Free agency could open doors for AHL performers

Photo: Jonathan Kozub

Patrick Williams, Features Writer

Here is a look at some of the familiar names around the AHL who may be available as free agency begins in the National Hockey League and American Hockey League today:

Coachella Valley’s Chris Driedger had a strong bounce-back performance in 2023-24 following knee surgery that sidelined him for much of the previous season. He played 39 regular-season games for the Firebirds, finishing 24-7-7 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

Plenty of other dependable veteran help is out there as well. Milwaukee’s Troy Grosenick had another strong season, finishing 17-8-2 in 30 games to go with a 2.56 GAA and .907 save percentage. NHL veteran Jack Campbell, who was bought out by the Edmonton Oilers over the weekend, went 18-13-1 in 33 games for Bakersfield, posting a 2.63 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Teams in the market for veteran help in net could turn to Oscar Dansk (Calgary), Collin Delia (Manitoba), Aaron Dell (Ontario), Magnus Hellberg (Charlotte), Kasimir Kaskisuo (Laval), Keith Kinkaid (Chicago), Zane McIntyre (Iowa), Ivan Prosvetov (Colorado), Alex Stalock (San Diego), Malcolm Subban (Cleveland) or Dustin Tokarski (Rochester). Zach Sawchenko (Abbotsford), Adam Scheel (Chicago) and Akira Schmid (Utica) are also among the possibilities.

Manitoba’s Kyle Capobianco, voted as the Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL’s most outstanding defensemen in 2023-24, is an unrestricted free agent following the completion of his two-year contract with Winnipeg. He had 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 69 games this past season, most among AHL blueliners. A First All-Star Team member, he was joined there by Colorado’s Brad Hunt, who had 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 70 games.

Trevor Carrick (San Diego), Matt Donovan (Chicago) and Derrick Pouliot (Texas) all ranked in the top 10 in league scoring at the position. Charlotte’s Lucas Carlsson finished second in the AHL with 15 goals despite missing the last month-and-a-half of the regular season with an injury.

The second-, third- and fourth-leading scorers in the AHL this past regular season are all available for help up front. Rocco Grimaldi (Chicago) finished second overall with 73 points in 72 games; his 36 goals ranked third as well, and he was a Second All-Star Team. Adam Gaudette’s (Springfield) 44 goals led the AHL as he finished with 71 points in 67 goals and took a spot on the First All-Star Team. And Ontario’s T.J. Tynan, twice the AHL’s most valuable player, again put together a standout season with 66 points in 71 games, including a league-leading 57 assists.

Perennial producer Andrew Agozzino (San Diego) had another strong performance with 64 points (26 goals, 38 assists) while appearing in all 72 games.

With back-to-back Calder Cup titles to the name, nobody in the Washington Capitals organization is resting.

Washington has kept the services of forward Ethen Frank on a two-year contract after his 29 regular-season goals led the Bears. His 10 goals in 18 playoff games also tied him for the AHL lead, and he finished third in postseason scoring with 17 points. Frank, 26, will play this upcoming season on a two-way deal before a one-way deal kicks in for the 2025-26 campaign. He has been an AHL All-Star in back-to-back-seasons and was a repeat winner of the CCM Fastest Skater event (13.032 seconds).

Key defenseman Chase Priskie is also staying in the organization on a new one-year deal. Priskie, 28, powered the Hershey blue line, leading the defense corps with 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 69 games. His 12 assists and 14 points in 20 playoff games also led all AHL defensemen.

The Capitals also retained goaltender Mitch Gibson, who played two-regular-season games and was with the team for its Calder Cup run. The 24-year-old spent most of the season with South Carolina, the organization’s ECHL affiliate.

The Firebirds were the Calder Cup finalist this past season, and that work has earned several players new deals to remain in the Seattle Kraken organization.

Firebirds captain Max McCormick is back on a new two-year, two-way deal that he signed Sunday. The 32-year-old forward finished fourth in the AHL with 32 goals in 68 games. He then added eight goals and 11 points in 18 playoff games. Forward John Hayden’s excellent postseason (nine goals and 13 points in 18 games) earned him a one-year, one-way contract with the Kraken. The Kraken also re-signed goaltender Ales Stezka and forward Luke Henman, both members of the Firebirds this past season.

Significant change is possible for the Firebirds before next season. Defensemen Connor Carrick, Mitch Reinke and Jimmy Schuldt are all unrestricted free agents, as are forwards Cameron Hughes, Kole Lind, Andrew Poturalski and Devin Shore.