With the National Hockey League officially locking out its players on Saturday, fans are now into the wacky, confusing period where players are looking for places to play.
For some, they can head down to the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat or their junior clubs to ply their trade. For others, Europe is the option. Others may simple sit at home and try to keep in shape.
THE ABBOTSFORD BUNCH
The Flames assigned 23 bodies to the American League prior to the lockout. All of these guys are on two-way contracts. Five of them had to clear waivers.
The waivers bunch was Akim Aliu, Paul Byron, Krys Kolanos, Ben Walter and Joe Piskula. I had thought that Aliu was not subject to waivers, but he signed his NHL contract prior to the 2008-09 season and therefore qualified based on years, rather than games, of service.
The non-waivers bunch for the Heat are actually pretty good. Among them are former first-round picks Sven Baertschi and Greg Nemisz, mid-round picks T.J. Brodie, Ryan Howse, Mitch Wahl, Lance Bouma and Max Reinhart and a slew of late round picks and free agents like Michael Ferland and Ben Street.
Thanks to last year’s obliteration of the main club’s roster by injuries, there is a lot of NHL experience in Abbotsford. Nine of the Heat’s players will have spent time in Calgary, most notably Baertschi, Brodie and Bouma, all of whom were pencilled in by most for Flames roster spots this season.
While the Heat seem rather stacked, it’s smart to note that every team has a lot of good prospects in the AHL. The Oklahoma City Barons and Houston Aeros, for example, will each have four former first round draft picks. Most teams have at least one or two.
Abbotsford’s training camp opens on September 28.
THE EUROPEAN OPTION
Two Flames forwards immediately signed deals in Europe as the week opened, with another expected to do so soon.
Roman Cervenka signed a deal with HC Slavia Praha, his hometown team, in the Czech Republic’s Extraliga. Jiri Hudler signed a deal with HC Lev Praha of the Kontinental Hockey League. So the two friends from the Czech Republic committed to spend their lockout with different teams in different leagues, but at least in the same city. The teams play six kilometers away from each other.
Meanwhile, reports out of Sweden indicated that Mikael Backlund was expected to sign with his hometown team, VIK Vasteras HK, in Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan league. Nothing has been made official as of yet, but Backlund has played for the club in the past.