The St. John's IceCaps' roster officially doubled in size Saturday as the American Hockey League team received 13 players from the parent Winnipeg Jets, including one who spent the last two seasons as a full-time NHLer.
The move was part of a flurry of activity by National Hockey League organizations who needed to get such business done before the start of the lockout of NHL players at midnight Saturday.
Alexander Burmistrov, who 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 year previous, is the most notable of the players dispatched to the IceCaps Saturday.
As a player with less than 160 games in the NHL and one still on his entry-level contract, Burmistrov — who is entering the third and final season of that deal — could be sent to the AHL without having to clear waivers. The only question was whether the Kontinental Hockey League might have been a lockout option for the native of Kazan, Russia, who turns 21 next month.
But on Saturday, Jets' general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters Burmistrov had agreed to report to St. John's.
Also coming the IceCaps' way are goalies 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.
Like Burmistrov, they are on two-way, entry-level deals.
Pasquale, Cormier, Redmond and Klingberg were IceCaps' mainstays last season and most of the remainder appeared in at least one regular-season game for St. John's in '11-12. The exceptions are Sol, a big rearguard who nearly made the St. John's 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 defenceman Dean Arsene, Jake Marto and Travis Ramsey, and forwards John Albert, Kevin Clark, Norm Ezekiel, Jason Jaffray, Ray Kaunisto, Jason King, Ray Sawada, Ryan Schnell, Joey Sides and Hunter Tremblay, all signed to AHL-only deals with St. John's. As well, even there has been no official announcement from the Jets or IceCaps, goaltender Tyler Plante and forward Derek Whitmore, both experienced AHLers, are expected to attend St. John's training camp on tryouts.
There will almost be certainly more players added to the IceCaps rosters in the coming days.
Although the Jets were not participants in special pre-lockout waiver process that led to the assignment of veteran two-way contracted players to the AHL, there is another option open to Winnipeg to get the likes of goalie Mark Dekanich and defenceman Derek Meech, forwards Maxime Macenauer, Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell to St. John's. The AHL is permitting NHL-contracted players who were on the AHL 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 temporary AHL-only contracts during a lockout.
That exemption would extend to forward Aaron Gagnon and defenceman Paul Postma, the IceCaps' MVP in 2011-12, even though both are on one-way NHL contracts. That is because they were on St. John's clear-day list.
While Dekanich, Meech, Machacek, Macenauer and Maxwell have the measure of AHL components built into their two-way contracts, Postma and Gagnon would have to agree on AHL salaries with the Jets.
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 … The Jets were among many teams who made last-minute signings of free agents on Saturday, inking restricted free agent Evander Kane to a six-year deal, reportedly with $31.5 million in total … Burmistrov was one of a number of 2011-12 NHL regulars sent to AHL farm teams Saturday. The list includes some bona fide big-league stars, including 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). However Taylor Hall of the Oilers and Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins, the top two picks in the 2010 NHL draft, were not assigned to the AHL. Hall is still officially on injured reserve after shoulder surgery, while Seguin is subject to waivers since he has appeared in more than 160 regular-season and playoff NHL games in total.