltending prospect Igor Shesterkin.
AROUND THE AHL
Several other AHL veterans remain unsigned. In net are Jeff Glass (San Diego) and Mike McKenna (Lehigh Valley). Blueliners include Ryan Sproul (Hershey Bears), Andrew Campbell (Rockford IceHogs), Justin Falk (Belleville), Steve Oleksy (San Diego), Zach Palmquist (Lehigh Valley), Stuart Percy (Providence Bruins), Bobby Sanguinetti (Charlotte), Jordan Subban (Toronto), and Matt Taormina (Stockton Heat).
Tucson will have goaltender Adin Hill back after he signed a one-year, two-way deal with Arizona. The 23-year-old had a strong season divided between the Coyotes and Roadrunners. In 36 games for Tucson, he was 16-15-4 | 2.95 | .906. With Arizona having injury issues in net, he picked up 13 games with the Coyotes as well (7-5-0 | 2.76 | .901). Arizona took him in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Erik Källgren, Merrick Madsen, and Ivan Prosvetov will battle for fourth on the Arizona organizational depth chart. Arizona will have a new ECHL affiliate as well after signing an agreement with the Rapid City Rush.