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NHL free agency to fill depth charts in AHL

Photo: Ashley Potts

by Patrick Williams

Whatever your favorite AHL team’s roster needs might be this summer, a deep field of familiar – and available – names can satisfy them.

NHL free agency opens Wednesday at noon ET/9 a.m. PT, and some of the busiest action annually involves filling organizational depth charts with proven talent to both help at the AHL level as well as provide capable NHL recall options. This summer’s list features a deep base of well-known talent for AHL teams and fans.

Here is a position-by-position look at some veteran free agents who spent time in the AHL this past season:

GOALTENDERS
Jean-Francois Berube – Ontario Reign (7-9-2 | 3.39 goals-against average | .885 save percentage in 19 games)
Berube delivered veteran reliability for a very young Ontario club, returning to a Los Angeles Kings organization where he had spent his first four pro seasons. His 37 regular-season wins in 2014-15 led the AHL, and he won the Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs that season.

Antoine Bibeau – Chicago Wolves (5-2-1 | 2.49 | .912 in eight games)
After an injury in 2019-20 limited Bibeau to two games with the Colorado Eagles, he returned to form this past season as a Carolina Hurricanes farmhand with the Wolves. Now 27, Bibeau is an established number-one goaltender at the AHL level.

Kevin Boyle – Grand Rapids Griffins (7-3-1 | 2.89 | .883 in 12 games)
Boyle spent his first season in the Detroit Red Wings organization divided between the NHL and AHL. Before signing with Detroit, he spent four seasons in the Anaheim Ducks organization and was part of the San Diego Gulls club that went to the Western Conference Finals in 2019.

Eric Comrie – Manitoba Moose (3-0-1 | 1.23 | .947 in four games)
The 26-year-old Comrie has been a fixture with the Moose since the AHL’s return to Winnipeg in 2015. A 2013 second-round pick by the parent Winnipeg Jets, Comrie has shown that he can be a workhorse and averaged 45 games per season during his first four full pro campaigns.

Jon Gillies – Utica Comets (3-1-1 | 2.37 | .902 in four games)
After five AHL seasons in the Calgary Flames organization, Gillies spent much of this past season with the St. Louis Blues. At 6-foot-6, the 27-year-old can fill a net.

Troy Grosenick – Ontario Reign (1-2-1 | 4.18 | .856 in four games)
Grosenick spent most of this past season at the NHL level with Los Angeles and the Edmonton Oilers. He won the “Baz” Bastien Award as the AHL’s top goaltender in 2016-17, and in 2019-20 with the Milwaukee Admirals, he teamed with Connor Ingram to win the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award given to the goaltenders on the team with the fewest goals allowed in the AHL.

Max Lagace – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (4-3-2 | 2.30 | .907 in nine games)
Lagace saw spot duty with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton along with time with the parent Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been a reliable net presence for his past six pro seasons at the AHL level, including a trip to the Calder Cup Finals with Chicago in 2019.

Charlie Lindgren – Laval Rocket (2-1-0 | 2.34 | .887 in three games)
With a net in Laval that has included prospects Cayden Primeau and Michael McNiven, playing time has been tight for everybody. But he has had some strong runs as a Montreal Canadiens prospect, including a selection to the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic as a rookie.

Zane McIntyre – Lehigh Valley Phantoms (11-3-3 | 2.33 | .917 in 19 games)
A late addition to the Lehigh Valley roster, McIntyre proved to be a key addition with Alex Lyon on recall to the parent Philadelphia Flyers for much of the season. The former Providence Bruins mainstay won a spot on the North Division All-Star Team and helped the Phantoms to remain in contention for a division title until late in the season.

Garret Sparks – Stockton Heat (5-10-0 | 2.69 | .913 in 16 games)
Following two seasons in the Vegas Golden Knights organization, Sparks converted a tryout with Calgary into a busy season with Stockton. Sparks is a proven name in net, having won the Bastien Award as the AHL’s best goaltender in 2017-18 while with the Toronto Marlies. That season he also carried the Marlies to their first Calder Cup championship.

DEFENSEMEN
Mark Alt – Ontario Reign (2 goals-5 assists-7 points in 29 games)
Alt is a long-time proven leader who has been an AHL captain in Colorado (2018-20). Like Berube in net, he provided much-needed experience for the youthful Reign.

Kyle Burroughs – Colorado Eagles (1-3-4 in 11 games)
Long-time AHL head coaches Greg Cronin and Brent Thompson each rave about the leadership qualities that Burroughs possesses. In 2019-20, Burroughs captained the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before being acquired by the Avalanche last October and making his NHL debut on April 5, 2021.

Tommy Cross – Providence Bruins (3-5-8 in 16 games)
Cross returned to familiar ground in Providence this past season while on loan from the Florida Panthers. He owns a booming shot, can play heavy minutes, and has been a captain at both the AHL and NCAA levels.

Cameron Gaunce – Ontario Reign (3-10-13 in 24 games)
Like Alt, Gaunce proved to be crucial help with Ontario, especially as the Reign rounded into form as the 2020-21 season progressed. The two-time AHL All-Star and 2014 Calder Cup winner has long been a first-recall option for NHL clubs while providing a top-pairing presence and leadership at the AHL level.

