A look at AHL free agency, part two (Electric Boogaloo)

While all of the attention is concentrated on signing Matthew Tkachuk, David Rittich, Sam Bennett, and Andrew Mangiapane, the cap-strapped Calgary Flames still have some work to do to stock the farm.

Since July 1, the Flames have added two forwards, Justin Kirkland and Byron Froese, and a defenseman, Brandon Davidson, presumably to fill the Heat roster. Froese and Davidson will join Alan Quinn and Buddy Robinson as veteran players. While there is not a limit on the number of veteran players an AHL team can have on their roster, they can only ice a maximum of five per game.

In my initial article, I failed to mention defensemen Alexander Yelesin and Carl-Johan Lerby as possible blueliners for Stockton. Yelesin has been added to the chart below, while Lerby will be spending 2019-20 on loan in Sweden and won’t be on the Heat roster.

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Thanks to Tony Androckitis from InsideAHLHockey.com (who produced the free agent list I used last week), I will be updating my list of players that I feel would be a good fit for the Heat. Based on the full list in his article, East Coast teams were pretty active filling their affiliates in the first week of free agency. Most of these players signed league minimum two-way NHL or AHL-only contracts as noted below.

Here is the updated list of players that will probably open the season in Stockton:

*Likely to be in Calgary

**Filed for arbitration

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(V) veteran status

Offense Defense Goalie
Alan Quine*(V) Juuso Valimaki* Tyler Parsons
Dillon Dube* Oliver Kylington* Nick Schneider
Buddy Robinson (V) Andrew Nielsen Artyom Zagidulin
Glenn Gawdin Rob Hamilton (AHL) Jon Gillies
Matthew Phillips Corey Schueneman (AHL)
Luke Philp Alexander Yelesin
Adam Ruzicka Brandon Davidson (V)
Martin Pospisil Rinat Valiev**
Mason Morelli (AHL)
Justin Kirkland
Byron Froese (V)
Ryan Lomberg**

Surfing the net

Since I did not address the netminders in my last article, it is time to discuss the Stockton crease. The Cam Talbot signing may signal the end of Jon Gillies’ time as a Flame. Once dubbed the “goalie of the future,” there may be no room for Gillies with the Heat, as Tyler Parsons needs ice time and I doubt Calgary signed Artyom Zagidulin to send him to Kansas City. Nick Schneider will man the Mavericks crease along with some free agent signee (Ryan Faragher please). Gillies would need to agree to go to Kansas City, but I highly doubt he would accept that assignment or the Flames want to pay $750,000 for an ECHL goalie. Time to either package him in a trade or buy him out.

The blue line

Stockton had between eight and ten defensemen on their rosters at any given time last season, so signing at least three more would be ideal. Looking at the current roster, two are on AHL contracts, two are playing in North America for the first time, two are experienced, and one needs to develop both mentally and physically. Some experienced defenders would be preferred. Here is an updated look at last week’s list along with a few new additions.

  • Chris Bigras – signed with Philadelphia (two-way)
  • Tommy Cross (Veteran) – signed with Florida (two-way)
  • John Gilmour – signed with Buffalo (one-way)
  • Chris Kato (Veteran) – This veteran played most of his time in Providence before bouncing to both Chicago and Bridgeport the past two years. At 27, this 6’ 3” right-handed shot could provide some stability to an inexperienced group.
  • Keaton Middleton – At 6’6”, this 240 pound 21-year old left shot spent last year playing next to his brother in San Jose. I watched this kid push Heat players around for 6 games last season. He tallied 13 points (6-7) in 61 games. Hopefully the Barracuda do not resign this kid.
  • Aaron Ness (Veteran) – signed with Arizona (two-way)
  • Philip Samuelsson (Veteran) – In Stockton’s camp last year, the 6’2” left shot was jettisoned after preseason and landed in Lehigh Valley for the year, where he had a respectable 15 points (4-11). Samuelsson, with his 51 playoff games, has bounced around the AHL since he entered the league in 2011.
  • Tyler Wotherspoon (Veteran) – Signed with Philadelphia (two-way)

New additions to the list:

  • Ryan Sproul (Veteran) – Sproul played on three teams during the 2018/19 season (Toronto, Laval, Hershey) but still put up 29 points (10-19) in 64 games. The 26-year old is a second-round pick of Detroit back in 2011. The right-handed defender has 44 NHL games to his name along with 5+ AHL seasons. (Editor’s Note: Sproul was in Flames camp on a PTO last season, so there’s a relationship.)
  • Ryan Stanton (Veteran) – After spending 2 full seasons in the NHL with Vancouver between 2013-2015, Stanton has bounced around the AHL, suiting up for four teams in five seasons, the last two in Bakersfield. Ryan put up 20 points last year, his first double-digit point total since 2015 in Hershey. He has finished with a plus number in every season except one (2011/12).
  • Zac Leslie – After being traded from the Kings to the Golden Knights last season, Leslie has been a stable blue line force for the Chicago Wolves. Only 25 years old, this left-handed defender contributed 16 regular season and six playoff points for the Vegas farm club.
  • Erik Burgdoerfer (Veteran) – This 30-year old broke in with the ECHL Bakersfield Condors back in 2009/10. A constant scorer in the teens, he was a plus 18 last season with Belleville, where he was the captain.
  • Griffin Reinhart – The ex-Oiler was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft and has played with their AHL squad for the past two years. At 25-years old, this former #4 pick of the Islanders still has something to prove.

