For a Tuesday in late July, it’s been an especially busy day for hockey transactions, including the NHL signings of Mika Zibanejad with the New York Rangers, Robin Lehner with the Buffalo Sabres, Mark Streit with the Montreal Canadiens, and several deals by the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils. Yet, there has been a flurry of notable activity in the AHL and overseas today too, including the following:
- The once-promising NHL career of Matt Fraser has taken another odd turn away from its original path. Fraser, still just 27 years old, has signed with Dornbirner EC of the EBEL, a lower tier European league based mostly out of Austria. The team has announced the deal, though terms have not been released. Fraser moves to the EBEL after a season in Sweden, where injuries limited him to only four games with Rogle BK. Before that, many will remember Fraser as a star in the AHL for the Texas Stars and, after the Tyler Seguin trade, the Providence Bruins. Fraser even played in 60 NHL games with the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15 and looked to be on his way to becoming an NHL regular. However, after signing a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets in 2015 and failing to make the team, Fraser had the worst AHL season of his career and decided to head overseas. So far, it has not worked out, but Fraser will now try his hand at EBEL action, where he could easily be the best player for Dornbirner, who currently count another former Bruin, Jamie Arniel, as their top scorer.
- Another player who failed to meet expectatiosn in North America and will now head to a lesser European league is Dane Fox. The former Erie Otters superstar, who scored 107 points in 67 games in his final OHL season, has not found anywhere near the same success at the pro level. A high-profile signing by the Vancouver Canucks in 2014, the undrafted forward has made his last junior season look very much like a fluke with his play since then. Fox has skated almost exclusively in the ECHL over the past three seasons, playing in only two AHL games and not even in consideration for an NHL look with the Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes. Now, Fox will head to Germany to play with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of the DEL. Nurnberg is the likely favorite in the DEL next season and roster many players with NHL experience, including 2016-17 top scorer Steve Reinprecht and recent signee Tom Gilbert. Fox’s pro hockey career is very much up in the air right now, but if he can shine through on an experience Ice Tigers roster, perhaps he’ll get another shot in North America .
- The AHL’s San Diego Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks’ affiliate, has re-signed forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas to a two-year minor league deal, the league announced. The 27-year-old recorded a pro career-high 24 points and +13 rating for the Gulls last year and is a fan favorite and active member of the San Diego community. The former NCAA standout was a seventh-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, but was never signed to an entry-level deal after spending five years in college.
- The Chicago Wolves, now the new affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights, have signed one of their own, inking Scooter Vaughan to a one-year deal, according to a team release. The hard-nosed defenseman worked his way up through hockey’s ranks, spending four years at the University of Michigan, three years in the ECHL, and going on four years in the AHL, with the last two spent in Chicago. The next stop could be the NHL, now that the Wolves are associated with the Knights, who obviously have the least organizational depth of any team in the league. A career-best performance in 2017-18 could earn Vaughan his first NHL contract next year.
- A pair of AHL defenseman will change teams for the upcoming season as Paul Geiger, recently of the Rochester Americans, has signed with the Hershey Bears, the Washington Capitals’ affiliate, while the Carolina Hurricanes’ minor league partners, the Charlotte Checkers, have signed former St. John’s Ice Caps defender Josiah Didier. Both Geiger and Didier are still just 24 years old and were solid college players, at Clarkson and Denver respectively, but need big seasons with their new teams after pedestrian starts to their pro careers, that is if they want to reach the NHL someday.
- The 2016-17 captain at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has found his new home, and he’s in a good spot. Riley Bourbonnais, a 23-year-old center who was nearly a point per game player for RPI last year, has inked his first AHL deal with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the feeder team of the two-time Stanley Cup champs. The team announced their newest addition and have high hopes that he can bring the same well-rounded game he showed in college to the pros.