The last 24 hours has been a busy one in hockey. There continue to be more and more PTO’s as well as a few traditional contract signings as well, both in the NHL, and the following minor league deals:
- The New York Ranger’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, have signed 2016-17 AHL All-Star Joe Whitney to a one-year contract, the team announced. A Boston College alum and former captain of the Eagles, the 29-year-old Whitney has had a fine AHL career and has played an important leadership role for many teams, but has not lived up to the potential many saw in college. Whitney spent the first half of his pro career with the AHL’s Albany Devils, eventually earning an NHL contract with New Jersey and appearing in five games with the team between 2013 and 2015. More recently, he has been more of an AHL gun-for-hire, signing one-year deals with the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche to be a veteran mentor for their young minor leaguers. Whitney was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for Brendan Ranford at the trade deadline this past season to help support the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunners down the stretch. However, the Coyotes and seemingly all other AHL teams weren’t interested in a two-way deal for Whitney’s services this season, leading to his AHL deal with the Wolf Pack. Whitney will still be a valuable research in Hartford, bringing leadership and guidance to a locker room with developing young scorers like Ryan Gropp and Adam Tambellini.
- Like Whitney, another former Boston College captain has found AHL employment in Chris Calnan. The big, two-way winger has signed with one of the AHL’s newest teams, the Binghamton Devils, the relocated affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. The announcement of the deal by Binghamton received excited recognition from both New Jersey and ECHL-affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms. The whole chain of teams hope that Calnan can bring the same character, tenacity, and leadership that he showed at BC to his pro game, regardless of what level he plays at. Calnan, 23, was a 2012 third-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, but became a free agent in August after failing to reach terms on an entry-level deal with the team after four years in college. In Binghamton, Calnan will look to show that he has the intangibles to be a reliable bottom-six forward at the NHL level. He may not be his uncle, Jeremy Roenick, but Calnan looks like he may have pro chops.
- Unlike Whitney, a pair of fellow former Coyotes have been unable to lock down even an AHL job this off-season. Branden Troock signed on with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits earlier today, while Henrik Samuelsson came to terms with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads yesterday. Samuelsson, 23, was a first-round pick of the Coyotes back in 2012, but never came close to reaching his potential, beginning with a scoreless three game stint with the ’Yotes in his first pro season in 2014-15 and only going downhill from there. The team ended up trading Samuelsson to the Edmonton Oilers last season for Mitch Moroz, who signed with none other than the Idaho Steelheads this summer. Samuelsson has just 55 points in his three-year AHL career and will have to work if he wants to add to that point total any time soon. Troock, on the other hand, is neither an Arizona draft pick nor an NHL veteran. The 23-year-old was a 5th-round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2012 and was traded to the Coyotes this past February alongside the aforementioned and quickly flipped Brandon Ranford for veteran goalie Justin Peters. Arizona did not make any attempts to re-sign Troock, who was a -7 in 20 games with the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunners to close out the season. Troock is more familiar with the ECHL than Samuelsson, having skated in 28 “AA” games over his three pro seasons.
- A player with similar luck is former San Jose Sharks prospect Patrick McNally. A 2010 fourth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks and a standout at Harvard, the bruising defenseman just couldn’t find any production at the pro level, scoring 18 points in two seasons with the AHL Barracuda. McNally today signed with the ECHL’s Worcester Railers, who ironically play in the former home of the Barracuda, then the Worcester Sharks.
- A pair with better fortunes today was Alex Wideman and Tyler Sikura. The ECHL forwards are now AHL forwards, after inking deals with the Rockford Ice Hogs today, as per a team announcement. Wideman, the younger brother of Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman, is back in the AHL after two full seasons of ECHL playing following a quick stint with his brother on the Binghamton Senators in 2015. The 25-year-old scored 55 points in 70 games last season, the best offensive production of his entire career. Sikura is on an AHL contract for the first time, having only played in the American League on loan after signing with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye out of Dartmouth College in 2015. The former Big Green captain has yet to record an AHL point yet, which will surely be his “goal” when he first hits the ice with Rockford.
- Journeyman goalie Mark Dekanich will be staying stateside this year. He has re-upped with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. The 31-year-old Dekanich is a ten-year pro; a 2006 draft pick of the Predators, he made one NHL start in Nashville and many more starts with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, then jumped overseas to the KHL before returning to minor league duty in North America. While Dekanich could end up playing much of the season down in the ECHL, as he has the past two seasons since returning from the KHL, Dekanic’s veteran presence could prove helpful for promising young Flyers goalie prospects Alex Lyon and Carter Hart, especially while Anthony Stolarz remains sidelined. However, between that trio of up-and-coming keepers, the veteran duo of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth in Philly, and Leland Irving and John Muse also on AHL deals, there may be a few too many goalies in Lehigh Valley and Reading this season.