WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – When it comes to qualifying offers in the ECHL, the lower number a team issues oftentimes points to more players already signed from last year’s squad.
The Utah Grizzlies could very well fall into that category this offseason.
On July 2, the Grizzlies announced that they had extended qualifying offers (QO’s) to just three players: forward Griffen Molino, defenseman Connor Yau, and goaltender Martin Ouelette.
In 50 games played with the Grizzlies in 2019-20, Molino tallied 22 goals and 37 assists for 59 total points, averaging 1.18 points per game. He finished second in team points behind centerman Tim McGauley (20G + 42A = 62 PTS). The Trenton, MI native also had three AHL call-ups last season with Colorado (two) and Ontario (one).
Molino’s stints with the Eagles yielded nine games played, one goal, and two assists. He also assisted on one goal in two games played with the Reign last year. Lastly, it is worth noting that Molino has played more games in the AHL (93) than the ECHL (60) in three years of minor league hockey experience.
Molino joined the Grizzlies on August 5, 2019 after spending the 2018-19 season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. The Sin Bin spoke with Griffen Molino on March 1 during his call-up with the Colorado Eagles after their 3-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals.
Ouellette was a fantastic acquisition for the Grizzlies in the midst of an unsure netminding situation last season. After enduring a four-man goaltending rotation in Utah’s first 22 games, the Grizz went out and traded for Ouellette, picking him up from the Atlanta Gladiators for future considerations on December 9, 2019.
In 28 games played for Utah, Ouellette went 18-5-5 with a 2.16 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. On January 16, the Providence Bruins signed him to an AHL contract for the rest of the 2019-20 season. Ouellette ended up playing in one game for the P-Bruins before being loaned back to the Grizzlies on January 31.
During his lengthy ECHL career, Ouellette is most noted for his 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs run with the Florida Everblades. In 19 playoff games, he posted a 2.31 GAA and .917 SV% over four rounds of postseason play. Ouellette also started every game in the 2018 Kelly Cup Final against the Colorado Egales.
Ouellette has played in 199 ECHL regular season games, which is not enough to qualify as a veteran (260) under ECHL rules. But, since he has played in over 180 ECHL regular season games, Ouelette will become a restricted free agent on July 16 instead of Utah retaining his ECHL rights for the 2020-21 season (see below for further explanation).
Yau could very well be seeking a two-way contract at the AHL level, which would explain why Utah extended him a qualified offer. Skating for an Ivy League school (Dartmouth) all four years of college definitely points to what people may stereotype Yau as: a smart defenseman who doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.
Sometimes stereotypes about collegiate background exist for a reason.
In his rookie season, Yau did nothing but impress on the blue line for Utah. Playing in 49 games for the Grizzlies, he managed one goal and 12 assists while posting a disciplined 18 penalty minutes and impressive plus-29 rating. After spending four years playing NCAA Division I hockey at the previously mentioned Dartmouth College, Utah announced Yau’s signing on August 29, 2019.
NOTES ON QUALIFYING OFFERS
Teams are not required to extend qualifying offers to players who have signed contracts before June 30. The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until July 16 at which time the qualifying offer becomes null and void and the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player shall retain the rights to that qualified player for one playing season.
A team that extends a valid qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until July 16. After July 16, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, the veteran or goaltender shall be deemed a restricted free agent and shall be entitled to seek and secure offers of employment from other ECHL teams.
If a restricted free agent is not signed to either an offer sheet or a contract by an ECHL team by August 1, the player shall be declared an unrestricted free agent.
C.C. Hawkley is the AHL Editor and Colorado Eagles correspondent for The Sin Bin. He also occasionally fills in to cover Colorado’s ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies. Follow him on Twitter for all the latest Eagles news and analysis!
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