Komets general manager David Franke knows the fans are getting a little antsy. With the nucleus of last season’s team, which was one goal from making it to the Kelly Cup finals, having bolted for contracts in Europe, the Komets have yet to retool.
Without a hint of nervousness, Franke preached tonight for patience. He and coach Gary Graham don’t want to rush to replace Shawn Szydlowski, the ECHL’s leading scorer and MVP last season, team MVP Gabriel Desjardins, Garrett Thompson, Curtis Leonard and more.
They want the right guys.
“It’s all a process. Every summer, it’s a process,” Franke said. “Maybe the process to some fans right now is not as quick as they would like, but we have a lot of holes to fill and we want to make sure we do our work and get the right guy or guys to fill those roles that we lost.
“I think our fans know we’ve had the same core guys, and by this time last year they were all signed and it takes awhile (to rebuild). Everybody else is after the good players, too, and the process is taking a little longer than some would like. That’s the way it is this summer and there’s no cause for alarm at all.”
The Komets, who have nine players under contract, have re-signed their captain, Jamie Schaafsma, have a solid foundation on the blue line with Cody Sol, Jason Binkley, Ryan Lowney and newcomer Kevin Gibson, and have a top-notch No. 2 goalie in Lukas Hafner, who helped Colorado to the last two Kelly Cups.
They continue to negotiate with Michael Houser, who was one of the ECHL’s best goalies last season, going 28-11-0 with a 2.73 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts, before winning 10 of 13 playoff games with a .914 SP.
“He did a great job for us last year and we trust him,” Franke said. “He’s still available.”
Garrett Bartus, who had been Houser’s backup, is expected to sign with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
The Komets are also talking to forward Marco Roy, though he’s hoping to land a contract in the higher-level American Hockey League.
If the Komets land an affiliation with the NHL team, it could send talent their way. The Komets’ affiliation with the Arizona Coyotes lasted only one season. Franke confirmed the Komets remain in talks with both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators, and both might be particularly promising because their AHL affiliates are nearby in Chicago and Milwaukee, respectively.
“I have a strong feeling we will get something done,” Franke said. “But it’s just taking time. Last year, we didn’t sign the deal with … Arizona until late July so I’m hopeful that something’s going to happen for us, something positive.”