Chirps from Center Ice

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

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!

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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?

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.

Wednesday Notes 5/15

Some news for Wednesday.

First, if you are a Penguins Season Ticket Holder (erm, Member) of any kind, check your e-mail. The Penguins have a new online account manager you can use to manage your tickets. For me, as a five year Member, my invoice for my seats are there on their portal. I can opt to pay now or wait for the actual invoice to come in the mail next week. I spoke to my ticket rep Brandon this morning about it. Here’s the page which has a little booklet on how to sign up for the portal. The Penguins have to have your e-mail in order for you to have access to the portal as that’s the only way to log in. It’s housed through Ticketmaster, so if you are comfortable giving your credit or bank card through there, you can get started.

Second, Anthony Peters is the first name off of the 2019 Offseason Moves List (tab above) as he has signed with the Isterholn Roosters in the DEL. Tyler had some nice words about Peters you can read here.

Peters, as a person, was probably a hell of a guy. Let’s just leave it there.

Third, the Penguins signed Kasper Bjorkvist to his two year entry level deal. Some words on him…

And then Jonathan had a thread that starts here:

I would guess that Bjorkvist, provided his shoulder doesn’t hinder him this summer, pushes for a good look in Pittsburgh before he’s sent here to tear up the AHL for a little bit before going up for good. Put him on a Jake Guentzel (his last season here) trajectory vs. a Teddy Blueger (overripened here) one, meaning that Bjorkvist is here for two months, maybe three, before going up for good in January or February 2020.

Or he could get a whole season here with a few looks here and there in the NHL. Who knows. This is professional hockey now. They aren’t kids anymore.

Finally, the Buffalo Sabres have their new head coach and it’s not Clark Donatelli. There had been some scuttlebutt recently due to the Jason Botterill connection that Donatelli was a candidate for the position based off of an article I saw from The Athletic Buffalo a while ago.

I think that’s everything. I signed up for Elite Prospects Premium to help cobble together the AHL Big Board this summer and to stay on top of the signings before during and after the free agent frenzy. I also found a way to easily (well, it takes some work) to port all the names into a spreadsheet to work off of in the build. Cobbling together all the names is the hardest part. Work smart, not hard.

More as it comes, as always. I didn’t see anything on a schedule matrix of opponents and there wasn’t anything from the League on division changes out of their Meetings last week, so you didn’t miss anything on that front. If I see something, it will run here.

Oh, Charlotte, Toronto, Chicago and San Diego are your final four. I still like the Checkers and Wolves chances of advancing to the Finals.

Have a great rest of the week.

Done Deal With Details 5/8

On Wednesday the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority held their monthly meeting on the second Wednesday of the month and in it they checked off one of their to-do’s on their plate for well over a year.

They voted unanimously to approve a 10 year contract lease extension between themselves and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

Here are some of the highlights:

– New lease agreement kicks in with the Penguins when the current one expires. It will run from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2029.

– SMG will continue to manage the facility for that same time frame. Their food vendor Savor, remains as well.

– Will Beekman takes over for Brian Sipe who is leaving for Rupp Arena in Kentucky as the new Arena GM. Beekman starts Monday. He used to work for the Penguins from 2002 to 2008 before taking over as executive director of the Kirby Center.

– The Arena / Authority consider the Penguins a partner and not a tenant.

– The Penguins are committing nearly $900,000 towards improving the locker rooms and other, “back of house” areas.

– The Arena will be installing ribbon boards.

– They will also be installing brand new LED lighting.

– The Arena is committing $1 Million towards the building which will be achieved / concluded by the fifth year of the lease. These improvements would include a new team store inside the Arena and possibly a lounge area.

– The WiFi will be improved / upgraded. This has been known for a few months now.

– Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett took two questions. One of them was on ticket prices and the possibility of increases as a result of the new deal. Barrett confirmed that there would be no ticket increases as a result of the new ten year lease.

Those are the particulars, filled in with the Pens release with some finer details and quotes.

The Pens did a Periscope of the press conference that you can watch here:

If I see anything else from Tyler or otherwise, I’ll drop in and make the appropriate edits, but those were the particulars worth mentioning. There wasn’t anything said about new Zambonis or any mumbo jumbo about transferal of who owns the team to who or if there are opt outs in the contract.

More as it comes. Probably the schedule matrix will be the next line of notable news once the Spring meetings conclude in Chicago later this week.