Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

A Rabbit and a Sestito Walk Into a Matrix…

The moment we have all been waiting for is nearly here. It was announced today that the 2015-16 AHL playing scheduled will be released Thursday at 1 p.m. I’ll have a full dissection of the schedule of opponents the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will face starting in October here on the blog Thursday afternoon. Same workup as prior years with a question and answer session. If I think of any new wrinkles between now and then I will work them in. Fun times ahead.

Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Tom Sestito to a professional tryout agreement. Sestito is a journeyman and part of a dying breed of one trick ponies who know nothing other than how to fight. You can take this news any which way you like. A protector for Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin / Phil Kessel, or Daniel Carcillo redux. As you recall, Pittsburgh signed Carcillo to a similar professional tryout agreement last year before releasing him. Carcillo later signed on with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that won the Stanley Cup last year. What I don’t see is Sestito a replacement for the currently unsigned Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond here in Wilkes-Barre. Sestito I don’t think is willing to settle for the AHL, as evidenced last season when his prior team, Vancouver, tried to send him to their AHL affiliate Utica. He refused and Vancouver sent him home. I think Sestito comes in with the intention of making the Pittsburgh roster and if not, he packs his bags and heads in another direction.

Pittsburgh also announced Tuesday the roster for the rookie tournament. Notable names like Derrick Pouliot, Bryan Rust, J-S Dea, Connor Sheary and Anton Zlobin are among the participants who will face off against the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Senators prospects in London, Ontario in September.

In other minor league hockey news, the Greenville Road Warriors are no more in the ECHL. Instead, they reincarnated as the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. No, I am not joking. Link to the official news from the ECHL here. Yes, the logo includes an angry rabbit holding a carrot that is also being used as a hockey stick. The Wheeling Nailers will face off against the Swamp Rabbits just once this upcoming season, February 26 in Wheeling.

Check back tomorrow for full dissection on the Penguins schedule Thursday afternoon. Hockey season will be here before you know it.

Penguins Acquire Three 7/28

Out of nowhere Tuesday, Pittsburgh announced the signing of a player and a trade for two more.

Eric Fehr was signed to a three year deal. You may remember Fehr as a Hershey Bear / Washington Capital. He’ll add center depth in Pittsburgh. He’s coming off of surgery and probably won’t be ready to start the season.

Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening from Vancouver. Bonino is a full time NHLer, while Clendening is a depth defenseman that has played in the AHL’s Western Conference with the Rockford IceHogs and Utica Comets. Clendening was on the Comets team that went to the Calder Cup Finals against Manchester.

It’s a great move all the way around for the Pittsburgh organization because it adds much needed depth to the Pittsburgh Penguins which means some tweener NHLers like Bryan Rust, Oskar Sundqvist and Scott Wilson are competing for one or two final spots in Pittsburgh with the loser ticketed for Wilkes-Barre and top line minutes. It’s a win-win.

I think the possibility that we see Adam Clendening in a Wilkes-Barre jersey is high. I’ll go ahead and add him to the 2015 Offseason Moves List.

Nothing else of importance going on in the AHL to note so if you’ll excuse me, I am going back to enjoy my summer.

Let’s Go Pens!

Farnham / Seymour Re-Sign 7/13

Pair of signings today.

Coal Street re-upped Clark Seymour to an AHL pact today. Seymour is heading to Pittsburgh Tuesday to partake in Development Camp 2015 and was already listed as part of the camp when the rosters were announced about a week ago, so the signing comes as no surprise. Seymour could and should challenge for a spot in Wilkes-Barre come the Fall. Alan Saunders took a stab at defensive parings:

The other news today was that Pittsburgh signed Bobby Farnham to a one year deal. Lots of debate as to the use for a player like Farnham. Bottom line is, with Farnham being waiver eligible now and fighting and grit and sandpaper and whatever other kind of adjective you want to use to describe a player of Farnham’s caliber being phased out, I see Farnham as more of a minor leaguer than I do a full time, every day NHLer.

Question as to whether or not Farnham clears waivers if he’s placed on them, I don’t see that as an issue at all.

The 2015 Offseason Move List has been updated.

Local Kids, Guaranteed Dates, Dumo Gets Paid

Just a quick blurb to clean up some news that has been out there…

Penguins signed Shavertown native Patrick McGrath to an AHL deal on Wednesday. McGrath appeared in two games for the Pens last season and spent most of his professional time with Wheeling of the ECHL. He told Tom Venesky in the papers that he is gunning for a spot in Wilkes-Barre in the Fall.

– Will McGrath be on the opening night roster? You only have 100 more days to find out. Coal Street announced that Saturday, October 17 will be the home opener. The AHL opens shop on their 80th season on October 9, so it is a good chance that the Penguins open up their season on the road. The schedule should be announced some time in August.

– Other guaranteed home dates as handed down by Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza are December 12, January 9, January 30, February 13 and March 26. All Saturday dates.

Brian Dumoulin re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins today. He was a qualified restricted free agent. The only other outstanding unsigned qualified restricted free agents are Beau Bennett, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher. Dumoulin will make $1.6 million over the life of the two year contract or $800k a year. It’s a one way deal. He’s waiver eligible so I consider him graduated to full time NHL work.

The Offseason Moves List has been updated to reflect the McGrath addition and the Dumoulin re-signing.

Enjoy your summer.

Jay Leach Named Assistant Coach 7/7

Announced today that Jay Leach will join Mike Sullivan behind the bench in the Fall for the 2015-16 Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins season. Leach was named Assistant Coach today.

Leach, a defenseman by trade, was an assistant coach in Germany this past season and won the Deutsche Eishockey Liga championship.

