ORLANDO, Fla. – The early summer has brought a steady stream of offseason announcements for the Orlando Solar Bears. Much of the news concerns the team’s netminders.
On June 26, the Solar Bears announced that goaltender Clint Windsor would be returning to the Solar Bears for the upcoming 2019-20 season. This was the first signing announcement for the Solar Bears in the offseason. Last season, Windsor, joining Orlando from Denmark’s Herlev Eagles, played a total of eight games, building a 2.48 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
Shoring up the situation in the net is clearly a priority for head coach Drake Berehowsky, with Connor Ingram’s departure to the Nashville Predators and the uncertainty about Martin Ouellette, who suffered a season-ending leg injury playing for the AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch on March 20. For now, Ouellette is a plausible netminder for the Solar Bears, but there is a third intriguing possibility on the radar.
On July 1, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the signing goalie Zach Fucale to a one-year AHL contract with Syracuse. Fucale, who played with the Fort Wayne Komets last season, recorded a 2.51 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Prior to that, Fucale was a solid presence in the net for the Brampton Beast. Between Windsor, Ouellette, and Fucale, the Solar Bears should have some reliable anchor possibilities between the pipes.
In addition, the Solar Bears announced their qualifying offers list for their ECHL contracted players. Among the players on the list are forwards Hunter Fejes, Mathieu Foget, Chris LeBlanc, Brent Pedersen, and Jackson Playfair, along with defensemen Rob Mann and Nolan Valleau.
Though he spent much of the year in the AHL, Fejes was a formidable asset to the Orlando Solar Bears roster last season, especially during the playoffs where he recorded eight points (seven goals, one assist) over eight games played. Foget was also a powerhouse, tallying an impressive 48 points (20 goals and 28 assists) over 66 games.
The Solar Bears have also seen some action when it comes to trades. They recently acquired defenseman Ryan Obuchowski from the Toledo Walleye to complete a future consideration trade earlier in the year. Obuchowski amassed a notable +9 during the 2019 playoffs where he suited up for 24 games with the Walleye.
Some names are notably missing from the qualifying offers list. Those include captain Mike Monfredo, seasoned defenseman Alexander Kuqali, and the workhorse forward Tayler Thompson. It is probable that the team has already reached agreements with other players, but the Solar Bears like to keep the cards close to the chest.
Berehowsky has also shown a willingness to make drastic overhauls of his team in the offseason, and the team is active in working out arrangements with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. One added wild card on the table is the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda which sent a small contingent of players on loan to the Solar Bears last season.
So there are many moving pieces at play, and a heap of decisions and announcements coming down the pipe. Of special interest will be the news of who will fill the assistant coach slot and who will hold the veteran leadership positions on the ice. The Sin Bin will keep you up to date on the developments as they happen.