The few notable NHL signings that remain are set to wrap up in the next few days with the conclusion of arbitration hearings. It may bring the North American major pro news cycle to a halt briefly, but junior, minor pro and European teams are still making waves daily as their seasons loom. Today’s notable minor transactions can be found here:
- The OHL’s Oshawa Generals are bringing over Minnesota Wild center prospect Rasmus Kumpulainen for the 2023-24 campaign after selecting him 13th overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft, according to a release from his team in the Finnish Liiga, Pelicans. Minnesota selected Kumpulainen with the 53rd overall pick of the 2023 NHL Draft after he notched 11 goals, 23 assists and 34 points in 41 games with Pelicans’ junior team in the U20 SM-sarja. Kumpulainen had a strong finish to the 2022-23 campaign at the IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship, recording five points in five games for Finland. A prototypical two-way center, Kumpulainen will continue to build on his offense and fill out his 6-foot-3 frame during his time in Oshawa. Pelicans also mentioned they’d reached an agreement to retain Kumpulainen’s Liiga rights through 2026.
- Former Arizona Coyotes and Boston Bruins defense prospect Mitchell Miller is continuing his hockey career, but as expected, it’s not in North America. His 2016 assault conviction of a Black classmate with developmental disabilities has now cost him two NHL roles – including Boston parting ways with him just two days after signing him in free agency back in November. Late last month, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported the contract between Miller and the Bruins had officially been terminated via settlement. He’s now signed a one-year deal with HK 32 Liptovský Mikuláš in the Slovak Extraliga, per NorthStar Bets’ Chris Johnston.
- Long-time Buffalo Sabres organizational farmhand Sean Malone is heading overseas, signing a two-year deal with NL club SCL Tigers. Malone had spent five of his six pro seasons in the Sabres organization after graduating from Harvard but got into just one NHL game with Buffalo during that time. He’d been an important top-six fixture for the AHL’s Rochester Americans, though, helping along Buffalo’s young prospects as they developed through their system. The 28-year-old center now heads to Switzerland, where he joins an offense led by Florida Panthers prospect Aleksi Saarela and former New Jersey Devil Harri Pesonen.
- Forward Daniel Walcott is returning to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch on a one-year deal, according to NHL.com’s Patrick Williams. A 2014 draft pick of the New York Rangers, they dealt Walcott to the Tampa Bay Lightning just a year later after signing his entry-level contract. He’s spent eight seasons with the Crunch since then, amassing 111 points across 378 games. Walcott does have one NHL appearance to his name, coming with the Lightning in 2020-21. The physical winger, who’s also played defense at times during his career, mustered a personal record of 13 goals, 32 points, and 103 penalty minutes in 67 games for Syracuse last season.
- The OHL’s Niagara IceDogs acquired Montreal Canadiens defense prospect Daniil Sobolev from the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for three late-round 2024 OHL Draft picks today, according to a team release. Montreal drafted the physical shutdown defender with the 142nd overall pick in 2021 after he didn’t play at all in his draft year – the 2020-21 OHL season was canceled entirely due to COVID-19. Since, he’s registered three goals, 23 assists, 26 points, 92 penalty minutes, and a +37 rating in 110 games across two seasons with the Spitfires. To finish off his junior career, Sobolev joins an IceDogs team that’s finished at the bottom of the league in each of the last three seasons, winning just 12 of 68 games last season.
- Kumpulainen isn’t the only NHL-affiliated European prospect heading to the CHL today. Carolina Hurricanes goalie prospect Jakub Vondras has committed to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves for next season after they selected him 22nd overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft, per the league. Vondras, a sixth-round pick of Carolina in 2022, posted a sparkling .929 save percentage and 2.19 goals-against average in 29 games with HC Plzen’s U20 club in the Czech junior Extraliga last season.
- The AHL’s Chicago Wolves have re-signed defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald to a one-year AHL contract. This move confirms that Fitzgerald, 26, will play a fourth consecutive season with Chicago. The undrafted left-shot blueliner scored 10 points in 30 games for the Wolves last season and played 17 playoff games during the team’s Calder Cup Championship run in 2022. He has 250 games of AHL experience under his belt, meaning he is just ten games away from no longer qualifying under the first tier of “development players” according to the AHL’s rules. As a result, 2023-24 is an extremely important season for Fitzgerald as he’ll need to provide consistent value for the Wolves in order to prove he’s worthy of a non-developmental player slot moving forward. AHL clubs are limited in that they can only dress five skaters who do not qualify as development players under either of the two pro games played thresholds.
