Could a player already be in place?
Most acquisitions on the free agent market affect the NHL and AHL team at most. Making a splash on the ECHL level is seldom. If the AHL is a moon, the ECHL is a planet existing within the same galaxy but with its own atmosphere. Thus, the most compelling NHL position battles for ECHL fans is at the goalie level.
Edmonton made a signing last week which could affect the Admirals into next season. A few things to keep in mind here, all of which come from the indispensable General Fanager: Cam Talbot is signed for the next three seasons, Laurent Brossoit the next two, Nick Ellis is on his entry-level contract, and so is Eetu Laurikainen. This created filled all four spots in the AHL/NHL system. Norfolk extended a qualifying offer to Nic Riopel, an indicator he may not have signed with the team as of yet. Edmonton, not wanting to rely totally on Brossoit as the back-up, looked for some depth. Enter Jonas Gustavsson, who signed a 1-year, $800,000 deal with the Oilers. Gustavsson has spent his NHL career as a permanent back-up, closer to .900 than .910 in his efforts. Gustavsson played all of 24 games last year, and will most likely be asked to play about as much in Edmonton.
Brossoit is the Oilers’ future at goalie, posting a .920 last year with AHL Bakersfield. He did so in a mere 31 games, and he needs playing time. Two years prior, he posted a respectable .918 with Oklahoma City in 53 games (including four shutouts). Edmonton obviously wants Brossoit to resemble the player he was two years ago, before he was hampered by injuries. Still, they have two other young goalies in Finnish import Eetu Laurikainen and undrafted free agent Nick Ellis. Luaurikainen has some AHL experience, appearing in 18 games for Bakersfield, with a .908 save percentage. Edmonton’s plans for next year are pretty obvious: Talbot/Gustavsson in Edmonton, Brossoit/Laurikainen in Bakersfield, and Nick Ellis in Norfolk.
Yes, there could be some difficulty here. Ellis and Laurikainen may challenge each other for spots in the AHL, but there is simply not enough room for all of these goaltenders. It’s unclear how well Ellis will perform in the ECHL, of course. He finished his college career with 36 appearances and a .936 save percentage for Providence College. Ellis’ .936 tied for second in the country with Yale’s Alex Lyon, who signed in Philadelphia, according to College Hockey, INC.. Starting in the ECHL is the smartest way for Ellis to begin his career.
Figuring out who the Admirals will have alongside Ellis is a mystery. Nic Riopel has had a qualifying offer extended, and he has about a month to decide. Ty Rimmer was signed to an AHL contract, and would be under their jurisdiction. Riopel re-signing would be the preferred choice of fans. Figuring out where things land is still a bit hazy from here.
Norfolk is their own small entity on planet ECHL, but that’s for another time.
Stats from hockeydb.com, theahl.com, College Hockey, INC