Rookie camps have begun, veterans are returning, and the preseason is right around the corner. Yet, teams and players alike continue to make decisions for the coming season. Here are some of those moves made today:
- NHL veteran Adam Pardy has found himself a nice landing spot for the twilight of his career. The 34-year-old defenseman was forced into the international route last season to continue playing, signing with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League after twelve pro seasons in North America and 342 NHL games. Pardy will now return home by nearly returning home in a literal sense. Pardy has signed with the ECHL’s newest club, the Newfoundland Growlers. The team plays in St. John’s, not far from Pardy’s hometown of Bonavista, Newfoundland. The league announced that the Growlers had signed Pardy to a one-year deal, but the experienced blue liner may find a natural fit as the veteran leader of the young, developmental roster and so close to home, and end up with the team for another year or two longer.
- Former Vancouver Canucks prospect Mackenze Stewart has signed a contract in the ECHL as well, but the 23-year-old is far from the end of his career. Stewart, a 2014 seventh-round pick, became an unrestricted free agent this off-season when his entry-level contract expired and the Canucks opted to not extend a qualifying offer. Stewart has always had good size and played a hard-nosed game and is even one of the few skaters in hockey who can comfortably transition from forward to defense. However, the WHL prospect has never quite developed the high-end skill needed to compete in the NHL or even the AHL. In his three pro seasons, Stewart has 132 ECHL games to his credit compared to just six in the AHL and has struggled to produce at any level. He has improved slightly each year and perhaps he can still develop into a serviceable pro. The Toledo Walleye at least see some potential in the big man; they announced a one-year contract with Stewart and went so far as to confirm that he will have guaranteed role in the defensive corps.
- Reid McNeill likely could have avoided the ECHL in the coming season, but rather than wait around for the right AHL fit and risk spending time at the “AA” level, the former Pittsburgh Penguins prospect has decided to move overseas. McNeill has signed with Dornbirner EC, an Austrian club in the EBEL. The Bulldogs announced a contract with the AHL veteran, adding him to the roster just one week prior to the start of the EBEL regular season. McNeill, 26, was a sixth-round pick of the Penguins back in 2010 and spent five years with the organization, almost entirely with their minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. At 6’4″, 216 lbs., McNeill is a big, physical player and a punishing defensive presence. McNeill reached free agency last summer and signed an AHL contract with the Syracuse Crunch. He went on to play a leadership role as an alternate captain for the team and had a strong season to boot. Now with Dornbirner, McNeill could be a true No. 1 defenseman for the Bulldogs.