Andrews: “Can’t lose franchises as solid as St. John’s”

It’s still not a done deal, and a Thunder Bay news outlet’s poll showed citizens who voted are against a new event centre, but should the Winnipeg Jets move their affiliate west, the American Hockey League will do whatever they need to keep a team in Newfoundland’s capital.

In an interview with TimesUnion.com sports reporter Pete Dougherty, AHL President Dave Andrews said the league would be looking for a solution should the IceCaps move on.

“That’s another one of those markets that there’s a tremendous amount of interest,” Andrews told Dougherty in the interview posted today.

“That Thunder Bay story is preliminary to say the least,” Andrews added. “There’s no biulding there, and the financing of the building is not yet in place. So the intent (of the Jets) is to move the team into a more approximate location like Thunder Bay.”

The potential move to Thunder Bay from St. John’s is a situation where the AHL and its teams are beholden to the desires of the clubs in the NHL, something Andrews briefly touched on in his talk with Dougherty.

“We certainly need to support the desire on part of the NHL clubs to have their AHL affiliates closer,” said Andrews.

However, he added that the AHL can’t afford to “lose franchises that are as solid as St. John’s”, speaking at length about the incredible fan support the team has had since the return of the AHL to the Rock.

Andrews also answered some questions about Glens Falls, where the city will be losing Adirondack Phantoms as they move on to Lehigh Valley.

“We definitely got one more year out of the Phantoms up there than we expected,” said Andrews, adding that the league and Glens Falls mayor Jack Diamond have a search for a new team well under way.

“We think there are perhaps a couple of options,” Andrews told Dougherty. “I would give it some reasonable prospect of success.” Andrews added that it’s “not out of the realm of possibilty” that there will be a team in Glens Falls as soon as next season.

The full interview is below.

Dave Andrews one-on-one with TimesUnion.com’s Pete Dougherty

AHL Today: Lake Erie looks to snap skid, Texas loses Nilstorp in W

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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On the schedule tonight:

Rochester heads into Lake Erie as both teams move in different directions. Lake Erie has dropped its last five, while Rochester has picked up a win in its last two outings. Lake Erie, only five points back of second spot in the division, needs a win to bring themselves two points closer to third place Rochester.

Notables:

  • Lake Erie: Mark Olver (9-19-28), Bryan Lerg (12-15-27), and Andrew Agozzino (9-17-26) are all clustered within two points of each other.
  • No goaltender has been confirmed for tonight, but Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio have split time all season, and with Pickard between the pipes for Lake Erie’s last contest, look for Aittokallio to get the call.
  • Rochester: Top point getter Phil Varone (8-25-33) got the call to Buffalo yesterday, so he won’t be in the lineup tonight. Luke Adam (15-10-25), who is scoring at a more torrid pace with over a point per game, will have all eyes on him as Lake Erie looks to stop their slide.
  • Nathan Lieuwen has had the net for three of the last four, so expect Hackett to get the call tonight.

Oklahoma City and Charlotte meet up tonight in Carolina, both with two game win streaks on the line. Oklahoma stands to slide up the standings in pursuit of the final playoff spot. The win would put them two points out of the final spot in the Western Conference.

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Evening round-up:

     – Colton Sceviour had his bobble head night last night in Cedar Park. The resemblance? Suffice to say Sceviour wasn’t thrilled.

     – Threw together a Storify of the action on Twitter during the hubbub over the possibility of the St. John’s IceCaps and Winnipeg Jets affiliation agreement possibly ending with a new AHL team landing in Thunder Bay. Click the image below.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 9.01.30 AM

Zach O’Brien going to camp with St. John’s

Though he suited up in one game with the IceCaps last season, St. John’s native Zach O’Brien will be looking to become a familiar face in his hometown team’s lineup.

O’Brien, who spent last season with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan, has been invited back to training camp with the IceCaps and is hoping to make an impression.

While O’Brien’s offensive skill is what makes him an intriguing prospect, the 21-year-old forward understands he has to round out his game in order to make his mark in the professional ranks. From the St. John’s Telegram:

My game is to bring some offensive skill, but I’m also willing to work hard and become more of a complete player because I know that’s what they want me to do. . . If I want to stick (at the AHL level), I know I have to prove I can play in the defensive end as well.