Forward thinking

Needing between 15 and 18 forwards, Stockton has at least five openings for some tenured players up front. Alan Quine is the only top five goal scorer to return, and he may be in Calgary. The Heat still have the option to bring back Kerby Rychel, as he still remains unsigned.

Hey Kerby, join me again this year?

This team needs to find over 100 goals to replace what has been lost to free agency. Here are the names still out there from my original list, with a few additions:

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  • Daniel Audette – A 23-year old left-handed center, he has scored 98 points in his first three years with St. John’s & Laval, lighting the lamp 37 times. At 5’9”, he is on the smaller end and could be a bottom six player.
  • Justin Bailey – signed with Vancouver (two-way)
  • Riley Barber – signed by Montreal (two-way)
  • Greg Carey (Veteran) – signed AHL contract with Lehigh Valley
  • Tyrell Goulbourne – signed with Vegas Golden Knights (two-way)
  • Dave Gust – Solid right wing for the Bakersfield Condors over the past two years. Nifty little skater at 5’10” and 177 lbs. He had 33 points last year (18-15) helping the Condors reach the second round of the playoffs. Likes to shoot the puck as he fired 149 pucks on net this season (12.1%). He would be a good middle pairing.
  • Scott Kosmachuk (Veteran) – On his fourth team since 2015, Kosmachuk (6’ 185lbs.) has netted double-digit goals in each season, his high mark of 19 coming in 2015/16 in Manitoba. One drawback is he has never finished in the plus category.
  • Danny O’Regan – signed by New York Rangers (two-way)
  • Cole Schneider (Veteran) – signed AHL contract with Milwaukee
  • Adam Tambellini – A left shot, Tambellini has recorded 4 straight 30-point seasons for Hartford and Bellville. From his stats, he needs to work on his defensive game, going minus 34, minus 12, and minus 2 in his previous three years. Only 24 years old, this 6’3” 191lb. winger may just need a change of scenery.
  • Corey Tropp (Veteran) – Another right winger who I have seen too much of, Tropp is a solid point producer for San Diego. He has three consecutive 40+ point seasons. At 29 years old, he has a bit of a nasty side to him as well, registering over 100 PIM’s the past two seasons. He is a guy you love to have on your team but hate playing against.
  • T.J. Tynan (Veteran) – signed by Colorado (two-way)

Adding to the list:

  • Kerby Rychel (Veteran) – It would be nice to see Rychel back in Stockton, where he was one of the few players not allergic to the blue paint. A solid 43-point season (and a team second-high 23 goals) was cut short after a late season injury. He knows the coaches, players, system, and the division, which is a plus. On a personal note, it would mean I would still be able to sport my game-worn superhero jersey from last season.
A blue paint superhero
  • Kalle Kossila – This 26-year old left shooting center has been a solid contributor to the San Diego Gulls over the past three years, while being called up to the Ducks each season. Kossila has sandwiched a 22-goal season in 2017/18 between two 14-goal seasons. He had three goals and seven points in last year’s playoff run for the Gulls.
  • Wayne Simpson (Veteran) – This 29-year old AHL journeyman has put up double-digit goals and 40+ points over his last three seasons with three different teams (Providence, Hersey, Rochester). A right winger, he brings Calder Cup playoff experience with him, a plus for a team with a young core.
  • Mitch Callahan (Veteran) – This right winger has spent the past two seasons in Bakersfield after six years in Grand Rapids. Along with two Calder Cup championships, he brings five years of 30+ points and double-digit goals. A short trip up Highway 99, he knows the Pacific division.
  • Marko Dano (Veteran) – Only 24 years old, Dano has as much NHL experience as AHL. In a weird situation last season, the Avalanche claimed him off waivers from Winnipeg before being reclaimed by the Jets five week later and assigned to Manitoba. A former first round pick of the Blue Jackets, this left-shooting center was sixth in scoring for the Moose (12-18-30) in only 51 games. He would fill the Curtis Lazar role for the Heat.

With only four veterans signed, there is room for another four or five to round out the Heat roster. Stockton needs to add with some quality players to help the younger players get acclimated to the professional life while trying to lead a Heat team to the Calder Cup playoffs for the second time in their five-year residency in Stockton.

