Sunday, June 30, 2019

AHL Free Agency: What to Expect for the Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
Tomorrow is the start of free agency in the NHL and AHL alike. While Dallas looks at forwards like Joe Pavelski, the Texas Stars also have important gaps to fill as the free agent period opens on July 1.

First of all, it's important to note that NHL/AHL signings are traditionally not taken care of first thing on Day 1. NHL clubs have to see who wins the various sweepstakes for top line players like Pavelski, Mats Zuccarello and Matt Duchene to see where everything else will shake out. That being said, the introduction of the free agency interview period in the most recent CBA has given more clarity to that process and put more AHL-relevant deals on day 1 of free agency.

Among Dallas unrestricted free agents who played in Texas last season, only Erik Condra and Reece Scarlett remain unsigned. Taylor Fedun, who played just three games with Texas, and Justin Dowling both had extensions announced earlier this summer.

Texas will want veteran scoring up front as always, but may not have a lot of roster spots to get it done. With the massive influx of top prospects such as Tye Felhaber, Jason Robertson and Riley Tufte, it is likely to be a leaner veteran year.

As previously reported, Dallas plans to make an offer to D Reece Scarlett, but he is a group six UFA, which means he can sign anywhere tomorrow.

The big UFA question mark for most Texas fans is the status of Travis Morin. The 10 year Texas Star has been cagey about his status for next season with the media. Texas would like to bring him back if the numbers work out but the knock-on effects of signings in Dallas may push him out of the plans for 2019-20.

Based on the way Colton Hargrove was deployed at the end of 2018-19, I would expect him to be re-signed to Texas. Hargrove was a healthy scratch in the final two games of the season to preserve his non-veteran status for AHL rosters.

Of course, Texas has done well in recent years to find a stable of players that populate the Idaho roster and serve as in-season callups. Last year, the Stars were so successful in this regard that they did not sign a single PTO player. These signings won't happen on Day 1, or if they do, they won't be announced for a few more days.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dallas Stars Qualify Six; Philippe Desrosiers Headed to Free Agency

Philippe Desrosiers (Credit: Texas Stars)
The Dallas Stars announced today that they have qualified six players who were restricted free agents at the end of the 2018-19 season. Four of these, Gavin Bayreuther, Landon Bow, Niklas Hansson and Dillon Heatherington, spent significant time with the Texas Stars this season. For more information on what a qualifying offer means, check out the 100 Degree Hockey Glossary.

Goalie Philippe Desrosiers was among the group not qualified. Desrosiers was set to be the odd man out next season for the Texas Stars with the emergence of Jake Oettinger at the end of the year and the expected return of Landon Bow. This move means that Bow and Oettinger will be your tandem in net for Texas with Colton Point and Tomas Sholl heading to Idaho. Desrosiers becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

Notably, former Texas Star Brett Ritchie was also not qualified.

Here's the release:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has issued qualifying offers for the following players, this retaining their negotiating rights:

Gavin Bayreuther - D
Landon Bow - G
Jason Dickinson - C
Niklas Hansson - D
Dillon Heatherington - D
Julius Honka - D

The following players were not issued a qualifying offer and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1:

Philippe Desrosiers - G
Ryan Hartman - RW
Chris Martenet - D
Brett Ritchie - RW

Thursday, June 20, 2019

What the 2019 NHL Draft Means for the 2019-20 Texas Stars

(Credit: Texas Stars)
The effect of the NHL Draft on an AHL team is usually long in the pipeline. I have written pieces like this in the past outlining how basically no one from this weekend's draft in Vancouver should be expected to make a meaningful impact in Texas for several years. However, the 2018 Draft broke the mold, and that's worth discussing a bit.

Generally, it takes several years for any draft pick to hit the AHL. Between the general skill level of drafted players and the AHL-CHL transfer agreement, the AHL has a de facto age floor of 20. That has been the case in the past but recent trends are beginning to change that.

As AHL teams continue to mature their development models and NHL teams take more direct ownership over player development in the minor leagues to the extent that most of the clubs in the league are owned by their NHL parents, it has become more and more advantageous for NHL teams to bring in younger prospects to the AHL for the full minor league experience. Players like Denis Gurianov and Julius Honka fit this mold. There was more for them to learn under Derek Laxdal and the Texas coaching staff than there was in Russia or Swift Current, respectively.