- Former Coyotes prospect Lucas Lessio has signed a one-year contract with the ICEHL’s Bolzano Foxes, making Italy the eleventh different country he’ll have played professional hockey in. Lessio, 30, has played around the world, from Croatia to China to Latvia to Germany, and spent last season playing for Klagenfurt in Austria. He didn’t score as well for Klagenfurt (14 goals, 28 points in 47 games) as he did the year before in the DEL for the Krefeld Penguins (25 goals, 41 points in 56 games) but wasn’t useless either, and will likely play an important role for the ICEHL finalists in Bolzano.
- The Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears have signed defenseman Colin Swoyer to a one-year AHL contract. The 25-year-old spent most of last season playing AHL hockey for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, scoring 11 points in 36 games. Swoyer was a pending RFA for the Penguins but did not receive a qualifying offer from the organization. He did also play six games in the ECHL for the Wheeling Nailers, although those games all came in early December and after being called up for a December 17th contest against the Bears Swoyer didn’t return to the ECHL. 2022-23 was Swoyer’s first full season playing professional hockey, as he concluded his four-year NCAA career at Michigan Tech last spring and only got a five-game trial run with the Penguins before the season ended. Now he’ll head to Hershey looking to continue to establish himself in the AHL.
- The AHL’s San Diego Gulls have signed two players to one-year AHL contracts: veteran forward Eddie Matsushima and rookie Anthony Costantini. Matsushima, 29, scored 28 goals and 47 points for the Tulsa Oilers last season, earning ECHL All-Star honors. He played NCAA Division-III hockey at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and worked his way into professional hockey starting with the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the SPHL. He produced well enough there to earn a few cameos in the ECHL before breaking in full-time with Tulsa. Now, he’ll get a chance to continue his climb up the pro hockey ladder and skate in some AHL games. As for Costantini, he’s a 20-year-old right-shot blueliner who scored 36 points in 67 games for the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL and could now be making his pro debut with the Gulls.
- The AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds have added some depth, signing 26-year-old Jacob Hayhurst to a one-year AHL contract. Hayhurst split last season between the ECHL’s Worcester Railers (22 points in 35 games) and AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds, where he played in a depth role and scored six points in 24 games. He’ll likely end up on the AHL/ECHL bubble for the Firebirds as well next season, serving as valuable depth as well as some veteran competition for prospects entering their first AHL campaigns such as Ryan Winterton and Tucker Robertson.
- Rihards Bukarts, the leading scorer of the Latvian team that won the hockey-mad country their first-ever medal at an IIHF Men’s World Championship earlier this summer, will not be returning to his club of last season, Klagenfurt of the ICEHL. Bukarts, 27, scored 13 goals and 25 points in 28 games in Austria and as mentioned finished his season on a very high note, leading the Latvians with 11 points in 10 games. Bukarts has experience as a scorer in ICEHL, DEL, KHL, and Czechia, and last played in North America in 2016-17, when he scored 33 points in 37 games for the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
- Longtime University of Wisconsin forward Dominik Mersch and former Barrie Colts captain Luke Bignell have each signed ECHL contracts with the Jacksonville Icemen. Mersch, 24, concluded a five-year, 164-game career with the Badgers in March and got a two-game cameo in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves, his first taste of pro hockey. He’ll make his full-time debut as a professional player with the Icemen, as will Bignell. The 22-year-old left-shot defenseman played nearly 200 games in the OHL for the Colts and has spent the last two seasons playing on the Canadian university circuit for the University of Guelph.
- Undrafted OHL blueliner Lleyton Moore, the former captain of the Oshawa Generals, will begin his pro career with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder. He signed a one-year contract with the team and will look to translate his impressive numbers from major junior (he scored 54 points in 67 games in 2021-22) to the pro game in Kansas.
- Bruising ECHL defenseman Josh Thrower, a veteran of nearly 250 games in North America’s third-tier league, has signed a one-year ECHL contract with the Norfolk Admirals. The 27-year-old played in 39 games with the Atlanta Gladiators last season and has spent three of the past four seasons with the club. Now he’s off to play for the Admirals where he will contend to lead the team in penalty minutes having already racked up 389 in the ECHL.
- Former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Stephen Desrocher has signed with the Fife Flyers of the EIHL. The six-foot-four defenseman and former Kingston Frontenacs captain heads to Scotland having played just 31 total games of pro hockey. He played four seasons and spent five years at the University of Western Ontario before signing in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades. He made his pro debut there and lifted the Kelly Cup with the team. He played 10 games in the AlpsHL last season with Merano HC and now heads to the United Kingdom to continue his young pro career.
This page will be updated throughout the day.