Garret Sparks has decided to take the playing time that comes with an ECHL contract instead of holding out looking for a more lucrative opportunity. The veteran goaltender has signed a contract with the Orlando Solar Bears for the 2020-21 season.
It’s actually something of a homecoming for Sparks, who spent a good chunk of his early professional career with the Solar Bears when they were the affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s the team who drafted the goaltender in 2011, selected 190th overall after just 19 games at the OHL level. That late-round flier was worth it, as Sparks progressed through the minor league development system in Toronto and eventually made his NHL debut during the 2015-16 season.
Now 27, Sparks has 38 NHL games under his belt including one just last year with the Vegas Golden Knights. His results in those games aren’t excellent, but given how well he has played at the AHL level, this ECHL deal is still somewhat surprising. More than anything, Sparks likely knows that playing time is more important than anything right now and the ECHL is the only league of the three that has a firm start date—and training camps opening all over. He’ll surely be in the mix for an AHL or NHL deal down the road, once things get back to (somewhat) normal.