Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things are about to pick up

Tomorrow marks the beginning of free agency for the NHL and in turn the AHL.  Which means things are going to start getting interesting. 

This morning an update to the previously posted (and provided here) article identifying all the free agents that played in the AHL last season was made.  Here is the link if you want to read through the 200+ names that are available for teams to sign beginning tomorrow.  Again a thanks to Pens' beat writer Jonathan Bombulie for doing the leg work on this list.

If you view the prospective 2011-12 Bears roster you will see that the Hershey Bears have many holes to fill through free agency.  Currently there are 2 goalies, 6 defensemen, and 11 forwards that could POTENTIALLY be Bears next season.  There are so many variables at play with that number that it isn't even worth discussing.

I expect the Bears to be quite active in free agency this year as they will be looking to replace a substantial portion of their offensive and defensive talent.

As signings and/or trades happen I will post them here.

Caps Offer 5

Just so we are all on the same page...the Washington Capitals made qualifying offers to 5 restricted free agents this past week. Semyon Varlamov (more on him below), Troy Brouwer, and Karl Alzner are obviously not in Hershey's plans.  But Mathieu Perreault and Francois Bouchard very well could be.

Qualifying offers basically mean that the Capitals can match any offer made to these players during free agency.  And if they choose not to match an offer they would receive compensation for losing the players.

Barring a trade I fully expect Bouchard to be back in Hershey this season.  Whether that is good or bad depends on your perspective.  Let's just say I have a wait and see attitude on Bouch.

Perreault is a different case.  Some teams out there might be willing to sign him for a decent salary given his upside and production to date.  I can't see the Caps matching an offer that is too high based on the organizational depth at center.  Let's call the odds 50/50 that Perry is back in Hershey as of right now.

So, those players are not officially back in Washington/Hershey jerseys for 11-12 but they are on their way.

From Russia to DC back to Russia?

No one is quite sure what is happening with Semyon Varlamov this offseason but all signs recently point to him returning to Russia to play in the KHL for 2011-12. 

Lots has been said and written discussing what is going to happen but most recently things have begun to progress in the Varly to KHL storyline.

This could potentially impact Hershey directly.  As of right now Braden Holtby would become the #2 in Washington while Dany Sabourin would become the #1 in Hershey with no #2 in Hershey.

That is subject to change though as the Caps could see fit to sign a low-price veteran backup (read: Brian Boucher) to serve as the #2 in Washington while Braden tries again to play a full season in Hershey. 

Personally...I think Braden will be in Washington and the Bears will be forced to sign another veteran AHL goalie for the 11-12 season.

We should know soon.

AHL Realignment

Things could look drastically different in the AHL this upcoming season.  As Tim Leone reports, the AHL is considering a plan that would create 6 divisions (like the NHL) instead of the 4 currently.  The makeup of those divisions would likely be geographical in nature but nothing is ever perfect. 

I think its funny that the AHL would consider going to 6 divisions at the same time that there is talk of the NHL going to 4! 

The AHL annual summer meetings will be held next week (3rd-7th) and expectations are that a decision will be made during them. 

Personally I like the 4 division layout because it creates better rivalries.  The divisional playoff structure breeds hatred for other teams and that would be lost with a move to 6 divisions.  Sure the Pens and Bears would still have a good rivalry but there could be multiple years in a row where the teams don't play in the playoffs, where as now they play in the playoffs almost every year.

But going to 6 divisions would create more balance and equality.  It will be an interesting decision.

Former Bear Free Agents

Tim Leone also discusses free agency in his article today, including a compilation of recent Bears who are unrestricted free agents this offseason.  Definitely check out the entire article but I have provided a copy of the list below.
  • Alex Giroux
  • Kyle Wilson
  • Dean Arsene
  • Graham Mink
  • Matt Beaudoin
  • Chad Wiseman
  • Danny Syvret
  • Mark Wotton
  • Quintin Laing
  • Grant Lewis
  • Troy Milam
  • Jason Bacashihua
  • Nolan Yonkman
  • Staffan Kronwall

Definitely an interesting list. 
Expect active summer season from Caps
Finally, I leave you with this quote from Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals...
“We now move on to free agency,” Leonsis wrote. “We want to keep some players. We want to sign some players. Wish us well in all of our pursuits.

