Now that we’re about a week out of Free Agency, player velocity has slowed to a crawl and it’s likely there won’t be many signings until Rookie Camp/Avs Camp/Rampage Camp. The Avalanche roster seems pretty close to finished so it’s time to see what the Rampage have and have not at this point.
Solid(6): J-C Beaudin, Julien Nantel, Reid Petryk, Trent Vogelhuber, Andrew Agozzino, Felix Girard*
Possible NHL(4): Tyson Jost, AJ Greer, Rocco Grimaldi*, Gabe Bourque*
- Maybe 1 or 2 of these fellows will make the Avs
Candidates: Brady Shaw, Shawn St-Amant, Alex Belzile, Ben Storm, Ty Lewis, Cam Maclise, Jackson Houck, Ryan Harrison, Matt Garbowski plus other camp invites
- Shaw & Lewis were at Dev Camp. St-A & Belz were AHL contracts last year and a big part of the Eagles Kelly Cup run. Ben Storm was hanging in Denver during Dev Camp and had a try-out with San Antonio last Spring along with Shaw. The last 4 guys were on the Eagles last year and have been given ECHL qualifying offers.
Assuming the Avs sign the RFAs (*) and the Avs don’t have major moves that lose forwards, the Rampage are pretty set here. It’s no murderer’s row for sure but it’s functional. ‘Twas ever thus.
Solid(3): Mason Geertsen, Sergei Boikov, Nic Meloche
Possible NHL(4): Duncan Siemens*, Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, David Warsofsky
- Right now the Avs need 2 of these guys minimum but I’m thinking only 1 ends up sticking and that’s probably Lindholm.
Candidates: Desmond Bergin, Sam Jardine(?), Gus Young(?), Matt Register(?)
- Bergin was at Dev Camp so I think he’s pretty solid. Jardine & Young were depth for the Rampage last year and haven’t signed elsewhere as far as I know. Matt Register was the ECHL Defenseman of the Year and a huge part of the Eagles championship. He doesn’t have much AHL experience but he was slated to play in Europe next season but mysteriously abandoned his contract there recently. One reason someone might do that is an AHL contract here but I haven’t even heard a rumor that could be the case. Even if he only plays for the Eagles, an AHL contract plus a few callups would be a nice reward for sticking around.
If things go the way I think they will then there’s 7 guys plus some depth so add in some tryouts and the Rampage are covered here as well. Again, not a Calder Cup challenging lineup but it’s functional.
Solid(2): Spencer Martin, Joe Cannata
Candidates: Clarke Saunders, Lukas Hafner
Other than Marty this is not a good situation. Cannata was pretty shaky with the Rampage last year and it was a bit of a surprise he was retained on an NHL contract. Saunders & Hafner are the guys that the Eagles have qualified but really only should be used in emergencies in the AHL. Help Wanted.
The group as laid out now is functional, as I said, but might not be that competitive. The top-4 on D looks better but depth is troubling. The forwards don’t seem to have a ton of scoring upside, as usual, so we could be looking at a lot more 2-1 losses. If someone besides Marty is in net we could be looking at more 5-1 losses. No Rampage Camp invite is going to change this much.
On the other hand, an Avs camp invite could change this. Despite the commitment to youth and speed, the Avs shouldn’t be going into the season with 3 rookies as their 5-6-7 Ds. I think it’s likely someone gets added at LD there.
We all love talking about the hypothetical Matt Duchene trade and perhaps one actually happens. It’s highly likely that such a move would fetch an NHL defenseman. What else is included in the deal makes the forward situation murky?
St Louis beat writer Jeremy Rutherford mentioned on the radio the other day that the Blues, who are without an AHL affiliate this season, will be looking for places to stash prospects this year (s/t to our good friend Rampage Nate). He also mentioned San Antonio specifically as a place we could see some young Blues, goalie Ville Husso was the only one named but it sounded like there could be more.
As much as sharing a lineup with another team’s prospects is unappealing, this could be the difference between the usual Avs affiliate showing in the bottom of the conference and a shot at being competitive. After the collapses of the last two seasons, it’s actually somewhat important to win a few games this year.
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In other AHL news, the Board of Governors just finished up their annual meetings. Besides rubber-stamping the usual summer divisional realignments and current playoff format, they turned to expansion. There will be 31 AHL teams in 2018-19, and they have made “a commitment to an expansion applicant”, so whoever it is, basically already has the franchise. The most likely applicant? The Avalanche, but they would be far from the only ones possible. St Louis obviously needs an affiliate but they got out of the AHL business a few years ago because it hemorrhaged money. Any NHL team that doesn’t own their affiliate and has an expiring affiliation agreement could be a dark horse. League president David Andrews attended a few Eagles games with Joe Sakic this season so the conclusion most are drawing is that the Eagles will be promoted from the ECHL with a franchise procured by KSE. Plenty of questions remain about how this would work, and when. Stay tuned.