Firstly, a belated Happy Mother’s Day. Hope you all had the chance to catch up with family and, for you Sconnies, enjoy some of the outstanding weather we finally had this weekend.
We’ve hit into which members of the Milwaukee Admirals will be upcoming free agents. We have also taken a peak into who is on next season’s radar (and beyond) as far as new blood is concerned. There will almost certainly be members of that restricted free agent list, possibly even unrestricted free agent list, due back for the 2014-15 Admirals season. Curious as to how that whole free agent process works out? I say give this link a gander.
The question I have for you all today is this. Out of the list of restricted and unrestricted free agents – who do you think this team needs the most?
Restricted Free Agents
Taylor Beck: I feel he is coming off of his best professional season. He played strong two-way hockey, could log lots of minutes in various situations, and was really a consistent performer start to finish.
Anthony Bitetto: His season started off red hot offensively but seemed to cool half way through the season. His defense was spotty at times but did look better as the season wore on.
Joonas Jarvinen: He started the year with an injury and also missed some time in the late stages to due the dreaded “upper-body” injury. When he was on the ice he was one of the Admirals best defensive defensemen. He’s big, physical, and seemed to elevate his game from the previous 2012-13 season.
Simon Moser: I feel like his game really shined during the Olympics and the brief time he had in the NHL afterwards. He might not thrill too much on offense but he is sound defensively and has some good skill. It’s still a shame that the IceHogs injured him during that outstanding stretch of games for him.
Joonas Rask: I actually think there are some slight comparatives with Rask to Moser. Differences? Moser is ahead of him offensively but the two player solid defense from the wings and Rask may have been one of the fastest skaters in Milwaukee this past season. There was a learning curve for him adjusting from the European style rinks to the North American game – but he still played rather well on a low-line role.
Charles-Olivier Roussel: He worked his way on the roster from camp and into the lineup time-and-time again. I think he wasn’t too far behind Bryan Rodney in terms of skill set and, to be honest, was more reliable on defense. The question you have to ask is whether or not he’s playing to his ceiling or if there is yet another level to his game that we could see next season?
Scott Valentine: His season ended with shoulder surgery but his combination with Scott Ford was as good of a shutdown d-pair as the team had to offer. I feel we’ve seen a lot of what he can and cannot do in his three-seasons in Milwaukee (he was even an ace on color commentary with Aaron Sims during the playoffs). I do think that the young defensemen coming in for next season means limited room for left shooting d-men. It could be that Bitetto gets tabbed for a role over him when it is all said and done.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Paul Crowder: 29-years old. Played practically his entire season at the ECHL level. Has 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists), 34 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of -8 from 106 career AHL games. Unlikely to be re-signed? Unlikely.
Scott Darling: If not for the lack of games and minutes he would be right there in all major AHL goaltending categories for his 2013-14 efforts. I think he has earned himself a two-way NHL deal or a minimum of an AHL deal elsewhere. The Predators seem like they’ll make a push to keep Carter Hutton. Add to the fact they have Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg and you are left exactly where the Admirals were at the start of the season before all the injury news surfaced. I doubt we see Darling return as an Admiral next season – but I expect him to play elsewhere in the AHL.
Scott Ford: A team without the Sheriff sure would be strange right? The 2012-13 season started off that way but, with a veteran-max issue in Peoria, we brought him back. I wonder what the future holds for him. Watching his work in-person I felt his regular season was alright. Watching him play in the playoffs against Toronto and I feel as if he was getting beaten to areas of the ice a defenseman shouldn’t. The pace was lacking and therefore his greatest asset, keeping the play in front of him to defend and use his strength in-tight, was gone. Were he to return next season he would be 35-years old by Christmas. It makes you wonder just how much more is left in the tank.
Mike Liambas: There isn’t much to not like about his work rate this season. Yes, he did his share of fighting (25 in total). But, I was real happy to see his other abilities come to the surface. As Pekka Rinne said, “he’s a warrior.”
Joe Piskula: He may have been the best all-around defenseman on the Admirals this season. 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists) and a plus/minus rating of +20. He always seemed really smooth and under control. As veteran d-men returning are concerned I feel he might be top man on the list.
Bryan Rodney: A veteran puck moving d-man and one that gave Admirals fans plenty to love and hate – making his alias the Thunderdome. As far as next season’s defense is concerned there are lots of young players coming in the mix with the space for a veteran being either useful or tough to find a place for. When it comes to Thunderdome – I think it will be hard to find a place for him.
Vinny Saponari: How good was this guy last season? 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 58 games. He may not have started the season off where he wanted to but once he left Cincinnati in November he never looked back.
Mathieu Tousignant: The pesky pest, French chrip-o-matic, and always entertaining Tousi provided plenty of energy to the team this season. He skates fast, has shown some amazing skill in shootouts, and really brings the type of all-around fight that you want from the lower lines on your team.
Francis Wathier: Alright, technically he is the Texas Stars’ free agent because he was “loaned” to the Admirals but still. He added a real nice element to the team that I felt they lacked. He was a big body forward that could play wing or center and was comfortable in all game situations because of his great veteran maturity.
Out of the names above, who should return and who should be let go? Do you feel like this was the final playing season for Scott Ford in Milwaukee? Are there other players that you would be interested seeing the Admirals add as a free agent next season?