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!

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