When the Komets open training camp for their 60th consecutive season – and that will probably be Oct. 10 – they could have as many as 35 players on their roster.
And that would be their biggest collection of players since anyone can remember.
“We decided that we need to have more competition in camp,” said general manager David Franke, who is in the midst of recruiting players, along with coach Al Sims and captain Colin Chaulk.
“We need to have guys pushing other guys and not feeling like they have a job all locked up, so they can come in out of shape and overweight and all that. We’re going to have competition. … If there’s a guy coming in who’s better than who we had last year, they will make the team. It will be a very competitive camp.”
The Komets expect to have only about eight players back from last season’s team, including forwards Chaulk, P.C. Drouin and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, defenseman Craig Cescon and goaltender Nick Boucher, all of whom have already signed contracts.
The Komets have made qualifying offers to all-star defenseman Frankie DeAngelis, forwards Tab Lardner and Artem Podshendyalov, and defenseman Dustin Molle. They hope to re-sign all of those except, perhaps, Lardner, who may retire or ask to be dealt to Missouri, where he lives.
Therefore, ties are being severed with some longtime Komets – Mathieu Curadeau, Leo Thomas, Sean O’Connor and Brandon Warner – though some spots may reopen later in the summer for familiar Komets. Young forwards Chris Auger and Todd McIlrath have already been added to the Fort Wayne fold.
“There are a zillion players out there right now,” Franke said, noting that roughly 80 players became suddenly available when Odessa, Mississippi, Colorado and champion Bossier-Shreveport all left the CHL this summer.
“We’re working on acquiring some players from those teams. We’re talking to a lot of those kids. We still want to get younger, aggressive and up-tempo, and youth brings that to the table. We’re hard at work.”
It appears that the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets won’t be helping, as the affiliation agreement between the Blue Jackets and Komets won’t be renewed after lasting one season.
The most notable player Columbus sent was defenseman Michael Ratchuk, who had three goals and 16 points in 30 games, and whom the Komets hope to re-sign if he doesn’t catch on with an American Hockey League team this summer. Other than that, the Blue Jackets sent only forward Chris Francis and defenseman Steven Delisle, and they played only 38 combined games.
Note: Former Komets player Bruce Richardson, who coached Scotland’s Braehead Clan last season, has taken the reins with the Châteauguay Midget AAA Grenadiers in Canada.