WICHITA, Kan. – As June concludes, the ECHL signing period is about to be in full swing.
Numerous teams around the league have re-signed a player or two from their End of Season Roster. Wichita currently sits with the teams without a signed player, a fact that will surely change in the coming weeks.
Offers are due into the ECHL offices Saturday night at 11:59 pm Eastern Time and the complete list will be sent out early Monday afternoon.
The qualifying offer process is simple and fairly easy to understand.
Before the Sunday night deadline (11:59 pm Eastern Time on June 30), teams may qualify up to eight players, with no more than four being veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the 2019-20 season).
In the case of teams who have signed players already, players that have already been signed cannot be placed on the qualifying offer list.
Once a qualifying offer is issued, it must remain open for acceptance until July 16. At this point, a team may offer the qualified player any salary or decide to continue without further action.
In the case for non-veteran players, a team that offers them a qualifying offer retains the rights to the player for one full season. As for veteran players, the offering team retains the rights to that player until July 16. After this date, if the veteran player and offering team have not agreed to a contract, the veteran becomes a restricted free agent, gaining the right to talk with other teams and receive offers from other ECHL teams.
When a restricted free agent receives a contract offer from a team other than the team with the player’s rights and the restricted free agent wishes to accept the contract offer, the restricted free agent and the offering member must, within 24 hours, notify the ECHL, the team with the player’s rights and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. The member with the player’s rights shall have seven days after the date it is notified to exercise its right to match the contract offer. Restricted free agents cannot be traded.
If a restricted free agent is not signed to either an offer sheet or a contract by an ECHL team by August 1st, the player will be declared an unrestricted free agent.
Now, Wichita can extend up to eight qualifying offers to players on their 2018-19 season-ending roster. Announced on June 17, Wichita’s list of players eligible for qualifying offers consists of:
Forwards: Ralph Cuddemi, PC Labrie (V), Mark MacMillan, Stefan Fournier, Dyson Stevenson, Lane Bauer, Quentin Shore, Spencer Dorowicz, Hayden Hodgson, Calder Brooks, Jakob Stukel
Defenseman: Tyler Elbrecht (V), Nolan De Jong, Dylan Labbe, Dillon Donnelly, Keoni Texeira
The forwards I expect to see offered are:
- Ralph Cuddemi’s 2018-19 campaign was far under everyone’s expectations. After a top-15 league point finish in 2017-18, Cuddemi was expected to lead the Thunder offense. Despite this slow start, he went on to score 50 points (22g, 28a). His 13 powerplay goals ranked second in the league. Bringing Cuddemi back to Wichita could help the offense significantly if he is able to perform at a high level.
- Mark MacMillan joined the team mid-season last season after signing across seas prior to the 2018-19 season. Once he joined the team, his presence was immediately felt, scoring in his first three games with the Thunder. He went on to have the seventh-most points on the Thunder team last year with 41 (19g, 22a). Keeping his rights ensures if he wants to return to the States again, Wichita has first dibs.
- Stefan Fournier was one of the best mid-season additions for the Thunder. While his offensive production was middle of the pact compared to his teammates, his physicality was on another level. His hits in games might not have been bone-crushing hits but each one changed the game in Wichita’s favor with their timing and his discipline. Bringing Fournier back is a great choice for Wichita, especially if he remains consistent in his style of play.
- Dyson Stevenson has been a backbone for the Wichita Thunder in the recent years. Even throughout his foot injury, his leadership was shown on the bench and in the locker room. To bring the former Allen American back to Wichita would give newly hired head coach Bruce Ramsay a strong leader to assist in building a roster. Stevenson isn’t flashy with offense but is quite consistent with four straight 25+ point seasons.
- Jakob Stukel played well throughout the 2018-19 season, his play getting better as the season progressed. Finishing the season with 42 points (19g, 23a), he had 14 points (8g, 6a) in his last 10 games. His explosive play can give Wichita another offensive boost this upcoming season.
The defensemen I expect to see offered are:
- Tyler Elbrecht is the sole veteran I see being offered by Wichita. Elbrecht is the ultimate “team-first” player in Wichita. Many injuries held him off the is this season, most if not all of them due to his defensive effort (diving in front of shots, hard hits, incidental contact). If you bring Elbrecht back to Wichita, the defensive core has an instant captain or assistant captain caliber player to lead the defensive players.
- Nolan De Jong is a smart offer as he played a very disciplined and well-chiseled game. To bring back a defenseman with a simple defensive would anchor the blue line for Wichita.
- Keoni Texeira is the one name on this list that is not really up for discussion. His rookie season was one of the best rookie defenseman seasons in Thunder history. His 46 points (7g, 39a) was fifth on the team and his 29 powerplay assists were first in the league (second place has 23). Texeira only has a year or two left in this level of hockey before he begins to move up. Wichita should do whatever they can to keep his for another year.
There are still over three months until we begin the 2019-20 ECHL season, but the coming week will be quite eventful for the league. Wichita is expected to announce their qualifying offers at the end of the weekend and player signings should begin to roll out next week. Wichita will be looking to right the ship after a playoff-less year.