If the AHL-CHL agreement disappeared tomorrow, Dallas would show no hesitation in assigning Ty Dellandrea to the Texas Stars for all of next season to get him out of a bad situation in Flint and put him on a path to the NHL immediately. As is, he must play in the NHL or go back to a bad Flint team that will hopefully trade him to a contender before the OHL stretch run.

And that brings us to the oddity of the 2019 Draft. Two players picked up in that draft played meaningful minutes in Texas this season but for different reasons.

First, Ty Dellandrea being on a non-playoff team helped him a bit in his pro journey. After Flint's season was done, Texas still had about a dozen games left and the chance at playoffs. Since he was signed to an NHL contract, Texas could bring him in for the end of the year. I'll also note that Riley Damiani had the same situation but only played one game.

Second, Adam Mascherin. Mascherin came to Texas via a different path. After being drafted in 2016 by Florida, he re-entered the draft as a 20 year old and was picked up by Dallas. Without the limitation of his age as a factor, he was able to jump right to the pros and was Texas's #2 goal scorer behind Joel L'Esperance.

With those two exceptions, the Stars were mostly composed of draft picks longer in the tooth. Full list of Dallas draft picks that played in Texas last season follows below with notations for players who were late season additions. As you can see, generally you're going to be looking at 2-3 years before anyone whose name is called this weekend pulls on a victory green jersey in Cedar Park.

Adam Mascherin - 2018, 100th overall
Colton Point - 2016, 128th
Denis Gurianov - 2015, 12th
Jake Oettinger - 2017, 26th (late add)
Joseph Cecconi - 2015, 133rd (late add)
Nicholas Caamano - 2016, 146th
Niklas Hansson - 2013, 68th
Philippe Desrosiers - 2013, 54th
Rhett Gardner - 2016, 116th (late add)
Riley Damiani - 2018, 137th (late add)
Roope Hintz - 2015, 49th
Ty Dellandrea - 2018, 13th (late add)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mark Your Calendar: Texas Stars Announce Opening Night, Other Dates

(Credit: Texas Stars)
In case you missed it last week, the Texas Stars have announced they will open their 11th season on October 4th in Cedar Park. The typical Texas schedule sees sparse October and November home dates due to conflicts with college and high school football that depresses attendance in the fall.

Even with Texas losing a decent chunk of their cheapest, most walk-up friendly seating for several months, the Stars scored their second-best ever attendance figures in their tenth season.

Complete schedules usually are announced later in the summer. With some teams (albeit fewer than before) sharing arenas with NBA teams, the schedule is highly dependent on securing those arenas schedules, ensuring changeovers can be completed in time and that peak nights are equitable distributed. Remember of course that Texas does share H-E-B Center with the G League's Austin Spurs, which is another consideration for them.

Here are those six nights you can already add into your calendar.
  • Friday, October 4 – Opening Night
  • Saturday, November 9 – Military Appreciation Night
  • Saturday, January 4
  • Friday, January 24
  • Saturday, January 25 – Witches and Wizards Night
  • Saturday, February 22 – Pink in the Rink Night

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Numerous Texas Stars Fill Next Week's Development Camp Roster

(Credit: Texas Stars)
After this weekend's draft, the new Dallas draftees and existing prospects in the system will gather for development camp. The week-long camp in Frisco focuses on skills and off-ice work for the least-experienced among the Dallas Stars player pool.

Camp will be held from June 24-28 with practice in the morning each day from Tuesday to Friday, according to the below schedule.

Tuesday, June 25
Group A Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group B Practice: 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 26
Group A Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group B Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Thursday, June 27
Group B Practice: 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Group A Practice: 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Friday, June 28
Practice: 10:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Here is the roster. Current or expected 2019-20 Texas Stars in attendance will include forwards Nick Caamano, Tony Calderon, Diego Cuglietta, Riley Damiani, Ty Dellandrea, Tye Felhaber, Rhett Gardner, Joel Kiviranta, Parker MacKay, Adam Mascherin, Josh Melnick, Jason Robertson, Riley Tufte; defensemen Joe Cecconi, Emil Djuse, Ben Gleason and Ondrej Vala; and goalies Jake Oettinger, Colton Point and Tomas Sholl.

