This week saw a lot of AHL-only contracted players bolting for the European leagues. Lured by many different things, now is the time of year when the transactions page begins to light up with transfers to the various different leagues.
Many are lured by the money. Third line players here can be considered top guys in the Euro leagues and are paid accordingly. Many others enjoy the larger ice sheet and less physical game, as it offers a chance to extend their career by not beating up their body. This is especially attractive to older players. Finally, many players decide to return to their native countries to play as celebrities instead of living life on the margins of professional hockey in America.
You can monitor the confirmed transfer section on eliteprospects.com to see those transactions as they happen. Among Texas Stars, I expect that defenseman Dan Spang would be the most likely to leave for Europe. Spang played the 09-10 season in Germany's DEL before being lured back to the states by Scott White and the Texas Stars. Spang signed with the Vaxjo Lakers for the 11-12 season, but broke that deal to sign with the Dallas Stars on a two-way.
He burned a bridge with Vaxjo to make the signing, with Lakers Sports Director Henry Evertsson calling the relationship "a closed book". Midseason, there were rumors that Spang was leaving the AHL to sign with MODO of the SEL. Swedish papers reported a verbal agreement for Spang to leave the Texas Stars and join MODO. The deal ultimately fell through at the transfer deadline (January 31).
Spang represents a valuable commodity to European clubs, as he has an Italian passport and doesn't count against common limits on foreign-born players despite being born in Massachusetts. All that being said, Spang might have some recently established ties keeping him here in the US.
- Former Star Matt Stephenson got offers in France but ultimately decided to stay with the Sheffield Steelers as he continues to pursue an MBA with the town's university. [The Star]
- Former Star Ondrej Roman is also leaving North American hockey. Roman signed with his former Czech league club HC Vitkovice even before the end of the Rampage's season. [denik.cz]
- Evansville and Fort Wayne are joining the ECHL next season to bring the league's number to 23 teams. Allen is often mentioned as a candidate to move to the ECHL, since it is such a well-run franchise. When will the two leagues swallow their pride and just merge to create a 30/30/30 structure in the NHL/AHL/ECHL? More on that through the summer. [Journal Gazette]
- The Dayton Gems, also of the CHL, folded this week. The departure of those three teams leaves the CHL with 13 teams for 2012-13. Again, when will that merger happen? [Dayton Daily News]
- Speaking of cancellations and folding, the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, which Dallas participates in, is still on for September, but could be cancelled if the CBA is not renegotiated quickly enough in the summer. [MLive.com]
- Conference finals are underway and it's the top two teams in each conference competing for the Calder Cup berth. Is it just me or is that boring? Look at the Kings for a good counterexample.
- The San Antonio Rampage flamed out against the Barons with several OT losses being their doom. Now it's up to the Barons to maintain the West Division's pride by reaching the Calder Cup Final three years in a row. It's not off to a good start with a 5-0 loss to the Marlies last night.