The rules — existing and temporary — regarding the placement of players with American Hockey League teams in this NHL lockout situation can be fairly dizzying. But there is one that can be stated pretty succinctly: If a player was considered a full-time AHLer last season, he can be so again in this one.
That has fans of the St. John’s IceCaps considering the possibility of the team’s growing roster becoming that much stronger with the likely addition of several key veterans who helped lead the team to the AHL Eastern Conference final in the spring.
On Saturday, the IceCaps’ roster officially doubled in size with the assignment of 13 players from the parent Winnipeg Jets, including Alexander Burmistrov, a former first-round pick who spent the last two seasons in the NHL. Now, attention turns to the status of seven players who are officially locked-out NHLers, but who are still eligible to be signed to AHL contracts during the labour dispute.
The players are netminder Mark Dekanich; defencemen Derek Meech and Paul Postma; and forwards Ben Maxwell, Aaron Gagnon, Maxime Macenauer and Spencer Machacek, St. John’s leading scorer in 2011-12. All were with the IceCaps during their playoff run, except for Dekanich, who was signed as a free agent over the summer.
The seven qualify under a special exemption that will permit NHL-contracted players who were on the AHL’s clear-day (playoff-eligibility) list last spring or who were on an AHL roster at the end of the 2011-12 regular season to sign AHL-only contracts that would be in effect during the lockout.
When contacted Suday, Craig Heisinger, the St. John’s general manager and the assistant GM of the parent Winnipeg Jets, would not say if the IceCaps intend to sign players to such temporary deals, only acknowledging it was a possibility.
Heisinger did reiterate what he has often stated before: “We will always put the best possible product on the ice (in St. John’s),” adding this would hold true no matter what budget constraints the Jets organization might experience while the NHL was shut down.
Dekanich, Meech, Machacek, Macenauer and Maxwell are on two-way contracts, with the measure of an AHL component built into those deals. Gagnon and Postma, the IceCaps' MVP in 2011-12, are different cases since have one-way deals that would normally pay them NHL money at whatever level they play. That means they would have to agree on an AHL salary in the interim.
Heisinger also said there was no deadline to reach any such deals, although it should be noted the IceCaps will start training camp in Corner Brook exactly two weeks from today.
All indications are that Burmistrov will be there. Over the weekend, Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters he had spoken to the Russian forward and that he has agreed to report to St. John's.
Burmsitrov, who turns 21 next month, had 13 goals and 15 assists in 76 games with the Jets in 2011-12 after playing as an 18-year-old with the Atlanta Thrashers the previous season. But as a player with less than 160 games in the NHL and with a year remaining on his entry-level contract, he can be sent to the AHL without having to clear waivers.
The only question was whether the Kontinental Hockey League in his native Russia might have been a lockout option, especially because Burmistrov probably stood to make more money than he would have in St. John’s. His contract calls for him to make $900,000, plus bonuses, annually in the NHL, but only $67,500 in the AHL.
On Saturday, the Jets also sent goaltenders Chris Carrozzi and Eddie Pasquale; defenceman Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori, Will O'Neill, Zach Redmond and Cody Sol; and forwards Patrice Cormier, Jason Gregoire, Carl Klingberg, Eric O'Dell and Ivan Telegin to St. John’s. Like Burmistrov, they are on two-way, entry-level deals.
Pasquale, Cormier, Redmond and Klingberg were IceCaps mainstays last season, while O’Dell and Gregoire, each suited up for about half of the team’s games. Most of the remainder appeared in at least one regular-season contest for St. John’s in ’11-12.
The exceptions are Sol, a big rearguard came close to making the IceCaps roster last fall, but spent the 2011-12 campaign as an overager in the OHL, and the 20-year-old Telegin, considered one of the Jets' top prospects. A smooth-skating, six-foot-three, 200-pound Russian who has played both left wing and centre in the major junior ranks, Telegin had 35 goals and 64 points in just 45 games with the OHL's Barrie Colts last season.
Saturday’s assignees join 13 others — defenceman Dean Arsene, Jake Marto and Travis Ramsey, along with forwards John Albert, Kevin Clark, Norm Ezekiel, Jason Jaffray, Ray Kaunisto, Jason King, Ray Sawada, Ryan Schnell, Joey Sides and Hunter Tremblay — who are operating under AHL contracts with St. John’s, whose regular season begins Oct. 13.
As well, even there has been no official announcement from the Jets or IceCaps, goalie Tyler Plante and forward Derek Whitmore, both experienced AHLers, are expected to attend training camp on tryouts.
On Saturday, the Jets also assigned forward Mark Scheifele to Barrie of the OHL. Scheifele was expected to make a bid for a job with Winnipeg (he made the team out of training camp last year), but since he spent most of the '11-12 campaign in the junior ranks and because he won't turn 20 until 2013, he could not be sent to the AHL … Burmistrov was one of a number of 2011-12 NHL regulars sent to AHL farm teams Saturday. The list includes many notables, some of them bona fide NHL stars like the Edmonton Oilers' forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle (to Oklahoma City), the Carolina Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner (to Charlotte) and 2012 Calder Trophy finalist and New Jersey Devils' forward Adam Henrique (to Albany). St. John’s does not play Charlotte or Oklahoma City in the regular season ... The Adirondack Phantoms, who will be the opposition for the IceCaps’ home opener Oct. 19, have been assigned Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Zac Rinaldo. Those three spent all or most of last season with the parent Philadelphia Flyers ... Taylor Hall of the Oilers and Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins, the top two picks in the 2010 NHL draft, were not among the slew of weekend assignments to the AHL. Hall is still officially on injured reserve after shoulder surgery, while Seguin is subject to waivers since he has played more than 160 career NHL games. Seguin appeared in just 155 regular-season games for Boston in his two NHL seasons, but his 20 Stanley Cup playoff contests also count toward the total when determining waiver eligibility.
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