Sean Couturier

A lockout could make things complicated between AHL, junior hockey


Travis Hughes and Jeff Marek batted around an interesting tidbit today: the NHL’s transfer agreement with the CHL reportedly expired.

Theoretically, Hughes explains that 19-year-old junior hockey players could play in the AHL without a CBA in place, as opposed to the current rule that calls for a minimum age of 20.

In that scenario, prospects would get the chance to develop outside of the NHL but at a higher level of competition than in the CHL.

That potential boon for promising younger players and NHL teams might be for naught, though.

Marek reports that the CHL “expects the AHL to honor” the typical transfer agreement, avoiding a potential “flood of 19-year-olds” into the AHL.

In the grand scheme of things it might seem like a minute issue, but Hughes explains why the usual rule can inhibit certain players’ growth – and how the setup doesn’t always work out as well as it did for Sean Couturier last season.

For most players of his ilk, though, the answer doesn’t lie in the NHL or in juniors. Largely, these players are not yet ready to jump from the junior ranks straight to the NHL, nor are they suited to return to a Major Junior league in which they utterly dominate their competition.

… These types of players really are suited for the AHL. There, they can get used to the rigors of professional hockey against other grown men — not teenagers like they’d otherwise dominate in Major Junior — without the added pressures of NHL competition they are not ready for. But the rules prevent them from doing so, and it either forces NHL clubs to stagnate their growth or rush them along to the NHL too soon.

Marek’s findings indicate that it will remain the status quo, though.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.