CINCINNATI, OH – The Kelly Cup Finals have concluded with the Colorado Eagles taking the 2017 Championship back to Loveland with them, and now the off-season is finally settling in around the entire ECHL. On Friday, the next step towards building the 2017-18 Cincinnati Cyclones was taken with the unveiling of the Season Ending Roster.

Season Ending Rosters may include a maximum of 20 players and unlike Protected Lists, players who did not sign an ECHL contract for 2016-17 cannot be placed on the roster. However, similar to Protected Lists, players who were in the ECHL under AHL/NHL contracts are ineligible to be placed on the Season Ending Roster. In addition to the rosters, ECHL teams are permitted to begin signing players to standard player contracts (SPC’s) for the 2017-18 season today as well.

The Cyclones Season Ending Roster consists of the following 20 players:

Forwards (12): Nick Huard, Dylan Nowakowski, Shawn O’Donnell, Shane Walsh, Dominic Zombo, Justin MacDonald, Seth Ambroz, Tommy Mele, Brandon McNally, Jordan Sims, Rob DeFulviis, Joe Manno

Defensemen (7): Tyler Elbrecht, Daniel Johnston, Sam Posa, Martin Lefebvre, Eric Knodel, Craig Dalrymple, Arvin Atwal

Goalies (1): Joel Rumpel

Now comes the big part of the off-season process. Of the above names, eight of them will receive qualifying offers from the Cyclones. Teams have from now until July 1st to submit their qualifying offers. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four of them can be veterans (260 or more professional games played at the start of the 2017-18 campaign). Tyler Elbrecht, Tommy Mele, and Christiaan Minella were the only veterans Cincinnati had at the end of the season, so that’ll be a non-issue.

Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded. Players who sign an SPC before the July 1st deadline do not need to be extended a qualifying offer. The qualifying offer is valid through August 1st, and if the player has not accepted the offer by that time, it becomes null and void, and the team may sign the player to any salary or elect to take no further action. Teams that extend qualifying offers to non-veterans retain that player’s rights for one full playing season.

Veterans who receive qualifying offers, however, are a different story. Teams who extend qualifying offers to veterans retain that player’s rights until August 1st. If the veteran hasn’t accepted the offer by then, they will become a restricted free agent (RFA) and may speak with other ECHL teams about signing with them. RFA’s cannot be traded. If the RFA receives a contract offer from a team other than the team who holds their rights and they wish to accept the offer, the player and the offering team must notify the ECHL, the team with the player’s rights, and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) within 24 hours. The team with the player’s rights will then have seven days after the date they are notified to exercise their right to match the contract offer. This also applies to goaltenders that are extended qualifying offers, who have more than 180 games of professional experience.

If the RFA hasn’t signed either an offer sheet or a contract with any ECHL team by August 31st, they become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and it’s open season from there in terms of who that player can talk to and who they choose to sign with.

Now comes the fun part. Every year, I try to do my best to take an educated guess at which eight players will be qualified by the Cyclones. Some times, I hit the nail on the head and get most, if not all guesses correct. Other times, I bomb hysterically and don’t get a single guess correct. So, we’ll see how this goes.

The eight players I’d extend qualifying offers to:

Nick Huard, Shane Walsh, Shawn O’Donnell, Jordan Sims, Martin Lefebvre, Eric Knodel, Sam Posa, and Joel Rumpel

Of course, by now you’ve heard that Sims and Lefebvre have both signed in Europe for next season. Qualifying them keeps their rights in Cincinnati all season and if things don’t work out in Europe and they choose to come back to the states, all three are players the Cyclones would take back in a heartbeat.

Huard, Walsh, O’Donnell and Knodel are each core players that you build teams around while Posa was arguably the Cyclones’ best stay-at-home defenseman last season. Although I don’t expect Rumpel to come back, qualifying him would give Cincinnati a “Plan B”. Obviously, they’re going to pursue Michael Houser to return as the number one guy in goal, but if that fails, having Rumpel in the wings to sign would only help matters.

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