Another week has passed and it was certainly a busy one for coach Martinson as players were signed, qualifying offers extended, and the recruitment process for new players is in full swing. With only doing a blog post on a weekly basis much of this information may seem like old news to those readers that are on social media and track what is happening with the Americans on a daily basis. Hopefully you can find something of interest in this update.

QUALIFYING OFFERS

– In order to protect players from last season, qualifying offers had to be extended to a maximum of eight players by the end of June (Tuesday). Players with AHL contracts aren’t included and players that have already signed are not included so when you look at the list you can make some educated guesses what has happened but they are in fact just guesses. The first surprise was the fact that only seven players were given qualifying offers. Here are the names:

Justin Baker
Kyle Follmer
Gary Steffes
Greger Hanson
Spencer Asuchak
Ian Schultz
Chad Costello

– Chad Costello has signed as that was announced on Friday. More on that later. Chad was in Mexico on vacation at the end of the month so you can only guess that had something to do with why he was placed on the protected list and then immediately signed. Contracts require several signatures and have to be in the league office to be official. It may have been just a timing thing.

– Veterans have special rights when it comes to being protected in that they can eventually become unrestricted free agents (September 1st) so often times they do not get protected. Trevor Ludwig and Jamie Schaafsma were not protected and have not been signed at this point. If they are re-signed it will happen later in the summer and it is a possibility they will not be back in Allen.

– Players like Hanson, Asuchak, Steffes and Baker are on the protected list because they are pursuing AHL deals. Asuchak has already been signed by the AHL Chicago Wolves. More on that later. If Hanson, Steffes and Baker don’t get AHL deals they should be back in Allen. Even if they all get AHL deals, by protecting them Allen will retain their ECHL rights if they are reassigned to the ECHL during the season.

– Another reason some players don’t get protected is because it is part of their contract. This is true for many first year players like Tanner Eberle. When players join the ECHL at the end of their junior career like Tanner did last year when he signed with Allen the contract has a provision where he cannot be protected. It doesn’t mean the Americans are not interested in signing him as I am sure they are.

– Players that were on the season ending roster, are not veterans, do not have AHL contracts and were not protected are most likely already signed but not announced. Aaron Gens, Riley Gill, and Kevin Young were all major players last season that fall into this category so you would have to assume they were signed before the end of June.

– Nolan Descoteaux and Garrett Clarke are two role players that had good years in the regular season but only played in a few playoff games. They seem to be a good fit with the Americans and should return if the price is right.

– You would have to think both Rylan Schwartz and Ian Schultz will be signed in Allen once they have completed their rehabilitation from serious leg injuries. From what I have heard they won’t be cleared to play until the season is already underway and Allen is financially responsible until they are cleared. Makes sense with their resumes the Americans will sign them for next season.

PLAYER UPDATES

Chad Costello – It was no coincidence the first player announced as having re-signed with the Allen Americans was Chad given he was voted the ECHL MVP by the players (PHPA) and was also the winner of the ECHL Sportsman award. A great representative for the Americans both on and off the ice. Chad had a career year last season with 125 points (41 goals 84 assists) and set records that may never be broken. The two records that are most telling about the year he had are the fact he won the scoring title by 45 points which was the largest margin in the history of the ECHL and Chad had more assists (84) than anyone else in the ECHL had total points.

Spencer Asuchak – It was announced yesterday that Spencer Asuchak has signed a one way, one year contract with the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. Well deserved for a player that many feel has a shot at making it to the NHL. The hope would be he never sees the Allen Event Center next season but Allen does have his ECHL rights if Chicago decides to reassign Spencer to the ECHL. The photo below by Lauren Lyssy, after Asuchak had scored a goal, is one of my favorites because so many captions seem to work. The original caption was, “Can we join in on the celly or do you guys want to be alone.” Today, I think the caption should read, “That’s okay Gensy, I’ll keep in touch from Chicago.”

Photo Courtesy Lauren Lyssy
Photo Courtesy Lauren Lyssy

Jamie Schaafsma – Have noticed over the years that Jamie always gets great support from his hometown newspaper and he had quite a spread in the paper yesterday. Here is the story which appeared in the Chatham Daily News and was written by Mark Malone along with a picture by our own Lauren Lyssy. Nice to see Lauren get her photos used all over the world!

You will notice at the end of the article Jamie references the fact that he wasn’t protected and now being a veteran makes things more complicated since ECHL teams can only sign four vets. At this level of hockey cost is always a determining factor and cost includes salary, housing and insurance. Let’s hope there is some way this can all be worked out to have the Allen captain and “good luck charm” and his family back for another season.

Americans Captain Jamie Schaafsma hoists the Kelly Cup. Photo Courtesy Lauren Lyssy
Americans Captain Jamie Schaafsma hoists the Kelly Cup. Photo Courtesy Lauren Lyssy

After working so hard to win the Kelly Cup, Jamie Schaafsma couldn’t wait to give it away.

The Allen Americans captain from Blenheim was the first player to receive the trophy after winning the ECHL championship last month.

As he hoisted the Cup over his head, Schaafsma was eager to hand it off. He wanted to see his teammates celebrate.
“That was a better feeling, bringing it into the circle and carrying it into the room after the game and being able to celebrate with the guys,” he said.

The championship was the Americans’ third in a row. After winning back-to-back Central Hockey League banners, they moved to the ECHL this season when the CHL folded.

Schaafsma fondly remembers his excitement watching captain Mike Berube receive the trophy last year.
“I got that privilege this year and what a great feeling that was,” said the 32-year-old forward. “It was really exciting to win it again. … It’s a pretty cool feeling and an honor to be a captain of a championship team.”