Here’s his rap sheet…

– 499 games in the AHL during a 12 year career.
– Served as captain in four AHL cities; Providence in 2005-07, Lowell in 2008-09, Worcester in 2010-11 and with the Albany Devils in 2012-13.
– Extremely bright, hard working individual as a player.
Not the most famous person living in his house.

Tom Venesky from the Times-Leader had some tweets…

I was thinking about this on my ride in from work today, the Penguins could be an even better team than they were last season and season prior, if that makes any sense and is even possible. Everything looks great on paper in July, but I have no reason to believe that come October, November, December and beyond that the Penguins will be a strong, competitive hockey team.

In other news, Pittsburgh announced their development camp roster today. Jonathan Bombulie was kind enough to put together capsules on the players involved that you can check out here.

The Top 100 names from the AHL Free Agent Big Board are nearly wiped clean. I will continue to run the board at the top of the blog for a few more days / week or so and will continue to update is as players sign.

Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am.

NHL Free Agency, Day 3

Quieter day in terms of the past 48 hours or so, but here’s what happened on July 3…

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Re-signed defenseman Reid McNeill. McNeill adds grit to an already loaded Wilkes-Barre defense, should he get pushed down to the AHL level in the Fall. McNeill was a restricted free agent. The Pens qualified Brian Dumoulin, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher. I’m guessing that the announcements on their signings will come soon.

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After no signings yesterday, the Rangers announced the signing of Luke Adam. Adam wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer by Columbus, so the Rangers snatched him up. Adam was 16-26-42 split between Rochester and Springfield last year. I would expect those number to go higher for what is shaping up to be a pretty good Hartford team.

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Signed forward Colin McDonald. McDonald was 17 on our big board, and could push for a spot on the Flyers in the Fall but if not, look for him to be relied upon to score a bunch of goals for the Phantoms long with newly signed Chris Conner and Tim Brent, if he doesn’t make it through.

So an already loaded Atlantic Division continues to stock up.

The Big Board and Offseason Moves List have all been updated.

Happy Independence Day, or if you aren’t American, Happy Saturday.

NHL Free Agency, Day 2

It was another active day for teams as Day 2 of the NHL Free Agency period starts seeing more names that are fringe NHLers or depth signings. Today was no different. Let’s take a look.

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Pittsburgh added defenseman Will O’Neill today. O’Neill, late of the St. John’s IceCaps, was the leading scorer for the IceCaps last season and was the fifth highest scoring defenseman in the American Hockey League last season. Another great addition likely ticketed for Coal Street in the Fall. O’Neill with Steve Oleksy, Dave Warsofsky, Reid McNeill and Barry Goers is a hell of a blue line if you ask me.

button_nyi200     /     BRI

The quantity award goes to the New York Islanders / Bridgeport Sound Tigers today. The Islanders added Justin Florek, Ben Holmstrom, Bracken Kearns, Justin Vaive, Joe Whitney and James Wright to NHL deals and the Sound Tigers added Tyler Barnes, Josh Holmstrom, Jesse Root, Andrew Rowe and Sebastien Sylvestre, along with defensemen Bryce Aneloski, Kane Lafranchise and C.J. Ludwig and goaltender Parker Milner to AHL deals.

Of guys ranked, Florek (63 on the big board) Vaive and Ben Holmstrom (not ranked but listed on the board) seem to be ticketed for Bridgeport along with Bracken Kearns and James Wright, which weren’t listed at all. The guys that Bridgeport signed to AHL deals are depth guys who, if they don’t stick with the Sound Tigers, are likely ticketed for the ECHL affiliate in Missouri.

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Hershey lost goaltender Pheonix Copley in the trade for T.J. Oshie to Washington but made up for it immediately by signing Chris Bourque to a two year deal. Hershey was in dire need for a top notch LW after yesterdays departures, so they went out and signed probably the best one out there.

Bears look thin on defense and in goal. Justin Peters will probably start in goal for the Bears next season but who will back up?

The Penguins, Bears and Sound Tigers all had multiple player moves. The other teams in the division except the New York Rangers / Hartford Wolf Pack all had one player signing to note.

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Forward Rob Flick. Comes over from Providence. Scrapper that can score. 19 goals with a good P-Bruins team. With the talent ticketed for Southern Maine next season, that number could increase.

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Re-signed defenseman Chris Breen. Providence hasn’t really added much in these past two days. I’d argue probably the least of all team in the division, so Breen will look to build on his best year as a professional last season with the P-Bruins in likely an increased role.

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Defenseman Alex Grant. Ex-Penguin Alex Grant that is. Comes over from Binghamton. 88 on the big board. Big time shot, power play ace.

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Goaltender Jason LaBarbera. Likely means that Rob Zepp won’t be back and needs a new team. (Hershey?) LaBarbera will probably mentor Anthony Stolarz as the two battle for the crease in Allentown.

My instant takeaway from these past two days is that there will not be a night off for any of the teams in the Atlantic Division. Every team is loading up in some form or fashion and every night is going to be a battle.

Finally, here’s a story out of Pittsburgh on Conor Sheary.

The AHL Free Agent Big Board has been updated with all the latest signings. 49 names on the Top 100 list are left. The Penguins Offseason Moves List has also been updated noting the O’Neill signing. I am going to leave the Big Board above all the recent news on the blog, so if you come here looking for news and see the Big Board front and center, just scroll down to see the latest.

I’m traveling for a weekend getaway tomorrow, so I may not have a Day 3 Recap for the blog. If not and as long as the wire remains active, probably Saturday.

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