  • MDG1600

    Good article SF. I was interested to learn about the veteran status rule which I was unaware existed. Based on what I could find online it sounds like, barring injuries, a player has 3 to 4 years of pro hockey for “development” before he attains veteran status. The Heat have not been able to ice payoff teams the last few years. With only 5 veterans allowed to dress each game I was wondering if you attribute the Heats uncompetitiveness to below average “veteran” contributions or is it the developing players that are not contributing enough?

  • freethe flames

    AS we have mentioned before the sign of a good organization is how it develops it’s prospects; surrounding them with the right veterans is essential. Having a team that preaches becoming competitive is also essential. This organizations needs to upgrade how it fills the Heat roster and they need to allow the kids to grow by playing them in every situation but not by throwing them to the wolves. Time to step.

  • Beer League Coach

    Eetu Tuulola should be in Stockton next season. Flames signed him to an ELC and I doubt he will be able to jump directly into the NHL. A year in AHL would be great for his development.
    Heat need to be selective in regards to what veterans they sign. Vets must take on a leadership role and still be ready to sit out a game or 2 along the way in order to comply with AHL development rule. Help is definitely needed on D. Heat simply cannot afford another season with such a mediocre crew along the blue line. Flames might be able to help. With 8 D men on NHL contracts and facing a cap crunch could we see Flames waive Mike Stone and send him to Stockton? He would be expensive for an AHL squad but might be a good “playing coach” for the young prospects.

    • freethe flames

      Stone to the AHL would save just over $1m in cap space(a buried contract). The question is he worth more there as an insurance policy or as $2.3m in cap space as a buyout. Maybe if he was was waived he might get claimed and that would mean a $3.5m savings. ET is an interesting case; his physical tools make him a hopeful prospect but I agree he will need some AHL time.

    • freethe flames

      ET is signed to a 3 year entry level deal; I’m not sure why he was not at development camp but I suspect it has something to do with being at several already. Just looking at the Flames non roster forwards(Heat) we have more RHS than we have had in the past. Maybe we are hoping to find a gem.

      • Beer League Coach

        I think he has 2 years experience playing pro in SM Liiga and he may have been excluded for that reason. I am anxious to see what he brings to the pro ranks here on this side of the ocean. He has the size to be physical. Hope he has a bit of a mean streak in him as well as soft hands. When he was drafted I read that he loved to score goals, liked Alex Ovechkin and tried to pattern his game after Ovie. If he brings all of that he could be our best RW since Iggie.

  • freethe flames

    Apparently the Heat have signed McKenna out of development camp and AHL tough guy Alex Gallant(source Eric Frances twitter). McKenna was solid at camp the other guy is somebody who I have never heard of before. Thanks Balzamoon for the heads up.

    • Beer League Coach

      I liked the write up on McKenna when he went to development camp. Glad to hear he impressed enough to get an AHL contract. He is another RH shot and was a big Iggie fan as a kid. Gallant could be another veteran influence for the Heat and still qualifies as a development player. Per Hockeydb he has played 141 games as a pro since 2015/16 season and has had over 100 PIM in each of the last 4 seasons. Could be a good body guard for Matt Phillips and a couple others who might be a little on the small side.

      • freethe flames

        It seems that the Flames organization has finally turned the corner on having a balance between RH/LH prospects upfront; it was not that long ago where we had zero RHS as prospects upfront. That does not mean any of them will make the show but at least there is a chance.

        • Beer League Coach

          Love it. I am from the Babcock camp that loves to see a balance between lefties and righties. Heat now have 7 RH shooting fwds. Seems strange to see them outnumber the LH shots. Only Yelesen is a RH shot on D and I am hoping he sees some time with Flames before next season comes to an end. Let’s sign another 2 righties who can perform on the blue line.

  • Albertabeef

    We can’t get rid of Gillies until we see what our goalies are really like. Talbot is a huge question mark as is Rittich returning from injury. We need to hold on to Gillies until mid November at the very least.

  • How's She Goin'

    Great article SF! Always an enjoyable and insightful read. Flames brass must be reading your stuff as they just signed Zac Leslie for the Heat. Good call!

  • Hockeysense9393

    First off just want to give a shout out to our Finest for keeping a close eye on what’s going on with the Flames development. You are like our own FN scout to the interior building blocks of this team.

    I just want to say that I’m still a proponent to the developing mode of filling the roster with “maybes” (whether they’re 18 or 28), then just roving veterans…
    The need for some AHL lifers may be somewhat beneficial. If it’s a leadership thing, and you can still find that everywhere within all variety of age group. Showing the young guy the ropes is import as well, but I think a player like Gawdin or Phillips (and the like) get it enough, that you still have the end goal (Flames) always in site.
    Anyways that’s my thoughts.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with Gillies. He’s signed to an NHL contract…so shouldn’t they give him one last kick at the can? Let him come to camp and see if he improved himself through the summer. You want competition at camp and you know he will try his best. If he doesn’t cut it against the other goalies, then you trade him for future considerations or lend him to another team.

    I think he’ll be in camp…