One of the things Komets coach Gary Graham said he wanted to emphasize this season was offense from the blue line, so it’s not surprising that they locked down two of their top offensive defensemen among their first batch of signings for 2017-18.
Today, the Komets re-signed Jason Binkley and Ryan Lowney, along with forward Mason Baptista.
"All three players announced today will be important contributing players for the Komets next season," general manager David Franke said. "Jason Binkley and Ryan Lowney will be important defensemen who we will look to for offense from the blue line, 5-on-5 and on the power play. Mason Baptista has the potential to score 20-plus goals in this league with regular ice time. It's a good start to the Komets' recruiting season."
The Komets, who were 45-19-8 for the fourth-best record in the ECHL’s regular season, beat Quad City in the first round of the playoffs and then lost to the division rival Toledo Walleye.
Binkley, 25, had seven goals and 44 points in 67 regular-season games, then added one goal and three points in 10 playoff games. In 119 ECHL games, he has nine goals and 53 points.
Lowney, 23, played 14 games as a rookie out of Ferris State and totaled one goal and six points. In the postseason, he added four assists in eight games.
Baptista, 27, had 16 goals and 30 points in 56 games, then totaled two assists in five postseason games. In 71 regular-season games with Fort Wayne, he has 20 goals and 39 points.
The Komets will open the regular season – their 66th – Oct. 14 against the Walleye at Memorial Coliseum.
Earlier in the day, the Komets unveiled their season-ending roster that could include up to 20 players. They can retain the rights to up to eight of those players by extending them qualifying offers by July 1, though that’s not necessary for players who have already signed a contract.
The Komets protected goaltenders Pat Nagle and Garrett Bartus, defensemen Binkley, Lowney, Curtis Leonard, Bobby Shea, Dan Milan, Will Weber and Cody Sol, and forwards Baptista, Taylor Crunk, Mike Cazzola, Gabriel Desjardins, Shawn Szydlowski, Jamie Schaafsma, Kyle Thomas, Travis Ewanyk, Brett Perlini, Trevor Cheek and Garrett Thompson.
The notable players left off the list were forward Mike Embach, who has played four seasons with Fort Wayne, and defenseman Kyle Follmer.
Embach had 18 goals and 51 points in 61 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he had one goal and three points in 10 games. Because the Komets can only have four players of veteran status, and their roster of last season has seven such players, Embach’s departure was expected. He could still re-sign, but he can now negotiate with other teams.
Follmer had four goals and 13 points in 39 games, then one assist in two playoff games.