Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: WBS

Coal Street Signs Dustin Tokarski

No, I won’t give you the Powerball numbers for the next drawing.

Monday morning, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins sent an innocuous tweet teasing a player signing later in the day.

Me, being the fun loving wise guy that I am, responded with the following tweet.

About ninety or so minutes later, my premonition came true.

Absolute heist by General Manager Bill Guerin and Head Coach Mike Vellucci. It’s an AHL only deal.

Dustin Tokarski’s resume:

  • Two time Calder Cup winner.
  • Undefeated in regular season and playoffs last season with the Charlotte Checkers after a mid-season trade with Hartford.

I had him at #46 on the AHL Big Board, and probably in hindsight criminally underrated there. He was the one “wish list” signing that I wanted for Wilkes-Barre with the Vellucci connection and the need for the Penguins to go out and sign a veteran AHL goalie.

On my 2019 Offseason Moves List I have a small chapter dedicated to “Needs” – Let’s Review…

  • Veteran goaltender for Alex D’Orio. Can’t risk losing Tristan Jarry, who is under contract but now must pass through waivers in the Fall, as a backup. I think what happens with Jarry in the summer (trade likely) sets the table for July 1 with the plan in Wilkes-Barre in the Fall.

Check. It doesn’t come any better than a two time Calder Cup winning goaltender in Dustin Tokarski. What happens with Tristan Jarry is now irrelevant because you have an enormous insurance policy here in Wilkes-Barre to mentor incoming rookies Alex D’Orio / Emil Larmi.

  • High impact AHL scorer. The Penguins lacked offensive firepower last season in a big way. Ethan Prow led the team in points, but that’s not really his job to score points. Pittsburgh needs to set up Wilkes-Barre with one or two proven veteran scorers. I joke about players like Chris Bourque, but a player of his caliber would be a perfect fit to compliment the Sam Lafferty’s and Anthony Angello’s already coming back for next year.

Check. I had Andrew Agozzino in my top ten on the AHL Big Board. 60 points with AHL Colorado and a special teams ace. Joseph Blandisi will return as well, with incoming rookies like Kasper Bjorkvist. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem on most nights.

  • One or two defensemen in case one of Chris Summers or Kevin Czuczman don’t re-sign. Blueline is looking really, really young next season from here in May 2019.

Check. Czuczman re-signed, Zach Trotman did too and you have a first round pedigree in P-O Joseph turning pro with the returning Dave Warsofsky.

Try to find holes. All three zones (goal, forward, defense) look solid. You have a head coach that just won a Calder Cup with a team in Charlotte which was a buzzsaw. True, you have to negotiate a 76 game season with call-ups, injuries, trades and the like, but the rebuild looks about done and it looks a lot better than it did before.

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 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.

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?

Coupon Moves Continue

Seemingly out of nowhere, kind of like this blog post, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced two re-signings today. Blake Siebenhaler and Macoy Erkamps have re-signed and will be in the fold in 2019-20 for the Penguins. AHL deals for both.

Siebenhaler was acquired in a trade with Columbus in the Spring, played one game and then was sent to Wheeling. Erkamps was a fringe defender who appeared in 24 AHL contests with the Penguins.

So that’s 25 games between the two of them, with a whopping four assists, all scored by Erkamps.

Keeping with the theme of attempting to Boil Your Water on Two, the off season re-signings so far have been Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas DiPauli and Erkamps and Siebenhaler. Rarely do I like to compare what other AHL teams do because each developmental process is different, but Hershey has re-signed a boatload of really good players like Liam O’Brien, Steve Whitney and Brian Pinho. They are getting the band back together. A band, mind you, that had a resurgent second half of the season and made it to the second round of the playoffs only to be dismissed by eventual Calder Cup Champion Charlotte. The Penguins are doing the same, but they missed the playoffs for the first time in sixteen seasons with the group they have brought back.

There is a lot of summer left, yes. Free agency hasn’t even begun yet. But the Penguins, with these signings, haven’t made any attempt to give me hope that next year will be any different than the last.

If you are wondering, yes, I am planning on bringing back the AHL Big Board. I was actually working on it when this news dropped. I should, provided everything goes according to plan, have it done this week as far as heavy lifting goes, then it’s just primp and prime for a midweek release next week in time for the July 1 Free Agent Frenzy.

But for anything else breaking, look for a post on here announcing when the Board will be out, then the main show well in advance of the July 1 free for all.