Vegas Goaltender Signings Add To AHL Uncertainty For St. Louis
With free agency news settling down as the summer progresses, this is the time of year that teams fill out their rosters and acquire depth for the upcoming season.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, this is even more important. Not only are they building an entire roster from scratch – they also have to find players to ice on their new AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Despite the addition of the Golden Knights, there will only be 30 AHL franchises next season. The St. Louis Blues have entered an agreement to place their minor-league players and share roster space with Vegas. The Blues were the previous affiliate for the Wolves before their deal expired at the end of the season.
This makes the most recent goaltending signings by Vegas extra intriguing.
They inked Maxime Lagace, a former Dallas Stars farmhand, to a one-year, $650,000 deal and announced that Oscar Dansk is making his way back to North America on a one-year, two-way contract. Dansk originally went pro after his career with the Erie Otters of the OHL came to an end, but had spent the previous two seasons on loan in the Swedish Elite League. He was originally drafted 31st overall in 2012 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Matters will become complicated when it is time to start placing players and figuring out playing time. Three Blues goaltenders suited up for the Wolves in 2016-17: Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso, and Pheonix Copley. Copley has been traded to the Washington Capitals, so he is no longer in the picture, but the Blues have youngster Luke Opilka of the Kitchener Rangers turning pro next season.
With Lagace, Dansk, Binnington, Husso, and Opilka all in the picture, something has to give.
One option will be for St. Louis to place two of their goaltenders in the ECHL. There’s one problem with that: The Blues don’t have an official ECHL affiliate as of yet. They had a working agreement in place with the Missouri Mavericks last season, but that deal also expired, and the team has since announced an affiliation with the Calgary Flames.
There is still time to announce a new affiliate, but if they don’t, only one option remains. The Blues could start loaning out their minor league players to different teams across the AHL and ECHL. This is less than ideal, because the Blues will have no control over their usage or ice time. Minor league teams generally take on loans to fill out their roster, or add depth in case of injury.
This is likely only a one-year plan as the Blues look for a new affiliate for the 2018-19 season, but it’s a crucial year for their excellent crop of young goaltenders.
If Binnington, Husso, and Opilka aren’t playing enough, that could severely impact their development. This is likely only a one-year plan as the Blues look for a new affiliate for the 2018-19 season, but it’s a crucial year for their excellent crop of young goaltenders.
Right now, Vegas holds the cards. They have complete control over ice time and developmental opportunities. With four intriguing goaltenders in their system, and two new junior prospects in Maxim Zhukov and Dylan Ferguson, they have quickly become a franchise to keep an eye on.