Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Bill Guerin Named General Manager of Minnesota Wild

Usually when things like this happen, it’s the worst kept secret in town. Well on Wednesday, it was made official. Bill Guerin was named the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild.

That news obviously leaves a vacancy now in Wilkes-Barre as the AHL Penguins are without a General Manager, the spot previously filled by Guerin.

My guess for a replacement is Mike Vellucci, the current head coach of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. He would make the most logical choice as natural replacement as he had experience in the position with the Charlotte Checkers.

This piece, buried behind a paywall, notes Vellucci as well as Scott Young and Tom Kostopoulos as candidates for the GM position in Wilkes-Barre.

These things normally come about fairly quickly as contingency plans are in place weeks before news becomes official, so we probably won’t have to wait long for the name of the person who will fill the role that Guerin left behind.

Other news…

– Jeff Taylor has found a home in 2019-20, signing this past Tuesday with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Taylor was a non-tendered restricted free agent Pittsburgh did not qualify.

If you read the blog last week, you knew about the home dates for the preseason action the Penguins will be participating in, well on Monday they filled us in on the road schedule. Saturday, September 28 in Hershey at 7; Sunday in Allentown against Lehigh Valley at 3:05.

That’s all for now.

Promos and Preseason Schedules

I received my WBS Penguins pick sheet in the mail Friday and with it there was some information worth sharing:

– Preseason:

That’s news to me, usually that information is out by now. Nothing on a road schedule yet, but assume that the Bears and Phantoms reciprocate on Saturday and Sunday.

– Promo Schedule:

Hit expand on the tweet above to have it show up on another tab for you if you can’t make it out here.

Looks like they are going with lapel pins and doing away with the card sets. Magnets are back on opening night. Headshot poster, a pillow case, Led Zeppelin Night highlight some of the newer promos Coal Street is running with this season.

– McDonald’s Promos:

I like to collect the hats because I don’t have a lot of hair left. Thanks, Dad!

Miscellany:

I remember this being $25 for a referral of a full share ticket member. If it was indeed $35, someone please correct me.

Couple other things:

It’s the Sunday, December 15 game in Cleveland that is now moved to Friday, December 13. The Pens went from having two Friday’s off to just one now. Anything in the name of less Sunday games.

Bill Guerin’s name is still being tossed around in the GM search for the Minnesota Wild, according to The Athletic.

What’s the Penguins plan if Guerin is hired? Glad you asked, also from The Athletic.

Anyway, that’s it. August is flying by. Enjoy the weekend.

Pens Ink Devane and Hirano – Other Notes

I’m a day late on the news, but Coal Street announced on Wednesday that they have signed Jamie Devane and also re-signed Yushi Hirano. Hirano is a depth signing for the Penguins and probably should push for more time now as he has a year experience playing North American hockey.

Devane is your Patrick McGrath replacement. Here’s why.

Patrick McGrath was a hand picked player by Clark Donatelli. They had experience with each other in Wheeling and a few seasons in Wilkes-Barre.

Devane was coached by new Penguins Head Coach Mike Vellucci in Plymouth of the OHL.

Devane is going to count as a veteran, and had a less than impressive turn last season with a bad Ontario Reign team. But, he has 318 pro games of experience. He has 47 total points (20-27) and 587 PIMs.

McGrath with the same amount of pugilistic grit with a slightly better offensive touch? Possibly.

I’ve had a few people ask me what’s going to happen with McGrath. Quite simply, he’s going to be with another organization next season. It’s a new regime in Wilkes-Barre with coaching. Yes, McGrath is a likable local guy and I personally am going to miss seeing his father on the concourse chatting up about cigars and Dennis Bonvie stories, but it’s a business at the end of the day.

Emptying out the rest of the notebook since the last time I blogged. These would only get passing mentions if they stood alone on a separate piece, so instead of blogging for the sake of blogging, you fill the bucket with notes then empty the bucket with a big piece when the bucket gets full.

— The same day that the Pens signed Devane and Hirano, Charlotte added Cedric Lacroix. Lacroix scored two goals against the Binghamton Devils on the Penguins last game of the season in April in his only AHL action all season. Lacroix spent the season with Wheeling. He was actually traded in a futures trade with Greenville of the ECHL then signed his AHL deal with Charlotte.

— WBS General Manager Bill Guerin has interviewed for the Minnesota Wild GM job. This article, behind The Athletic Minnesota paywall, only has a few passing mentions of Guerin, but it’s worth a mention.

— Pittsburgh made a trade for John Marino for a draft with Edmonton a few weeks ago. Here’s what we know on him so far, link on the news in the tweets below:

Mark Divver had this on the trade, which is something you should pay attention to because Divver has the pulse of college hockey in the Northeast:

The condition on the draft pick is as follows: The Oilers will receive Pittsburgh’s 2021 sixth-round draft choice if Marino signs with the Penguins, or if the team trades his rights.

So we will see. UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh made the Marino signing official. He’s signed for two years.

— Coal Street had a nice Q&A with Brandon Hawkins. 27 tattoos. That’s ridiculous.

Here is one with Jon Lizotte. Lots of players that are going to be familiar names in the future.

— Chris Summers and Matt O’Connor will be playing for different teams next season. Summers with Nurnberg and O’Connor in Denmark.

That’s all. The Pens should have news here soon on a preseason schedule and possibly a promotional one as well. We are under 60 days until the start of the season. Go outside if you haven’t already.

Blue Powell! Other Notes 7/16

Emptying out the notebook with a bunch of signings and re-signings. Have to hurry before my ice cream melts, so here we go.

Tuesday, the Penguins re-signed Teddy Blueger. Blueger was a restricted free agent and is most likely graduated full time to the NHL next season.

Coal Street also made some news today, signing Myles Powell. Powell scored 31 goals on a pretty stacked Cincinnati Cyclones team in the ECHL last season. That was good enough to lead all ECHL rookies.

With Jarrett Burton defecting to Rochester a few weeks ago, it’s Rochester now kicking themselves on the one that got away.

Powell will probably push for a spot here in Wilkes-Barre, appearing in a few preseason games, but I foresee him as a Wheeling hand. Who knows.

Also, Chris Wideman signed with Anaheim. Wideman, a former AHL Defenseman of the Year, appeared in a handful of games before getting hurt. The Pens acquired him in the trade for J-S Dea.

Adam Johnson re-signed also, signing his qualifying offer. Johnson will most likely start in Wilkes-Barre and get a call after December. He’s the next to ripen on the vine and get a full time call up at some point.

Ben Sexton re-signed with Wilkes-Barre. Good solid signing for the Penguins here when healthy.

That’s pretty much it. Stay cool.

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.