PRINCETON, N.J. – The first five days of free agency in the National Hockey League have seen 27 former ECHL players sign contracts totaling more than $40 million.
The Dallas Stars signed three former ECHL players to contracts totaling $16.4 million. Former ECHL All-Star Michael Ryder, who was a member of the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, signed a two-year deal worth $7 million, former Arkansas and Roanoke center Vern Fiddler agreed to a three-year contract worth $5.4 million and former Las Vegas defenseman Adam Pardy signed a two-year deal worth $4 million. Former Las Vegas head coach Glen Gulutzan, who was the ECHL Coach of the Year in 2006, was named head coach of the Stars last month.
The Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League had affiliations with 27 of the 30 teams in the NHL in 2010-11, marking the 14th consecutive season that the league has had affiliations with at least 20 teams. There have been 467 players who have played in the NHL after the ECHL and 211 who have made their debut in the last six seasons. Twenty-three former ECHL players made their NHL debut in 2010-11, and four players played in both the ECHL and NHL: Mike Brodeur (Elmira and Ottawa), Thomas McCollum (Toledo and Detroit), Timo Pielmeier (Elmira and Anaheim) and Yann Sauve (Victoria and Vancouver).
Former ECHL player and current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was selected as NHL Coach of the Year in 2010-11. He is one of seven head coaches in the National Hockey League who have an ECHL background. The ECHL is represented on the Stanley Cup champion for the 11th consecutive season with Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward, players Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley and Tim Thomas, radio broadcaster Dave Goucher and scout Tom McVie. Thomas is the first former ECHL player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were 34 former players and 19 coaches on the 16 teams competing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, marking the sixth year in a row that there have been at least 30 former ECHL players and the eighth consecutive season that over 25 players with ECHL experience have competed in the NHL postseason.
Former Lexington goaltender and 2003 ECHL All-Star Mike Smith signed a two-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes worth $4 million while Andrew Brunette, who became the first ECHL alum to play in 1,000 NHL games when he reached the milestone with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 1, 2011, signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks worth $2 million.
Former Wheeling goaltender Tomas Vokoun signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $1.5 million while former Trenton right wing Ruslan Fedotenko re-signed with the New York Rangers for $1.4 million. Former Baton Rouge goaltender Johan Hedberg re-signed with New Jersey for $1.25 million.
Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League Fast Facts
• Watch games live on America One, the “Official Broadband & Mobile Broadcaster” of the ECHL.
• The ECHL celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2007-08 and is the third-longest tenured professional hockey league behind only the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
• ECHL began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states and has grown to be a coast-to-coast league with 20 teams in 16 states for 2010-11.
• The league officially changed its name from East Coast Hockey League to ECHL on May 19, 2003.
• ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 30 teams in the American Hockey League and for the past 22 years there has been an ECHL player on the Calder Cup Champion.
• In the last seven seasons the ECHL has had more call-ups to the AHL than all other professional leagues combined with over 3,000 call-ups involving more than 1,500 players and in 2010-11 there were 10 times as many call-ups from the ECHL to the AHL than all other professional leagues.
• Further information on the ECHL is available from its website at ECHL.com.