“And then don’t be surprised if you see some trades. It takes two to tango. We want to change and improve. We ware getting ready for a new season which is fast approaching.”
Interesting.  We could see a summer that we haven't seen since the Bears/Caps alliance started back up a few years ago.  Prospects, picks, veterans...they could all be on the move.  Who knows.

Keep checking back!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free agent list

Found a list of the 186 "AHL" free agents today and figured I would share it in case you are curious what players are free agents this season. 

Thanks to Pens beat writer Jonathan Bombulie for compiling the list.

Definitely some interesting names on the list.  5 of the top 20 names have played in Hershey sometime in the last 3 years. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Goaltending news in Hershey

Multiple happenings on the goaltending front within the organization yesterday. 

First, former goaltending coach Dave Prior is returning to that position with he organization.  The way I understand it, he will mainly be responsible for the goalies in Washington.

Second, the Caps hired former Caps goalie Olie Kolzig as associate goaltending coach.  This move is likely to impact Hershey directly as it is anticipated that Olie will work mainly with the goalies in Hershey and South Carolina. 

I believe this will be the first time that the Bears have an actual, designated goalie coach.  Prior spent some time with the kids in Hershey during his tenure, but most of his time was spent in Washington.  Last season Arturs Irbe served as goalie coach for the Caps and while he definitely worked with the "kids" in Hershey, his main focus was the guys in Washington.

This can only help the Bears, who may have a deep stable of goalies again in 2011-12....

And the final news of the day...the Bears/Caps have resigned goalie Dany Sabourin for the 2011-12 season. 

Last year Dany started out slow before really finding a groove and playing great before getting hurt in January and missing the rest of the season.  He says he is skating fully and will be ready to go when the season starts after rehabbing his knee injury.

Dany said that he wanted to return and his contract verifies that.  At the AHL level (which is where everyone expects him to be) he is making half of what he made last season, according to  Obviously that doesn't mean everything but I think it speaks loudly about how much he wanted to return to the Washington/Hershey organization. 

Another thing to consider with this signing though...this could signal the end of Braden Holtby in Hershey.  There is speculation that Semyon Varlamov is heading to Russia for the upcoming season which would present an opening in Washington for a backup to Michal Neuvirth for Braden. 

Obviously there is still lots of time and roster moves to come before that happens but definitely something to keep an eye on. 

Either way...welcome back Dany Sabourin!!  It will be great to have you healthy for a full season in 2011-12.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

McNeill back for 2011-12

This is definitely good news for Bears fans.  Patrick McNeill has signed a 2-year contract with the Capitals which will keep him in Hershey/Washington until 2013. 

I can't say I am too surprised by the deal as Patty has developed into a solid prospect.  He will surely get some looks in Washington this season if needed. 

Last season he had 7 goals and 20 assists in only 51 games.  Not bad offensive numbers for a defenseman.

Welcome back Patty!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Relocation of Manitoba Moose

With the NHL returning to Winnipeg it really didn't make sense, nor was it probably feasible, to have both an AHL and NHL team playing in the same building. 

So the Moose set out for a new home.  And they found one...

And it is even further from Hershey than Winnipeg!

St. John's, Newfoundland will be re-joining the AHL this season.  They last had a team in 2005 as the St. John's Maple Leafs.  They will begin play this season and will be affiliated with the new Winnipeg franchise. 

Last season the Manitoba Moose were affiliated with Vancouver while Chicago was affiliated with the Atlanta Thrashers (who are now the Winnipeg team). 

Based on calculations from this website it is 1302 air miles from Harrisburg, PA to St. John's.  That is 115 miles further than a trip from Harrisburg to Winnipeg.

The real adjustment to this is going to be the realignment that results from it.  You can't have a team located in the distant East playing in the Western Conference.  So someone is going to be relocated. 

My best guess would be Syracuse returning to the Western Conference where they played as recently as 2008-09. 

However, Charlotte is technically the Westernmost team in the Eastern Conference.  But they are also the furthest South and many of the Western Conference teams are in the Northern tier. 

More than likely (barring any other relocations) Bridgeport would move back to the East Division, St. John's would move to the Atlantic, and Syracuse would head to the North Division.

Time will tell.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Calder Cup remains in East Division

The Binghamton Senators have won the 2011 Calder Cup!  Congrats to the Senators and their fans for a great season.

Honestly, entering the playoffs I did believe that the Bears would be good enough to win it all but if there was one team I was more concerned about than any other in the Eastern Conference it was the Senators.  I wouldn't have bet on them winning the Cup but I would have bet on them giving it a good run.

