Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 12

Antler Banter returns for its twelfth installment and it's starting to become a little repetitive over at the Manitoba Moose website where nothing has changed since the site debuted when the return of the Moose was announced. The Moose have signed players and should be getting fans ready with some highlights of players who are returning this season, but there hasn't been a single update to the website for nearly three months. If you wonder why Antler Banter is covering everyone else except the Moose, there's your reason why. Instead, we'll run down the AHL news and some signings like we always do as we wait for the Moose to break their holding pattern. In saying that, on with the show!

Roy And Grigo

The Colorado Avalanche signed Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year deal on Friday following his trade to Denver from the Buffalo Sabres. Grigorenko played with both Buffalo and the Rochester Americans last season, and he could see time with the Avalanche this season after being reunited with his junior coach in Patrick Roy.

The 12th-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has played 52 games in the AHL with the Americans, tallying 14 goals and 26 assists. In his 43 NHL games with the Sabres, he's posted three goals and three assists. While many see Grigorenko as having high potential, there are questions about his skating and work ethic from his Buffalo days. However, he was an exceptional player under Roy's watchful eye in the QMJHL, so we may see Grigorenko turn the corner this season.

If he can't crack the lineup in Denver, though, expect him to do everything he can in San Antonio to get back with the Avalanche. Grigorenko likes Roy, and there's a feeling that his work ethic and effort level may rise to new heights this season.

Gulls Get A Veteran

NHL defenceman Shane O'Brien, looking to continue his playing career, signed a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The 31 year-old spent most of last season with the San Antonio Rampage as part of the Florida Panthers organization, but he'll be given a shot to lead the Gulls and possibly find a spot on Anaheim's blue line.

In 51 games with the Rampage last season, O'Brien had 11 goals and 19 assists for his best AHL totals since 2005-06 when he was a member of the Portland Pirates. After Portland, O'Brien spent time with the Lightning, Canucks, Predators, Avalanche, Flames, and Panthers. In 537 NHL games, O'Brien has 13 goals and 79 assists to go along with 916 PIMs.

If nothing else, the Gulls are getting an NHL-ready defenceman who can help the young Ducks develop into true professionals. O'Brien's signing is a good depth pickup for the Ducks.

Caps Add Another Penguin

The Washington Capitals announced on Friday that they had signed forward Zach Sill to a one-year, two-way contract. Sill spent time with Pittsburgh and Toronto last season, and was part of the deal that saw Daniel Winnik end up in Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

Playing mostly a fourth-line role with the Penguins, Sill has a goal and two assists in 42 games with Pittsburgh before being shipped to Toronto where he picked up another assist in 21 games with the Maple Leafs. He has 33 goals and 40 assists in 277 career AHL games, and Sill will make the Hershey Bears a much better team down the middle.

Pirates Get Yann

Yann Sauve, a former Manitoba Moose defenceman, has inked a one-year deal with the Portland Pirates. Sauve spent time on three AHL rosters last season as he bounced around the continent, but he should find some comfort knowing he's got a good chance to be in Portland, Maine all season long.

Sauve played in 17 games for the Springfield Falcons and four games each for the St. John's IceCaps and Providence Bruins in 2014-15, recording a total of one goal and three assists with his one goal coming with the St. John's IceCaps. Sauve has also had stops in Manitoba, Chicago, and Utica on his 221-game AHL career thus far, and he'll be anchoring a young Pirates blue line this season.

Wacey's Back

The Utica Comets announced on Friday that they had re-signed forward Wacey Hamilton to a one-year deal. Hamilton had five goals and ten assists in 41 games last season, and helped the Comets reach the Calder Cup Final last season.

Hamilton has spent time with the Binghamton Senators and the Utica Comets, playing 216 AHL games in his career that has seen him record 18 goals and 36 assists. Hamilton is a good depth signing for the Comets who will look to duplicate this past season's success.

Vlad And Luke

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Monday that they had re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Luke Witkowski to one-year, two-way contracts. Namestnikov skated with both the Lightning and Crunch last season while Witkowski had a cup of coffee with the Lightning.

Namestnikov recorded nine goals and 16 points to go along with 13 penalty minutes in his 43 games with the Lightning while Witkowski picked up 15 penalty minutes in his 16 games with the NHL club. In Syracuse, Namestnikov recorded 14 goals and 21 assists while Witkowski had two goals and six assists.

Namestnikov is closer to an NHL spot of the two skaters, but Witkowski is a rugged, shot-blocking defenceman and should see time with the Lightning again this season.

Teemu's Back

Not that Teemu, readers. The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that they had re-signed Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year deal. Pulkkinen was dominant in Grand Rapids last season, winning the Willie Marshall Award as the league's top goal-scorer with 34 goals in just 46 games while finishing tenth-overall in AHL scoring.

The 23 year-old Finn should challenge for a roster spot in Detroit, but expect him to be lights-out for Grand Rapids if he somehow ends up back in the AHL. Pulkkinen should be a favorite for AHL MVP next season if he somehow finds himself down in Grand Rapids for more than half the season. Having seen him play a couple of times, Pulkkinen is the real deal.

Manning The Nest

The Edmonton Oilers named the coaching staff for the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday as Gerry Fleming was named head coach and Jean-Francois Houle and Tony Borgford were named as assistant coaches. Oilers assistant general manager Bill Scott will serve as the Condors' general manager while Josh Bennett was named as head athletic trainer, Al Oman was named as head equipment manager, and Patrick Love was named as head strength and conditioning coach.

Fleming took over for Todd Nelson after his promotion to Edmonton, leading the Barons to the second-round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. He was an assistant coach in Springfield before joining the Barons as an assistant coach in 2010. He's also spent time with Fredericton and Quebec as part of the Montreal organization as well as coaching in the ECHL.

Houle was Bakersfield's head coach last season, and will remain as part of the Condors family. Borgford was an assistant coach with the Barons last season and will move to California to continue his role with the club.

"We are thrilled to announce our hockey operations staff, led by head coach Gerry Fleming, who will be a tremendous leader in Bakersfield," said Scott. "Gerry's attention to detail and ability to develop our young players made him a natural fit to return as head coach, By adding JF Houle as assistant coach and with the return of assistant coach Tony Borgford, we believe we have a tremendous coaching staff ready to take the Condors to the next level."

That's all for today's Banter. Let's hope that the Moose can do something - anything - in the next week to make Antler Banter a little more relevant to photo at the top.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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