Joe Hicketts – Grand Rapids Griffins (1-17-18 in 32 games)
At only 25 years old, Hicketts already has a Calder Cup championship on his resume as well as five busy pro seasons, all with Grand Rapids. Mobile and willing to play well above his size (5-foot-8, 175 pounds), he could well be on the cusp of breaking through for additional NHL duty.

Brian Lashoff – Grand Rapids Griffins (1-2-3 in 13 games)
It is difficult to imagine Lashoff anywhere outside of the Detroit organization, but he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a late-season deal. A two-time Calder Cup champion and a captain, he has been a fixture with the Red Wings and Griffins dating back to late in the 2008-09 season, playing 588 regular-season and playoff games with Grand Rapids.

Keegan Lowe – San Diego Gulls (2-4-6 in 44 games)
The Anaheim organization thought highly enough of Lowe to pair him with first-round pick Jamie Drysdale early in the 2020-21 season. Lowe has long been a durable and physical defenseman, and he tied for the AHL lead in games in 2020-21.

Ryan Murphy – Henderson Silver Knights (5-22-27 in 37 games)
At age 28, Murphy proved that a player can reinvent himself. The 12th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Murphy returned to North America on an AHL deal with the Silver Knights last season and won the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman in 2020-21, and taking a key leadership position.

Cameron Schilling – Hershey Bears (4-15-19 in 31 games)
A veteran of nearly 600 games in the AHL, Schilling is an experienced blueliner who thrived with the Bears and took a spot on the North Division All-Star Team in 2020-21,

FORWARDS
Andrew Agozzino – San Diego Gulls (13-14-27 in 31 games)
Playing an aggressive, feisty still blended with ample skill, Agozzino has reached 20 or more goals four times in his nine AHL seasons. He is also quite capable of distributing the puck and can fill a top-line role. Dangerous on the power play, he tallied eight times on the man-advantage to tie for the league lead in 2020-21.

Joe Blandisi – Laval Rocket (10-11-21 in 28 games)
Blandisi has long shown a knack for the net, and he continued that pace in his first full campaign with the Canadian Division champion Rocket this past season.

Michael Carcone – Tucson Roadrunners (15-10-25 in 35 games)
Loaned to Tucson by the Nashville Predators this past season, Carcone found himself a very good home. He also found himself a pair of top linemates in Frederik Gauthier and Kevin Roy. Together, the trio combined to become one of the best in the AHL, and Carcone reached a career high in goals despite the abbreviated season.

Chase De Leo – San Diego Gulls (15-20-35 in 37 games)
At 25 years old, De Leo continues to knock on the NHL door and tied for fourth in AHL scoring in 2020-21. With an excellent motor and work ethic, he plays far beyond his size (5-foot-10, 186 pounds). Seemingly always near the puck, his 124 shots ranked fourth in the AHL.

Steven Fogarty – Rochester Americans (7-3-10 in 16 games)
After captaining the Hartford Wolf Pack, Fogarty earned the same honor with the AHL’s second-oldest franchise. He had a busy season, spending a portion of it on recall duty with the parent Buffalo Sabres. When in Rochester, he helped to guide an Amerks team that had to deal with considerable injuries and roster losses.

Gerry Mayhew – Iowa Wild (9-9-18 in 19 games)
One of the AHL’s top snipers, Mayhew dominated the AHL with Iowa in 2019-20, pouring in a league-best 39 goals in 49 games and winning the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player. Even with linemate Sam Anas having moved on to the St. Louis Blues organization this past season, Mayhew showed that he still could produce plenty of offense.

Michael Mersch – Rochester Americans (8-11-19 in 28 games)
First-year head coach Seth Appert leaned on Mersch’s leadership to shepherd the Amerks in 2020-21. Mersch, a pure power forward, supplied his usual offense as well. He won a Calder Cup as a Los Angeles prospect in 2015 and has reached 20 or more goals four times in his AHL career.

Danny O’Regan – Henderson Silver Knights (16-21-37 in 37 games)
Long a proven AHL offensive talent, O’Regan found an even higher level with Henderson in 2020-21. His 16 goals placed him fourth in the AHL, and he finished second in league scoring.

Andrew Poturalski – San Diego Gulls (9-34-43 in 44 games)
Injury issues limited Poturalski to 17 games in 2019-20, but he rebounded in a major way this past season to take the AHL scoring title with 43 points. In 2018-19, Poturalski was a Second Team AHL All-Star and was named MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs, leading Charlotte to its first title.

T.J. Tynan – Colorado Eagles (8-27-35 in 27 games)
Tynan has long been an elite playmaker, but now he is coming off an AHL MVP season with Colorado. Captaining the Eagles, he continued to reinforce his reputation for hard work and diligent two-way play. He also brings a successful background with him, winning the Calder Cup in 2016 with the Lake Erie Monsters and going to the Finals in 2019 with Chicago.