They were, in theory anyway, the last team in the Eastern Conference to be in the playoffs.  They were only in due to the East Division having one more team than the Atlantic Division making it possible for the 5th place team from the East to make the playoffs over the 4th place team in the Atlantic.

That's what happened and the Senators never looked back. 

Congrats to the 2011 Calder Cup Champion Binghamton Senators!

Now...let's shift all our focus to the 2011-12 season in which the Bears will be looking to re-establish their seemingly annual spot in the Calder Cup Finals! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bears/Caps making roster moves...Sens one win from Calder Cup

Wow, it's been a while since I posted.  Or at least it feels like it has been a while.  Lots of roster news today.

Let's start with the biggest news as far as Hershey fans are concerned...

Boyd Kane will be a member of the 2011-12 Hershey Bears.  He signed an AHL only, one-year contract. 

Kane has been an important part of the Bears team the past 2 seasons in many different aspects.  Offensively he has scored 48 goals over the last 2 years (24 each year) and added 45 assists (25 in 10-11) during those seasons.  Defensively he is arguably one of the best penalty killers in the AHL.  And in the locker room I doubt there is a better leader for a young team.

That doesn't mean Kane doesn't have his faults.  He is a hothead that takes untimely penalties, he is about as far from fast as a hockey player can get, and he isn't a spring chicken.  He is 33 years old and counts as an AHL veteran.

This signing does a couple things for the Bears.  One, I think you have your 2011-12 captain.  Two, this gives them 3 of the 5 (6 depending on game limits) veterans that they can dress each night. 

I am not Kane's biggest fan on here but if he returns to the team as a 3rd line left wing then I am happy with this signing.

Welcome back Boyd!

Some other roster moves....

The Caps signed Swede Mattias Sjogren.  Sjogren is 23 (will be 24 in November) and has spent his entire career playing in Sweden.  Most recently for Farjestads where he scored 7 goals and added 17 assists in 51 games. 

He is a natural center and from what I have read is more defensive than offensive.  He is expected to compete for the 3rd/4th line center spots in Washington.  His contract is a 2-year deal and IS (according to a two-way contract. 

This is important because the European game is a different style than the North American version.  Meaning he could probably use some seasoning before jumping to the NHL. 

I was wondering if he would be willing to play in the AHL and while that isn't confirmed by the 2-way nature of the contract it is more likely.  He was likely making much more money in Sweden then he will make in the AHL so only time will tell if he would accept a position in Hershey.

Either way I think this is good for Hershey.  If Sjogren does make the Caps it could be at Jay Beagle's expense which would return the fan favorite to Hershey for another season.

Stay tuned...

Wait...more roster moves...

The Caps and Predators pulled off a conditional trade this past week.  LW Taylor Stefishen was acquired by the Caps for a (possible) 7th round pick in 2013. 

This is a complicated trade and I will be brief here but if you want more check out Mike Vogel's insight over at Dump n Chase.

Basically the Caps don't have to give up the pick unless they sign him to an NHL deal.  He was drafted in 2008 and is 21 (in August) so he is ineligible for juniors in Canada again this season.  The Caps can sign him to an AHL deal and give him a "test run" so to speak for a season before signing him to an NHL deal and giving up the pick. 

At least that's the way I understood Vogel's article.

He was a 5th round pick that has produced solid numbers in his short time in juniors and college hockey.  Most recently he played in the WHL and recorded 24 goals and 43 assists in 68 games. 

My guess is...he will spend most of the season in South Carolina with a few Hershey call ups throughout the year.  He will likely be given a chance to win a job during camp with the Bears but he seems more destined for the ECHL for a year.

Okay...that's it for roster moves for today.  Expect more news as we get closer to July 1 though.  The entry draft is the last weekend of the month and free agency begins in July.  Lots will happen over the next few weeks.  Most of it will affect Washington immediately, but anything that affects the Caps will have an effect on the Bears.


As of today (Monday, June 6) the Calder Cup appears to be remaining in the East Division.  After dropping game 1 in Houston the Binghamton Senators have won 3 of 4 to take a 3 games to 2 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

The series shifts back to Houston for games 6 and 7 this Tuesday and Thursday. 

It has been a close series to date with offense very limited.  Overall the Senators have scored 11 goals in 5 games while the Aeros have scored 8. 

Too bad this hasn't been on TV in our area.  Would loved to have seen some of it.

Go Sens!