Crunch time has arrived for unsigned free agents as training camps begin to open across the league. Time has likely run out to earn an NHL contract outright and the PTO run has already begun. For some, there is even the risk that AHL roster spots will begin to dry up. Decisions must be made to sign in the minors before it is too late, or else make the jump to Europe. Follow along with these transactions right here:
- The AHL’s Colorado Eagles have announced a trio of signings, two of whom come from their ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies. Forward Trey Bradley, who spent all of last season in Utah, recorded 47 points in 65 games and led the team with 37 assists. His ties to Colorado extend beyond familiarity with the Avalanche organization, as Bradley starred at Colorado College prior to his pro career. Defenseman Luke Martin, a former top prospect of the Carolina Hurricanes, failed to impress in his first pro season last year, but clearly the team organization saw enough to not only acquire his ECHL contract but then elevate him to the AHL before he stepped on the ice. The third new addition is in fact the most experienced, as defenseman Andrew Nielsen has played parts of six seasons in the AHL, collecting 79 points in 232 games, and also performed well in a brief stint in Austria early last season. Nielsen was a third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015 and played three years with the organization on his entry-level contract.
- Not to be outdone, the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms have announced four signings of their own, including a one-year extension for Ralph Cuddemi. After four years in the ECHL, Cuddemi earned an AHL deal last season and recorded two points in eight games as a bottom-six depth option. The newcomers are veteran goaltender Pat Nagle, recent NCAA standout forward Charlie Gerard, and defenseman Ryan MacKinnon. Nagle should be a familiar name to hockey fans; the 33-year-old has spent a decade playing professionally in North America and has suited up for a dozen different farm teams. Nagle has had an up-and-down career in the minors, but is still a nice depth pickup for a Philadelphia Flyers organization with a number of young names in net in need of veteran guidance. Gerard, who recorded 30 points in back-to-back seasons to complete his college career at Minnesota State, kept it going in his first pro season last year by notching 34 points for the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. The skilled right wing looks ready for the AHL. MacKinnon, a hard-working defenseman with experience in the QMJHL, USports, ECHL, and some in the AHL, is a depth option for the Phantoms.
- Dylan Blujus will be back in the AHL for an eighth straight year, inking a contract for 2021-22 with the Milwaukee Admirals. Although Blujus hasn’t been on an NHL contract since his entry-level deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning expired in 2017, he has managed to be a starting defenseman in the AHL every year all the same. A big, balanced, right-handed defender, Blujus has the makings of a player who could have value as an NHL depth asset and at 27 still has time to prove as much.
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