Schaafsma is one of only four players on all three championship teams. Twins Tyler and Trevor Ludwig – the sons of former NHLer Craig Ludwig – and Brian McMillin are the others. Schaafsma kept alive a remarkable streak. He’s played in seven consecutive finals – three in Italy, one in the IHL, two in the CHL and one in the ECHL – and won four championships.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It makes for a long season, though. It’s a lot of fun playing that competitive hockey you get at the end of the year.”

He’s now back home in Chatham with his wife Nicole, daughter Sawyer and son Sutter. The long season makes it difficult to relax at times.
“It takes its toll. I feel it now,” he said, laughing, “when you’re doing nothing and still hurt. Shoulders hurt. Hips hurt. It’s worth it, though, when you’re winning.”

Schaafsma had two assists in a 6-1 rout of the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 7 of the Kelly Cup final.
“I honestly think we played our best hockey game of the season in Game 7,” he said. “We always seemed to play well when our backs were against the wall.”

The Americans were unbeaten in four elimination games, including three straight wins in the Western Conference final after falling behind 3-1 to the Ontario Reign.

“It got pretty scary,” said Schaafsma, who had 16 points in 25 playoff games. “I think we were down by a goal, too, going into the third in Game 5 (against Ontario). But we have a very talented team and over the years we have a group that doesn’t give up and we don’t panic and we believe in ourselves.”

They were also proud to quiet the critics who felt their former league wasn’t as good as the ECHL.
“It was nice to represent the CHL and win as an expansion team and show what we did the last two years wasn’t a joke,” Schaafsma said. He wore the ‘C’ with pride for the Americans while picking up 49 points in 72 games this season, his 11th as a professional.

“It’s an amazing organization,” he said. “For me, it’s been a great place to play. I was extremely excited to get to be the captain this year and be a leader on the team with an organization that has a history of success.”

He gave credit for their success to his fellow veterans. The team had a strong core of leaders supporting him.
“To have that respect from the players and from the coach to wear the ‘C’, it’s a great honour and it meant a lot to me to be given the ‘C’ by the coach and by the players,” he said.

Schaafsma expects to play again next season. He may apply for a firefighting job this summer, but they’re hard to find. Plus, he isn’t ready to hang up his skates yet. Allen, Texas, is the likeliest destination if he stays in the ECHL. Europe is a possibility, too. He played seven seasons in the Netherlands and Italy.

Complicating matters is his new status as an ECHL veteran – a non-goalie who’s played at least 260 regular-season pro games in North America.  ECHL teams are allowed only four veterans. The Americans didn’t put him on their protected list and other clubs have already come calling.

“There’s a little less room (for veterans on ECHL rosters), but with my success and the team’s success in the last few years, I’m not too worried about that,” Schaafsma said.

OTHER ITEMS

– The San Jose Sharks week long development camp takes place next week and Steve Martinson will be in attendance. A great opportunity for Martinson to talk to all of the Sharks coaches and scouts and become familiar with all of the prospects in the Sharks organization. Joel Rumpel is one of four goalies that will attend and is the only player that played in Allen this year invited to the development camp. Martinson will have a much better feel for what players could be assigned to Allen when he returns. The players that end up in Allen could come from the development camp, from the AHL affiliate or from free agents signings that are yet to take place. It is not unrealistic to think Allen will get two or three defensemen, two or three forwards and a goalie assigned by San Jose.

– Martinson also has offers out to several new players, as you might imagine there are a lot of players that would like to play in Allen.

– There is a relatively new web site that is a great source of information to check out NHL team and player salaries as well as signing bonuses and contract lengths. If you ever used GapGeek this site has similar information. It is a great sources of this type information but also has info on affiliations, Collective Bargaining Agreement FAQ’s, and a draft tracker. The site is at capfriendly.com and if you look up the San Jose Sharks you can get the status of players like Joel Rumpel, Chris Crane, and Rylan Schwartz.

– Looking through the list of protected players around the ECHL there are quite a few former Allen Americans:
Cincinnati – Geoff Irwin
Colorado – Darryl Bootland
Evansville – Jarret Lukin
Fort Wayne – Drew Daniels
Gwinnett – Alex Lavoie
Kalamazoo – Steve Kaunisto
Rapid City – Kale Kerbashian & Dallas Ehrhardt
Wichita – Garrett Klotz

– One player you would have expected to be protected that wasn’t is Jonathan Lessard who played for Bakersfield last year which is moving to Norfolk for the coming season. You would have to assume he is in the signed but not announced category.

– Jack Combs is another player that was not protected (Cincinnati) and is now an unrestricted free agent. Coach Martinson has said on several occasions he does not want to use his veteran slots on players that will be gone by Christmas and Jack has a history of starting the season in the ECHL/CHL and then moving to the AHL or Europe. With the relationship between Combs and Costello anything could happen but the odds of Combs returning to Allen are not high.

– Here are the up to date player signings for the ECHL Central Division teams.

Allen (1) -Chad Costello (F)

Missouri (4) – Patch Alber (D), Andrew Courtney (F), Tanner Fritz (F), Chris Owens (D)

Tulsa (4) – Phil Brewer (F), Kevin Carr (G), Kevin Noble (D), Adam Pleskach (F)

Wichita (1) – Kenton Miller (F)

– Scott Howes has signed with the Brampton Beast for next season. Scott is an outstanding player as you recall he had 21 goals in 22 games for Allen in 2012-2013 before being promoted to the AHL. If he is with Brampton the entire season he will be one of the best players in the ECHL. The odds of playing all year in Brampton are not great based on recent past history. If he doesn’t get hurt he will end up in the AHL or signing in Europe.

DID YOU KNOW: There are still ten teams in the ECHL that have not announced a player signing for the 2015-2016 season. That number should be close to zero by next weekend.

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