An off-season check on the IceCaps’ roster situation
By Brendan McCarthy
The St. John’s IceCaps’ training camp won’t open for another two months, there are a few more moves expected to be made and there are always a few that are unexpected, but with two dozen-plus players within the Winnipeg Jets’ organization officially signed and with some sort of American Hockey League component to their contracts, it’s not too early to begin musing about what the IceCaps’ roster might look like at the start of the 2013-14 season.
Here’s a rundown of the players signed either to an AHL contract with St. John’s or to a two-way deal with the Jets, plus some comments and a few more names worth some consideration when considering what the IceCaps might look like at the start of next season:
Eddie Pasquale, Michael Hutchinson, Jussi Olkinuora
Pasquale and Hutchinson, who was signed as a free agent from the Bruins’ organization, each have spent the better part of the last three seasons in the AHL, so projecting them as the goalie tandem in St. John’s seems pretty easy.
That would leave Finnish rookie Olkinuora in line for an assignment to St. John’s new ECHL affiliate, the Ontario (Calif.) Reign.
But as always, especially in the trickledown-affected minors, what seems straightforward in July might be twisted into an unrecognizable shape come October.
Note: All three are signed to NHL deals.
Ben Chiarot, Julian Melchiori, Will O’Neill, Zach Redmond, Cody Sol, Jacob Trouba
Even though he’s still just 19 and hasn’t played a game in the pros, the highly-touted Trouba will be given every chance to make the Jets out of training camp. Redmond is also a candidate to stay with the big club as he comes back from a life-threatening leg laceration last winter, one that put a stop to a promising NHL start.
The other four are basically sophomore pros, all still on entry-level NHL deals, except for O’Neill, now on an AHL contract.
What’s more, all four shoot left. Redmond and Trouba shoot from the right side as does 21-year-old draft pick Brenden Kichton, the 2012-13 WHL top defenceman. Kichton’s not signed yet, but is expected to be.
Bonavista native Adam Pardy, signed as an unrestricted free agent after spending last season in the Sabres’ organization, has a one-way $600,000 deal. So does Paul Postma, who has a two-year pact worth $712,500 annually. One-way deals are an indication someone high in the management chain expects the player in possession of such a deal to play in the NHL. That goes double for small-market teams like the Jets, who don’t make a practice of spending big-league dollars for minor-league players. However, if Trouba and/or Redmond make strong bids to stick, it will interesting to see what decisions result.
Note: Pardy and Postma would both have to be exposed to waivers to be sent to the minors.
Forwards (17, positions in brackets)
John Albert (C), Austen Brassard (RW), Yasin Cisse (RW), Patrice Cormier (C), Andrew Gordon (RW/C), Jason Jaffray (LW/C), Jason King (RW), Adam Lowry (LW), Matt Halischuk (LW/RW), Carl Klingberg (RW), Josh Lunden (LW), Kael Mouillierat (C/LW), Blair Riley (LW/RW), Jerome Samson (RW/C), Mark Scheifele (C), Ryan Schnell (LW), Ivan Telegin (C/LW)
First the questions that remain unanswered, for now:
• Can King come back from the concussion problems that basically washed out his 2012-13 season?
• Can Scheifele, on his third try, stick with the Jets or will he begin his first full pro season in St. John’s?
• As it stands now, there looks like there could be least one opening in the Winnipeg forward contingent, so will someone the likes of Cormier, Halischuk, Gordon and Samson — players who have straddled the AHL-NHL line over the last few years — be looked upon to fill any such vacancy at season’s start?
Even with those questions, the front lines is looking like an area of strength for St. John’s, and unlike the defensive corps, especially when it comes to right-shooters. Newcomers Gordon, Samson, Halischuk, Riley, Brasserd and Cisse all shoot from the right side. So, does Scheifele, for that matter.
What’s more, there will be more players added to the list. J.C. Lipon, the 20-year-old former Canadian world junior taken in the June draft by Winnipeg, could be signed soon. The same goes for centre Eric O’Dell, the IceCaps’ leading scorer last season. He’s a restricted free agent in possession of a qualifying offer from the Jets.
There’s also centre and Jets draft pick Lukas Sutter, who can turn pro this season, but could also head back to the Western Hockey League as an overager. The son of former NHLer Rich Sutter, his WHL rights were traded in the off-season from Saskatoon to Red Deer, where he would be coached by his uncle, Brent Sutter.
Notes: Jaffray, King, Lunden, Mouillierat, Riley and Schnell are signed to AHL deals ... Cormier, Gordon, Halischuk and Samson would be subject to waivers ... Gordon, Halischuk, Jaffray, King and Samson all qualify as official AHL veterans under the rules that restrict teams from dressing no more than five such players per game. However, Halischuk is also a “tweener”, with more than 260 but less than 320 qualifying pro games. That means he could be designated as the IceCaps’ one exempt veteran.