Chirps from Center Ice

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

NHL Free Agency, Day 1

Click. Click.

That’s the sound of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins reloading for what is hopefully another successful campaign in the 2015-16 AHL season come this October.

It was a most active day. Several signings made today by parent Pittsburgh which could have a direct result on how the roster shapes up for the farm team. There was another team in the division that was really active on the wires as well, but it isn’t who you think. Let’s get into it.

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Departures included Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Phil Kessel, Tim Erixson and Tyler Biggs. This was the blockbuster trade of the day. Nothing really to get excited about regarding Biggs or Erixson. Biggs had 47 games with the Marlies last year and was 2-3-5. Erixson is a bit more polished, playing 42 games with the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs. In return, Toronto gets an NHL ready defenseman in Harrington and an exciting forward prospect in Kapanen.

But that was the only loss that affected Coal Street. What followed came quickly.

Defenseman David Warsofsky, late of the Providence Bruins and a likely replacement for Taylor Chorney, who signed a $700,000 one way deal with the Washington Capitals today. Warsofsky is a 7th or 8th option on defense at the NHL level. If not, look for Warsofsky to get top minutes in Wilkes-Barre. Warsofsky was #95 on the big board.

Center Kael Mouillierat – played last season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Was #15 on the big board. Automatic 20 goal, 20 assist scorer. Saw his first NHL action with the Islanders last season.

Left Winger Sergei Plotnikov – comes over from Russia and is probably ticketed for full time NHL work with Pittsburgh. If not, he’s entry level and could end up on Wilkes-Barre’s radar.

Conor Sheary got his NHL pact with Pittsburgh. #9 on our big board.

Center Kevin Porter – Played every game for Grand Rapids last year. Is good for about 40 points a year. #14 on the big board. Porter is a former Hobey Baker award winner and ex-captain of the Rochester Americans.

Defenseman Steve Oleksy – should need no introduction to anyone that reads the blog on a regular basis. Oleksy has been a mainstay with the Hershey Bears for years and served as their captain. He was #61 on the big board.

What a haul for the Pens. They lose a veteran center in Andrew Ebbett defecting to Europe but make up for it with Kevin Porter. Pens lose one veteran defenseman in Taylor Chorney and reload almost immediately with TWO veteran defensemen in Warsofsky and Oleksy.

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Not to be outdone, the Hershey Bears saw all of the moves made by the Penguins today, dialed up their parents in Washington, and announced the following moves…

Carter Camper, Sean Collins and Aaron Ness and re-signed Mike Moore. Camper was average on a bad Binghamton team last year but does have pedigree and should thrive under Troy Mann. Sean Collins comes over from Springfield and is good for 40 points a year. He’ll probably get that and more playing for Hershey. Aaron Ness is an underrated defenseman and former captain of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Was a point a game guy for the Sound Tigers when they were well out of things at the end of the season. Moore was Hershey’s Man of the year last season.

Camper, Collins, Ness and Moore were 54, 45, 38 and unranked on the big board.

For what it is worth, I do not see Taylor Chorney playing any games for the Bears next year. Not at $700,000 a year.

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It does seem silly that the Portland Pirates are in the same division with the Penguins, but they are and were a very active team in free agency. Here are the moves:

Goalie Mike McKenna. Ageless goaltender that doesn’t really go anywhere town wise as he played with the Pirates last season under the Arizona affiliation. 23 on the board, put up career numbers at age 32.

Forward Shane Harper – 19 on the big board – scored 32 goals with AHL Chicago and led the Wolves in points last season.

Defensemen Sena Acolatse, Brent Regner and Cameron Gaunce. Acolatse played with Worcester for a while. Recently with Adirondack Flames. Regner had 29 points and a +21 with the Wolves last year and Gaunce comes over from the Texas Stars and is a smart veteran defenseman. None of these players were ranked by us on the big board.

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Couple of well known names snagged by the Rangers.

Forward Jayson Megna, fan favorite of this blog, 26 on the board. Megna scored 39 points with the Penguins last year but fell out of favor with the NHL brass as there were more unproven names that were called up ahead of him. It’s a needed change of scenery for Megna.

Brian Gibbons – 91 on the board. Will want to stay healthy. He and Megna would make a dynamic duo on probably one of the quickest lines in the AHL.

Matt Lindblad, Magnus Hellberg and Viktor Stalberg – coming over from the Providence Bruins and Milwaukee Admirals, respectfully, all unranked.

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Depending if they filter into Central Massachusetts, some solid signings for the Falcons in forwards Dustin Jeffrey (#5) and Craig Cunningham (not ranked) as well as defenseman Dylan Reese (#18)

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It almost looked like they weren’t going to do anything today but the Flyers made some big time signings today which could end up in the Lehigh Valley.

Ex-Penguins Chris Conner and Tim Brent. Conner was #8 on the big board. Brent comes back over from Russia, playing in the KHL. They also signed defenseman Davis Drewiske, who had 22 points and a +15 for Hamilton last year. Phantoms are going to need more help than this if they are going to want to stay competitive in Pennsylvania with the Penguins and Bears and afloat, with eight other teams in the new Atlantic Division.

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Re-signed Jeremy Smith. Smith was a free agent. Third on the Boston goalie depth chart, a consistent goaltender that can win 20 games and have a save percentage right around 92%.

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Forward Joe Whitney. 10 on the big board and led the Albany Devils in scoring all four seasons he played in the Capital District. Nothing official reported by the Islanders, but the reports were everywhere from all the reputable guys.

Here’s Coal Street’s recap on the guys added today that could have an impact on the farm this season and make sure that you bookmark their shiny new blog, Skating on the Susquehanna.

Jonathan Bombulie may write for the Pittsburgh Penguins these days, but here are his thoughts on the haul that could be assigned to Wilkes-Barre in the Fall.

The AHL Free Agent Big Board and the Offseason Moves Lists have been updated accordingly.

Depending on how Day 2 shakes out around the division, I’ll drop another blog update Thursday.

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