The Komets are close to finalizing an affiliation agreement with an NHL team, which should be a boon to Fort Wayne’s roster for this season. And the Komets may need it after missing out on re-signing Brady Shaw, who was voted MVP by his teammates last season.
Fort Wayne’s general manager, David Franke, confirmed that Shaw has signed to play in Denmark for the Esbjerg Energy.
While lucrative offers from European teams are always attractive to players, many were hesitant earlier in the summer about going overseas because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Franke said he’s noticed an uptick in overseas interest from players recently, though, since they haven’t been paid since March and the number of COVID-19 cases have been spiking in the U.S.
“I think (Shaw) was our best player last year. So, yeah, it's definitely a loss, but I understand where he's coming from and I can't fault him on it,” Franke said. “He’s got to do what’s best for him, as all the guys will that go over there. If he wants to come back here, we’ll take him for sure, but right now he’s scheduled for Denmark.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other players – not only from our team, but other teams – that are to the point where they want to get going and don’t want to wait until October or later to play.”
The Komets maintain the rights to Shaw until next summer. They also have made contract offers to all-star Shawn St-Amant and Brett McKenzie, though both have been hoping for American Hockey League deals.
Despite not having Shaw (27 goals, 62 points in 48 games last season), St-Amant (18 goals, 31 points in 29 game) or McKenzie (23 goals, 60 points in 56 games), the Komets’ roster is loaded so far with 17 players including: Shawn Szydlowski, Marco Roy, A.J. Jenks, Anthony Petruzzelli, Olivier Galipeau, Kyle Haas and Blake Siebenaler.
The season is scheduled to begin Oct. 16 at Indianapolis, depending on the status of COVID-19, including social-distancing guidelines that could make it difficult to get enough fans into arenas to make it financially feasible.
The lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League announced Tuesday it has pushed its season until December. The ECHL’s Board of Governors will meet next week to discuss whether it will keep targeting an October start, which could mean playing without players on NHL or AHL contracts for weeks or months depending on when those leagues choose to start up.
Asked about the status of an affiliation agreement, Franke said: “I'm not going to say with who, but we're getting very close to a final agreement."
Last season, the Komets were affiliated with the Vegas Golden Knights and had a less-formal working agreement with the Los Angeles Kings. The Komets would like to work with only one team next season – both Vegas and L.A. have been in the mix – so that Fort Wayne has more control over its roster and less player movement to and from the AHL.
While Fort Wayne has rookie goaltender Stefanos Lekkas under contract, an affiliate would provide at least one more netminder, who would be on an NHL or AHL contract.
“Especially with everything in flux at our level and at the NHL and AHL levels – of course, the NHL is going to try and play the (2019-20) playoffs still here – everything in the (affiliation) agreement is important to us,” Franke said. “From the goaltending, to the number of players who come here, to the number of training camp spots (we get for our players at AHL camps), all that kind of stuff is important.”