MOLINE, IL – With only two days before the season starts, the Quad City Mallards made some big changes on Wednesday. After being assigned defenseman Jacob Graves and goaltender Ivan Kulbakov from the Columbus Blue Jackets system on Tuesday, the Mallards had to cut their roster even more. One name that hadn’t been seen on the training camp roster but was the first signing of the off-season stood out: Chris Francis.
Before the season began, Francis suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury. Because of that injury, Francis had attended camp each day but had not participated. The time frame for his return to the ice is such that the team cannot keep him on the roster, according to head coach Phil Axtell.
“It’s a very tough situation for Chris, who is a great guy and who has done so much for the team over the last year. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to get back on the ice until he has recovered from his injury and that could be a fairly lengthy process,” Axtell said Wednesday according to the Mallards’ press release.
Also on Wednesday, the Mallards were assigned Keegan Kolesar from the Vegas Golden Knights by way of the Chicago Wolves. This is the first assignment from the Mallards’ new NHL and AHL affiliates. Kolesar, 20 years old, played last season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. While there, he scored 26 goals with 34 assists before the team won the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Rounding out the day, the Mallards released goaltender Kris Joyce, forward Stathis Soumelidis, and defenseman Kristaps Bazevics. Mike Leone also announced his retirement from professional hockey; he had sat out last season with a concussion. Have no fear, Leone fans, as he isn’t going far. In fact, he’s not really going anywhere. Leone was named assistant coach, now giving the Mallards two assistant coaches with Jamie Tardif playing this season as player/assistant coach.
“It’s what I always wanted to do. At 29 I get to be a professional hockey coach, and I’m excited to get started. It’s tough to go from competing in practice to helping coach the team. Obviously, it’s an adjustment, but I’m fortunate to be in the game at such a young age. It’s hard to get jobs like these so I really couldn’t pass it up,” Leone said in the Quad City Times article announcing the transactions on Wednesday.