Chirps from Center Ice

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

Jarrett Burton Defects, Mike Sullivan Extended

After the frenzy of Day One of NHL Free Agency, things fell off a cliff as far as news goes with respect to signings. My Big Board has been updated pretty regularly, but there just hasn’t been enough news this week to fill out a blog post.

Today is as good any to send you off into the weekend (mine started 3pm Wednesday, by the way) with news collected since we last did this Monday.

The Phantoms continued to sign guy after guy, announcing Tuesday that they re-signed a James de Hass and then signed Gerry Fitzgerald and Eric Knodel. Depth pieces, more or less. Knodel is good in shootouts.

Elsewhere, Chris Breen re-signed with Providence and Alex Lintuniemi signed with Carolina. Kale Kessy, he of his astounding 289 PIMs with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, signed with the Hershey Bears.

Jayson Megna won’t score against the Penguins next season, not unless the Colorado Eagles are on the schedule which should be released next week or the week after, because that’s where he’s headed in the Fall.

Locally, Coal Street re-signed Christopher Brown, who joined the team late in the year last. Joseph Blandisi, who was a restricted free agent, accepted his qualifying offer and re-signed in Pittsburgh.

Burying the lede a bit, but Friday the Rochester Americans announced the signings of four players, one of them being Jarrett Burton. The Jason Botterill poaching of Coal Street continues with this move.

Burton was a fine AHL hand. Rochester has a good player in him.

Mike Sullivan was extended for four more seasons, quelling at least the, “Mike Vellucci is next in line” talks.

Funny.

That’s all, for now. No links on the signings for and around the division, just trust me on those.

Enjoy the weekend.

NHL Free Agency — Day 1

The first day of NHL Free Agency is nearly in the books (calling it a day at 7 pm or thereabouts, but there are always more signings into the evening, so depending on what time you are seeing this, check back for any updates as they warrant) and here’s who signed where and how it affects the AHL’s Atlantic Division:

Pittsburgh Penguins (WBS): David Warsofsky and Andrew Agozzino signed for two years. Two huge offensive threats for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles last season, Agozzino scored 60 points with the Eagles with 19 of those (8 goals, 11 assists) coming on the power play. I had him #9 on my Big Board. Warsofsky you will remember from the Penguins a few seasons ago, he had 15 assists on the power play last year for the Eagles. I had him at #40 on my Board.

There is your big time scorer for Wilkes-Barre. 60 points isn’t anything to sneeze at and anytime you can snag a guy in the top ten on the Board, that’s a really good thing.

(no links with the rest of the signings noted below as they were all scattered, just trust me)

Philadelphia Flyers (Lehigh Valley): Were very active on Day 1, signing ten players, none bigger than Cal O’Reilly who signed an AHL deal straight up with the Phantoms. I had him as my #3 on the Big Board. Lehigh Valley also re-signed Greg Carey (#10) who was far and away their best player last season. The full list includes Andy Andreoff (#16), Kyle Crisculo, J-F Berube (#84), Kurtis Gabriel, Nate Prosser, Andy Welinski, Chris Bigras and Tyler Wotherspoon, these guys signed NHL contracts.

Phantoms are on track to score a boatload of goals next season.

Washington Capitals (Hershey): I thought they lost more than they gained, actually. Yes, they re-signed guys like Liam O’Brien a month or so ago and Mike Sgarbossa (#6) this past weekend but lost Nathan Walker (#44) and Riley Barber (#13) to outside the division as well as their best defenseman Aaron Ness (#17). They did sign Philippe Maillet (#21) from Ontario / Los Angeles. G Vitek Vanecek who was a restricted free agent and hr re-signed Monday afternoon.

New York Rangers (Hartford): Signed Danny O’Regan (#26, 40+ points in three seasons) and Greg McKegg who I had as an NHLer and not part of this years Big Board. Later, they added Harry Zolnierczyk (#25), Vincent LoVerde and Tom McCollum (both unranked vet guys with a Calder Cup to each of their names) Hartford has a lot of holes and these signings come in looking to patch them.

Boston Bruins (Providence): The Bruins signed G Max Lagace (#39), Brendan Gaunce (#51) and Josiah Didier (unranked) – Providence was looking good coming in, these guys show up to make them better.

