The music is slowing down in this year’s game of free agent musical chairs, and fewer and fewer players remain without a seat for next season. Some top names such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Matt Dumba linger on the market, but by and large, teams have shifted towards making signings more geared to depth roles in their lineup.
Free agents of that general caliber are also the players minor-league teams and teams in foreign leagues are targeting, meaning there’s been quite a bit of player movement today across the hockey world. As always, we’ll log those transactions and provide some context to them here.
- Zachary Fucale, once a top goalie prospect earlier in his career, will likely play in Europe for the first time as a pro hockey player in a few months. The 28-year-old former Washington Capitals farmhand signed a two-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. Fucale posted a .902 save percentage in 38 games for the AHL’s Hershey Bears this past season and won the Calder Cup. As a two-time Spengler Cup winner, Fucale has had some success playing against European club competition, and he’ll say goodbye (for now) to North American pro hockey having appeared in four NHL games and registered a memorable shutout in his NHL debut.
- 2018-19 AHL Defenseman of the Year and three-time AHL All-Star Zach Redmond has agreed on a mutual contract termination with his club, DEL champions EHC Red Bull Munich. The soon-to-be-35-year-old rearguard had spent the last three seasons in the Bavarian capital, leading the DEL in points by a defenseman in his first year and goals by a blueliner in his second. His seven points in 12 playoff games helped propel Munich to a DEL title over ERC Ingolstadt, and now Redmond could be eyeing a return to North American pro hockey with this contract termination.
- The New York Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Islanders, announced the signings of three forwards to AHL contracts: Cole Bardreau, Jeff Kubiak, and Joey Cipollone. Bardreau, 29, scored 15 goals and 31 points in 67 AHL games last season and has been a top-nine staple in Bridgeport since 2019. Kubiak, also 29, is a defensive specialist at the AHL level who routinely features on Bridgeport’s penalty kill. He’s been with the Islanders organization since he turned pro out of Cornell University in 2017. Finally, Cipollone, 23, is a winger who won the NCAA Men’s Hockey National Championship last season with Quinnipiac University and is now set to make his pro debut.
- Former Minnesota-Duluth captain and two-time NCAA Men’s Hockey National Champion Nick Wolff has signed a one-year contract with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, confirming his exit from the Providence Bruins after three seasons in Rhode Island. Wolff is a 26-year-old left-shot blueliner who stands six-foot-five, 223 pounds. He’s brought physicality to a reserve role with Providence so far in his pro career, and now heads out west to a revamped San Diego Gulls squad, where he could end up playing along the right side next to one of the Ducks’ high-end young defenders, such as Olen Zellweger or former Minnesota Golden Gopher Jackson LaCombe.
- The AHL’s Utica Comets have signed rugged defenseman Colin Felix, an NCAA Men’s Hockey National Champion at UMass Amherst, to a one-year, one-way AHL contract. The 24-year-old turned pro last fall and skated in 72 games with the ECHL’s Reading Royals. He scored eight goals and 27 points and collected 139 penalty minutes, bringing physical two-way ability to the Royals’ blueline. Now, the Comets are hoping Felix can do the same for their back end, a defense that needed to replace a right-shot blueliner after the trade of Reilly Walsh to the Boston Bruins. The Comets have also signed Jeremy Brodeur, son of legendary Devils netminder Martin Brodeur, to a two-way NHL/ECHL contract, bringing him over from the EIHL where he was the starter for the Manchester Storm.
- Alex-Olivier Voyer, a former QMJHL star with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, has signed a one-year, one-way AHL contract with the Laval Rocket. Getting a one-way deal in the AHL is a victory for Voyer, who dropped from playing mostly in the AHL in 2021-22 to the ECHL in 2022-23. Voyer had scored only eight points in 41 games with the Providence Bruins in 21-22, but managed 23 goals and 43 points in 48 ECHL games this season, not only securing himself a spot back in North America’s second-tier pro league but also a spot in his home province.
- Former Hobey Baker Award finalist Dylan McLaughlin has signed a contract with Vaxjo Lakers HC, the reigning champions of Sweden’s SHL. The deal is McLaughlin’s first foray into European pro hockey. The 28-year-old had a difficult 2022-23 campaign, playing just nine games total. The year before, though, McLaughlin broke out, scoring 42 points in 55 games for the Rockford IceHogs. Now McLaughlin will compete for a role in Sweden and potentially help Vaxjo secure a second consecutive title.
- Undersized 25-year-old blueliner Joseph Duszak has climbed the pro hockey ladder since concluding an exceptional three-year NCAA career, but hasn’t yet received any NHL call-ups. He began in the ECHL with the Newfoundland Growlers, and scored 35 points in 34 games from the blueline. He was named an ECHL All-Star and ended up earning a job in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Duszak excelled in Toronto, scoring 52 points in 61 games in 2021-22 and earning AHL Second-Team All-Star honors. After that strong AHL campaign, Duszak likely viewed excelling overseas as his next step towards earning NHL consideration, so he signed in the KHL with Dynamo Minsk. Duszak was exceptional in Belarus, finishing behind former Boston Bruin Ryan Spooner for the team lead in points with 45 in 68 games played. Now, he’s signed a one-year AHL contract with the Springfield Thunderbirds likey with the hope of producing well once again and finally earning an NHL shot.
- Former Buffalo Sabres prospect Jordon Southorn, one of the top blueliners in Slovakia’s Tipos Extraliga, has signed a one-year deal with the Augsburg Panthers of the DEL. The 33-year-old Canadian moved to Slovakia in 2018-19 mid-season, and made an instant impact with Banska Bystrica HC 05, winning a championship there. He led the Slovak league in points by a defenseman with 51 in 2019-20, and took home another league championship a few months ago with HC Kosice. Now, he’ll head to Germany to bolster the blueline of a club that only narrowly avoided relegation to the DEL2 in 2022-23.
- Austrian national team defenseman Dominique Heinrich is returning to his hometown of Vienna after playing over 600 games at Austria’s top level of pro hockey with EHC Red Bull Salzburg. The five-foot-eight 32-year-old won a sixth title with Salzburg this past season, though he skated in a career-low 26 regular-season games. Now both Heinrich and Salzburg are moving in a different direction, as Heinrich has signed a contract with the Vienna Capitals, a rival ICEHL club. It’s a major signing for a Vienna team looking to finally push themselves across the finish line next season, as their many deep playoff runs since their 2016-17 title have ended in failure.
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