The Kalamazoo Wings have become the arduous process of putting their team back together for the upcoming ECHL season. Building a team at this level is quite different than what NHL teams go through in the off-season. With no draft and or long-term contracts teams in the ECHL have to put together a roster almost from scratch every summer.
First up, the K-Wings announced that they had re-signed veteran defender Kyle Bushee. The 32-year-old had 31 points in 56 games in his first season with Kalamazoo. A native of Otsego, Michigan who attended Western Michigan, Bushee has appeared in 524 ECHL games.
Then on Monday the team announced the names of the seven players who played for them in the previous season that received qualifying offers on June 30th. Rights and contracts can be a bit convoluted in the ECHL so please bear with us as we try to explain what exactly this means.
The qualifying offers extended to the players are valid until August 1st. After the 1st, the offer become, in the words of the ECHL website, “null and void”. Kalamazoo can then choose to make any offer to the player they want to or do nothing.
When they submit a qualifying offer to a non-veteran player (defined as having less than 260 regular season professional games) they retain the rights to that player for a year. All of the players that the K-Wings extended offers to fall into that category so there is no need to confuse the issue more and start talking about what happens to veteran players.
Dajon Mingo (96 games played)
Peter Schneider (135 games)
Josh Pitt (49 games)
Tyler Biggs (187 games)
Anthony Camara (213 games)
Lane Scheidl (249 games)
Eric Scheid (52 games)
The majority of those players will most likely sign with Kalamazoo and return to the team. Mingo is coming off of a season-ending broken foot and is looking to improve his game at a professional level. Schneider was the K-Wings hottest player at the end of the stretch and Josh Pitt had a strong post-season. Scheidl put up 51 points in his third season with the the team and should be one of their top contributors in the upcoming year.
There is a chance that the other three players might not return to the team. Scheid was the player to be named later in a trade with Kansas City and never suited up for Kalamazoo. Last month, Rapaces de Gap of the French league announced that they had signed the Minnesota native.
After playing 25 games with the K-Wings, Anthony Camara ended last season with St. John’s of the AHL and most likely will find a suitor in that league. While Tyler Biggs didn’t get an AHL shot in 2016-17 his play with K-Wings and his pedigree as a former NHL first round pick might earn him a chance to work his way back up the ladder.
Even if Nick Bootland doesn’t expect those three gentlemen to return to the K-Wings, retaining their rights does give him some flexibility. Should they fail to find gainful employment in their other leagues, Kalamazoo has the chance to enjoy their services for another season. They could also package their rights in a deal with another ECHL team (after August 1st) to bring back an actual player.
There is still a long way to go in the next 100 days for the K-Wings to put together the team that will take the ice against Cincinnati on October 14th to open the season. There will be a lot of returning faces, but there might also be a lot more names that Lightning fans are familiar with as the organization should see an influx of young players at all levels.
ECHL teams are allowed to have up to 30 players on their roster in training camp, but must trim it down to 21 players by the start of the season. Stay tuned here to find out about the latest news (and hopefully an announcement extending the affiliation as well).