Orlando Solar Bears
The most noteworthy of the off-season news is the Wild/Aeros organization aligning with the former-IHL(1995-2001)-revived-as-ECHL(2012) Orlando Solar Bears.
Last season, the Aeros didn't have an ECHL affiliate (and I think that's probably fortunate for whoever would have been the affiliate because all that roster turnover might have trickled down and debilitated that club, too).
Here's a spiffy video from Rich Bocchini to tell you all about it:
And if you like press conferences, executives in suits, awkward jersey presentations, or deciphering echo-y audio, here's the presser in Orlando.
I don't know that this really changes much of anything, though I'm sure it has the potential to make life either easier or harder for GM Jim Mill depending on how the relationships go.
Oh, and thanks to Swamphockey for finding this Solar Bears fan blog and this Solar Bears Fan Forum.
Roster Moves (or lack thereof)
Icevet suggested in the comments of the last post that a better use for our blog than discussing whether we might have a team here in 2 years, would be to talk about the up and coming players for the Aeros. I thought it would be too early to get into that, but after combing the Wild's contracts, I think it's worth at least a high-level look right now.
The Aeros and the Wild had a number of free agents floating around (figuratively for most, but literally for Jeff Taffe) so a lot is still in the air. We'll have some real meat to chew on on or after July 1 when free agency opens.
But here's a quick look at who is definitely back (barring trades, etc.):
- Matt Hackett - Everything the Wild is saying suggests they want to either keep Harding or find a veteran backup for Backstrom, while letting Hackett get some more seasoning down here.
- Darcy Kuemper - He will almost certainly continue his tandem with Hackett. The Wild are close to signing a goalie prospect, Johan Gustafsson, but have said he'll stay in Europe next season regardless. They just have to sign him by June 1 or lose his rights.
- Drew Bagnall - Last summer he signed a 2 year deal, so of the past two seasons' veteran core, he's the only one who will definitely be back. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see DiSalvatore back, but then I also wouldn't be surprised to see someone else make a better offer for him.
- Tyler Cuma - Another year on his contract before he's an RFA.
- Kyle Medvec - Another year for him before RFA, too.
- Steve Kampfer - One more year on his deal, but he might be up with the Wild all season.
- Marco Scandella - Same as Kampfer, except I'm almost certain he'll stick with the Wild out of camp.
- Justin Fontaine - One more year on his current contract. Will be an RFA.
- Kris Foucault - Two more years before he's an RFA.
- Joel Broda - One more year on his contract before turning RFA.
- Dennis Endras (I said I wasn't going to make assumptions, but I'm assuming this experiment is over. I haven't seen his name mentioned anywhere in the plans.)
- Chay Genoway
- Justin Falk - Likely will stay with the Wild all season.
- Kris Fredheim
- David McIntyre
- Nick Palmieri
- Jarod Palmer
- Cody Almond
- Carson McMillan
- Chad Rau
- Jonas Brodin
- Josh Caron
- Bjorn Krupp
- Jason Zucker
- Zack Phillips
- Charlie Coyle
- Brett Bulmer
- Johan Larsson
- Colton Jobke
By the by, I used Capgeek.com for all the contract info here, so apologies if any of it is a little off. Nothing sent up any red flags for me, though, so hopefully it's accurate.
Generally, my mindset is to not get too excited about the rookies (except the goalies). They're going to develop at whatever pace they develop, while the leadership of the Aeros locker room is what really matters in terms of whether it's an enjoyable season for fans. If a rookie contributes to that enjoyment, hey, the more the merrier, but I tend to expect those guys to just learn the ropes the first year. Or if they're THAT good, they'll just go on up to Minnesota.
So, what I'm looking for is who Mill can snag from the AHL veteran ranks. Who's the glue going to be? Even if DiSalvatore comes back, I think we've seen that he and Bagnall can't "raise the kids" alone.
In case you've missed the news thus far, the Aeros are doing their equipment sale Memorial Weekend Saturday (May 26). Get to Sugar Land Ice early if you want some stuff, as lines form before the doors open at 10 a.m. There's a tournament going on that weekend, too, so you can get your hockey itch scratched, too, if you like.