Florida Panthers (Springfield): Now ex-Penguin Ethan Prow (#8) and Tommy Cross (#66, played for Cleveland, good on PP and 35 points a season) both sign with Florida / Springfield.

Didn’t see anything yet from the Islanders (affecting Bridgeport) or Carolina (affecting Charlotte) yet. The Checkers were pillaged, losing a lot of their key guys that brought them a Calder Cup in June.

..

In other news, the Penguins announced six guaranteed home dates for the upcoming season. All Saturday dates. They are as follows:

Saturday, October 12, 2019
Saturday, December 7, 2019
Saturday, January 11, 2020
Saturday, February 8, 2020
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Saturday, March 28, 2020

The October 12 date makes me believe that the Penguins open the 2019-20 season on the road. For contrast, Hershey announced their home opener for October 5. We’ll see, I’d expect the AHL schedule out late next week if prior history is any indication.

I’ll be back for Day 2 if the situation warrants a blog post. As always, the AHL Big Board will update as free agency keeps on.

Mike Vellucci Named Head Coach of Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

In a move that came from out of nowhere Friday, AHL Calder Cup Champion Head Coach Mike Vellucci announced that he was leaving the team he guided to the Calder Cup and the undisputed number one overall team in the League last season, the Charlotte Checkers.

Strange, that a guy who had as much success that he had in guiding the Category Five, 51-win regular season team that the Checkers were this past season, would just up and leave as quick as he did, weeks removed from winning the Calder Cup championship over the Chicago Wolves in mid-June.

Then, this tweet from an NHL insider got the gears moving.

I saw this, then started to dig deeper. I found this tweet from the AHL which I expounded on via a series of tweets.

I’ll die on that hill that Clark Donatelli was not the problem for the team. It’s been explained here on the blog in the post mortem of the past season. Hell, Donatelli was in Pittsburgh this week for the Penguins Development Camp.

I continued…

Had no idea that it would take Coal Street three hours and ten minutes later to announce it formally.

Clark Donatelli resigns and J.D. Forrest and Jarrod Skalde stay on with the team as assistants.

Is Vellucci, who has long been rumored as next in line to graduate up to the NHL as a Head Coach one day just waiting in the wings if/when Mike Sullivan gets shown the door one day? Why would Vellucci leave the Carolina organization and take a job in the Pittsburgh organization when it would appear that the two franchises are headed in separate directions?

Those answers to those questions won’t be known for some time, if at all. But it would appear that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have acquired the biggest off ice Free Agent this summer.

Time will tell.

Elsewhere, Linus Ölund was loaded to Brynäs in the Swedish League. Press release here if you can read Swedish and the 2019 Offseason Moves List was updated.

The AHL Big Board will get stuck to the top of the blog with this next post succeeding it, probably some time Saturday as this news has to marinate for a bit.

2019 AHL Top 100 Free Agents and Beyond – The Big Board

Blogger Note: Big Board will be updated through July 20, 2019 and unstuck from top of blog on July 22, 2019.

Back for another year is an idea cooked up by the great Jonathan Bombulie a long time ago. This is actually Year Five of the on the blog of carrying the tradition that Bombulie conceived which was ranking the top AHL free agents available and putting out a list of the Top 100 and then a second list of the best available after that.

After hemming and hawing on the idea of whether I wanted to invest the time to carry this on for a fifth season, by the time I realized I was “all in” on the concept this year, I was done with half the teams. So I didn’t contract out to anyone this season as I had in seasons past. That’s not to say or suggest that I won’t ask for help in the future, but more of a, “can I do this myself” question that I answered with a resounding ‘yes’ as I was done well in advance of the July 1 start of NHL Free Agency.

Enough about how the idea came about this year and to the subject at hand, the Big Board.

All data compiled was taken from either Elite Prospects, Cap Friendly, the AHL and/or Twitter.

You will see some symbols / identifiers next to some players names. They mean the following:

^ – Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agent. Defined here.
* – Non-tendered Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – essentially a RFA who wasn’t given a qualifying offer.

They really don’t mean anything in the way that the Board was constructed, but in creating the Board I used these identifiers and just carried them over to the final product.

As always, if you spot any errors or omissions, please let me know in the comments. This Board will be updated as Free Agency begins and will be pinned to the top of the blog for a few weeks after the July 1 period.