Development camp is also a chance for some undrafted players without contracts to impress. Some of the players in that group this year include Ethen Frank, Jeremy McKenna, Brodi Stuart, Jerad Rosburg and Jarret Tyszka. Note how many of these players are from Scott White's recruiting hotbed of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Texas Adds Goalie Depth to a Crowded Net with Tomas Sholl Signing

(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)
The Texas Stars announced this morning that they have signed goalie Tomas Sholl to an AHL deal for next season.

Sholl came out of Bowling Green like he was shot out of a cannon two seasons ago. He won 14 of his first 17 decisions and didn't take a regulation loss until his 18th game where he was the goalie of record.

This is a solid depth signing for Texas. The Dallas Stars have four goalies under contract as of today (Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, Colton Point and Jake Oettinger) and two more as RFAs (Landon Bow, Philippe Desrosiers). Bishop and Khudobin are obviously locked into Dallas and Bow will be qualified and expected to take a heavy workload in Texas. I expect that Jake Oettinger forms a 1a/1b with Bow. That leaves three goalies for just two slots. Either Dallas does not qualify Desrosiers and has Point and Sholl in Idaho or they do qualify him and someone gets sent to another AHL or ECHL team. Jim Nill has a propensity to always qualify players, as he would rather has assets to deal than let someone walk away for nothing. Trading a player for a conditional 7th rounder is better than nothing in his book.

It will be an interesting battle to watch in camp. We know from the last season, where Texas didn't have to make a single PTO signing, that the team prefers to go with a set group through the whole year. This fits that storyline.

Here's the release:
The Texas Stars, American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, announced today that the team has signed goaltender Tomas Sholl to an AHL Standard Player Contract for the 2019-20 season. The netminder spent the 2018-19 campaign in Boise, Idaho with the clubs ECHL affiliate, the Idaho Steelheads.

Sholl, 24, was the mainstay in net for the Steelheads last season and played 39 games. He finished his first complete ECHL season with a 26-12-1 record, ending the season with the fifth most wins in the league. The Hermosa Beach, California native also ranked third among all goaltenders with a 2.25 GAA and paced the ECHL with a .928 SV%. Sholl helped lead the Steelheads to the Mountain Division Final with a 6-5-0 record, 2.29 GAA, and .926 SV% in 11 games. The rookie was selected to the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic, named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team and also collected All-ECHL 2nd Team honors.

The 6-foot, 181-pound goaltender skated in one of the Stars two preseason games this year after beginning his pro career in 2017-18. Sholl held stints with the Adirondack Thunder and Steelheads in the ECHL as well as the Macon Mayhem and Evansville Thunderbolts of the SPHL. In his first ECHL action, Sholl was 14-0-3 in his first 19 games with a 1.54 GAA and .947 SV%.

Sholl attended Bowling Green State University and played 19 games across four seasons. He ended his collegiate career with a 7-10-0 record before turning pro

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Dallas Stars Sign Joel Kiviranta, Release Several Draft Picks

Summarizing a few stories from the past week as we work on some longer term projects in the background here at 100 Degree Hockey...

First, the Dallas Stars signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two-year entry level contract. He's likely to end up with Texas if he comes over the North America this coming season.

Second, Dallas announced that several drafted players had not been signed to an NHL deal and were eligible to become free agents or re-enter the NHL draft. Brett Davis, Liam Hawel, and Jermaine Loewen are eligible to re-enter the draft. Goalie Markus Ruusu becomes a free agent. Among this group, I think Hawel was closest to getting a deal but didn't do enough in the OHL playoffs to make a mark.

Here's the release on Kiviranta:
Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed forward Joel Kiviranta to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Kiviranta, 23, spent the 2018-19 season with Vaasan Sport of Liiga, where he tallied 31 points (16-15=31) in 48 games. His 16 goals were third on the team and he finished tied for second on the club with a +12 plus/minus rating. In five seasons with the team, he appeared in 260 games, posting 114 points (60-54=114).

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound native of Vantaa, Finland helped his country earn a gold medal at the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia skating in nine games and recording three points (2-1=3). He scored the game-winning goal against France in the preliminary round.