In 207 games in the QMJHL, O’Brien has tallied 132 goals and 145 assists, good for 277 points and 1.32 points per game.

At 21, O’Brien still has a ton of room to grow, and while he may not be able to stick in the AHL his offensive skill is hard to deny and you’d be hard pressed to find a team that couldn’t use that kind of production if he can carry it over to the AHL.

O’Dell signs on for another year with Jets

Eric O’Dell has turned a career year into a contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets.

O’Dell, 23, was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Anaheim Ducks, but he was never able to land a contract with the club. After stellar years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, O’Dell inked an amateur tryout with the Chicago Wolves, and turned that into a three-year entry-level contract with the Atlanta Thrashers.

The year after inking his deal, the Thrashers were on their way to Winnipeg, and O’Dell shipped out to St. John’s.

In his past two seasons with the IceCaps, the 6-foot centre has suited up in 101 games, tallying 41 goals and 36 assists. It was last season, however, when O’Dell showed the offensive flair that made him a second round pick. In 59 games with the IceCaps last season, O’Dell potted 29 goals and added 26 helpers — both career highs — making him almost a point-per-game player.

O’Dell’s deal with the Jets is for one-year and is a two-way deal.

Negrin signs with Comets

The Utica Comets have announced they’ve come to terms with defenceman John Negrin on a one-year AHL deal.

Negrin, 24, was a third round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2007, and appeared in three games with the Flames in 2008-09. Following a four year stint in the WHL with both the Kootenay Ice and Swift Current Broncos — Negrin posted 16 goals, 111 assists, and 252 PIM in 265 games in the ‘Dub — Negrin spent the majority of the next three seasons with the Flames top affiliate in Abbotsford.

While a member of the Heat, Negrin appeared in 95 games, scored five goals, and added 17 assists, but was traded near the end of his third season to the Winnipeg Jets. Negrin would suit up for the remainder of the 2011-12 season with the IceCaps, and registered three assists in 14 games.

When his NHL entry-level deal ran out, Negrin was inked to an AHL deal with the Chicago Wolves, but struggled to stay with the club and spent 44 games in the ECHL with Kalamazoo in 2012-13. However, after a trade sent him to Lake Erie, Negrin played the remainder of the season as a member of the Monsters.

His AHL deal with the Comets is for one season, as Negrin will look to get back to being an everyday AHL player.

Jets sign Hutchinson, Redmond, Pasquale

The Winnipeg Jets have locked up a goaltending duo for St. John’s, and came to terms with defenceman Zach Redmond.

In St. John’s the tandem in net will be Eddie Pasquale and Michael Hutchinson, both inked to one-year deals with Winnipeg.

Redmond, 24, spent the 38 games before the lockout ended in St. John’s, but made his way to the NHL when the PA and league came to terms on a new CBA. Shortly after getting the call, however, Redmond suffered a gruesome leg injury when he was clipped with a skate. The injury, which caused the defenceman to lose a dangerous amount of blood, sidelined Redmond for nearly the rest of the season. Miraculously, Redmond came back before the season ended, and will now be back with the Jets on a two-way deal in 2013-14.

Pasquale, 22, was a fourth round pick of the Jets/Thrashers organization in 2009, and has since spent his entire professional career between the ECHL and AHL. Last season, while with St. John’s, Pasquale suited up for 43 contests and posted a 2.79 GAA and .907 SV%. A member of the 2011-12 AHL All-Rookie Team, Pasquale is entering his fourth pro season.

Hutchinson, a 23-year-old from Barrie, Ont., was a third round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2008. After failing to come to terms on a new contract with the Bruins, Hutchinson has hopped on with the Jets, but will suit up with the IceCaps next season. In 29 games with the Providence Bruins last year, largely in a backup role, Hutchinson posted a 2.30 GAA and .914 SV%. Like Pasquale, Hutchinson is entering his fourth season in the pros.

Machacek brought back by Jackets

Spencer Machacek, who finished last season as a member of the Springfield Falcons, has signed a new deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Machacek, 24, had spent the bulk of the previous five seasons in the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization, but was dealt to the Jackets late last season in exchange for Tomas Kubalik. An AHL All-Star in 2010-11, Machacek has been a proficient scorer in the AHL, but has never had the opportunity to take a full-time role in the NHL. His new deal in Columbus will likely be more of the same, with the Lethbridge, Alta., native spending the majority of his time in Springfield with the Falcons.