If you didn’t link in directly from elsewhere, hit the jump and enjoy!

Read more of this post

2019 AHL Big Board Thursday — Other Notes

I am essentially putting the finishing touches on the 2019 AHL Big Board which I took in house this season and did all on my own. The list, with a Top 100 and about 250 or so other names, will be out Thursday at noon, barring any last second snags which would delay it only by a few hours or so. Check back then and follow along as NHL Free Agency cranks up Monday, July 1 in the afternoon.

One name on the Big Board which was a restricted free agent was Penguins defenseman Jeff Taylor, who was the only player left without a qualifying offer. He will be an unrestricted free agent.

Update: After this blog post went up, Pittsburgh announced that they re-signed Kevin Czuczman and Zach Trotman to two year deals. Nice to have both in the fold for the foreseeable future. They were part of my “needs” list on the Offseason Moves List which was also updated to reflect these signings.

In Arena news, the LED board will be ready by the fall, but the zambonis won’t. Look for it later in the hockey season, around December or the start of the new year. Details here.

Back Thursday with the Big Board.

2019 NHL Draft Recap

Up front, I don’t know a single thing about the players that the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted other than what has been said about them. I figure that is the same boat that a lot of people are in. So consider this a bookmark so to speak when these players eventually make their way through Wilkes-Barre in the next 2-4 years.

Pittsburgh hasn’t had a first round pick in years, but this year they did and picked at 21.

Nick Hart dropped in on Twitter and had some things to say about Poulin.

He also led the Phoenix in QMJHL playoff points, 8-6-14 in 10 games.

Jonathan has some stuff on him too that you can read about here the standard way.

Penguins didn’t have any more first round picks, and on day two (Saturday afternoon) they traded their 98th, 151st and 207th picks to the Arizona Coyotes for their 74th overall pick.

He also finished the 2018-19 season with 45-42-87 in 68 games. His 45 goals were tied for second-most in the QMJHL.

Penguins then selected again in the fifth round.

Pens had some picks in round seven…

He is actually under contract with HPK for next season in Finland.

Pittsburgh then traded next years seventh round pick and for that, drafted…

So there you have it. Pittsburgh adds to their depth with a number of power forwards. It will be interesting to see how these kids develop and how many, if any, ever make their way through Wilkes-Barre in the hopes of one day playing in the NHL.

Big Board Update: I have a Top 100 rounded out. I am waiting on the news on Restricted Free Agents to be official before I move forward with the final product and move everything over to the blog12. Provided all of that is known, it’s possible that Wednesday or Thursday the 2019 Big Board will be here. Stay tuned, it’s shaping up to be a busy next ten or so days here on the blog with the start of NHL Free Agency kicking off next Monday.

Four More 6/20

Signing Week continued on Coal Street as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced that defensemen Matt Abt and Jon Lizotte re-signed on Wednesday and forwards Renars Krastenbergs and Ryan Scarfo re-sign Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the Pens re-signed Blake Siebenhaler and Maoy Erkamps.

Abt was OK in his first year pro. I liked what I saw in an extremely small sample size out of Jon Lizotte late in the year. Scarfo and Krastenbergs are support pieces.

I mean in order to build the best looking building in town, you need to have a solid foundation and a good structure. Use that analogy when it comes to how the roster for 2019-20 is being built here in mid-June.

Tyler had a thought on the signings this week I thought I should add…

The only counterargument to that statement is that the game is getting away from goonery and there are referees and linesmen out there that also are paid to prevent the pushing around (to an extreme) from happening.

I think the Pens are done with making moves this week based off of this tweet from Nick Hart…

Just a hunch.

2019 Offseason Moves List has been updated.

The Pens are drafting this weekend and I’ll maybe do a catch all post of their haul Saturday or Sunday. Look for that this weekend.

Heavy lifting on the AHL Big Board is done, I’m identifying restricted free agents now, will list the top free agent from each team then round out a Top 100 list. I don’t want to give a date and deliver the Board late but some time next week, call it either Thursday or Friday, it will be out here on the blog for all to see. I’m well ahead of schedule. The day before, I’ll drop in here with a post letting you know the time it will be out.

Did you turn your A/C on in your home / apartment yet?