In 2011-12, while still with the Jets organization, Machacek suited up for 13 games with the Jets and potted two goals and seven assists, but was sent down three months after being recalled. In his 389 AHL contests, Machacek has racked up 105 goals and 153 assists.

A member of the Vancouver Giants Memorial Cup winning team in 2006-07, Machacek was a WHL standout, putting up 209 points (97-112) in his junior career.

IceCaps come to terms with Cormier

The Winnipeg Jets announced yesterday that they’ve come to terms with forward Patrice Cormier, but the details of the deal were not announced.

Cormier, who was a part of the return package in the trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey, was a second round draft pick of the Devils in 2008. The 23-year-old centre appeared in ten games for the Jets last season — he was held pointless — but spent the majority of his season in the AHL with the IceCaps.

In St. John’s, where Cormier has been for the last two seasons, the checking forward has appeared in 106 games, scoring 28 goals and adding 19 assists.

A former captain of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic and of Canada’s U20 team, Cormier hasn’t been able to make a jump to the NHL on a full-time basis and looks like he could be an AHL mainstay this coming season as well.

While terms of the deal have not been announced, you can safely assume that Cormier’s re-signed to a two-way contract.

IceCaps ink Cisse, O’Neill, Schnell, and Riley

The St. John’s IceCaps have bolstered their squad with the signings of four players today.

NHL.com’s Patrick Williams reported earlier that the IceCaps have come to terms with Yasin Cisse, Will O’Neill, Blair Riley, and Ryan Schnell.

The deals — which can be assumed as one-year contracts, though terms have not been released — will see the IceCaps add both up front and on the back end. While Cisse and Riley will be in their first stints with the IceCaps, O’Neill and Schnell, both with the team last season, bring some familiarity back to the roster.

Cisse, who comes to the AHL after half a season in the QMJHL in 2012-13, was drafted by the then-Atlanta Thrashers in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. After spending two seasons with the NCAA’s Boston University, Cisse left BU halfway through 2012-13 to join the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. With the Armada, in 27 games, Cisse put up 14 points (8-6).

While never a standout offensive star, Cisse has a huge frame and has the potential to become a good depth power forward. At 6’3″ and 216, Cisse is a monster on skates and giving him time to develop in the AHL is the right move.

O’Neill, a 25-year-old blue liner from Salem, Mass., suited up for 59 games with the IceCaps last year, and tallied 21 points (3-18) over that span. During his four years at University of Maine, O’Neill was often a contributed from the back end, registering 101 points (19-82) in 141 games in the college ranks.

Schnell, who split time between the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles and the Jets top affiliate, will look to get his first full season of AHL action under his belt. While with the IceCaps last season, the 24-year-old used his massive frame to beat opponents around the rink. In 22 games, the 6’3″ forward racked up 57 PIM, and had another 105 PIM in just 12 games with the Eagles.

Riley, another tough customer, brings some leadership to the IceCaps by way of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With the Tigers last season, Riley wore the ‘A’ while suiting up in 74 contests and amassing over 160 PIM and adding seven goals and eight assists.

Meech, Stepanov sign KHL deals

Both Derek Meech and Stefan Stepanov are heading to the KHL.

Meech, 29, has spent the last two seasons under contract with his hometown Winnipeg Jets, but after the two parted ways this off-season, Meech was without a deal for next season. It was announced yesterday that Meech, who can play both defence and on the wing, has signed a one-year deal with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

Over the past several seasons, Meech has been unable to find steady work in the NHL and split time between the NHL and AHL on a number of occasions. In his AHL career, Meech has tallied 30 goals and 97 assists over 356 games, adding another 12 points (4-8) in 38 playoff games.

Meech also suited up for 144 big league contests, and tallied four goals and 13 assists.

Stepanov, who spent the majority of last season in Russia, was signed to an AHL deal late last season after having his KHL contract with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg terminated. However, after signing his AHL contract, Stepanov only suited up for one game, was held pointless, and was on-ice for a goal against.

The 20-year-old Russian defenceman had spent seven games playing with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, but his contract was terminated after off-ice infractions.

Stepanov’s contract is a two-year, two-way deal with Atlant Mytishchi.