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Former Solar Bears on the move in NHL free agency

Tuesday, July 26th
Former Solar Bears on the move in NHL free agency

It’s been almost two weeks since NHL free agency officially opened, and a few Solar Bears alumni have found new homes and NHL contracts.

Among some of the more prominent blockbusters on the NHL transaction wire are a newly-minted Stanley Cup champion netminder and a forward cashing in on a big payday after a breakout season.

Read on to see who’s signed where, along with some information about a potential goaltender that may be bound for Orlando next season.

MARCHMENT HEADS WEST

After spending the entirety of his professional hockey career playing for teams in the Eastern Time Zone, Mason Marchment is moving to the Lone Star State after inking a four-year deal worth an average of $4.5 million per season with the Dallas Stars.

In his second full campaign on an NHL roster, Marchment put up 47 points in 54 games, including a six-point game on Jan. 31 at Columbus, the most by a former ECHL player in the NHL.

FROM CUP TO CAPITAL

Only weeks removed from lifting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, Darcy Kuemper found himself as arguably the biggest free-agent goaltender available before signing a five-year deal worth $5.25 million annually with the Washington Capitals.

Kuemper incidentally joins a goaltending depth chart that includes fellow former Solar Bears goaltender Zachary Fucale, who made his NHL debut last season and will likely be the No. 1 goalie for the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Fucale would theoretically be next in-line for a call-up in the event Kuemper or backup Charlie Lindgren sustains an injury.

HUNTINGTON RE-UPS WITH PREDS

While technically not an unrestricted free agent by virtue of receiving a qualifying offer on July 11, Jimmy Huntington officially committed to at least one more season within the Nashville Predators organization when he signed his qualifying offer on July 13.

The forward was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a mid-season trade, posting 23 points in 34 games for Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

At the time of publication, two former Solar Bears who spent last season under NHL contract and were on a major league roster at some point during the season remain available on the open market, as goaltenders Garret Sparks (L.A. Kings) and Christopher Gibson (Florida Panthers) have yet to sign. Defenseman Devante Stephens, who spent the entirety of 2021-22 in the AHL with the Abbotsford Canucks, was not given a qualifying offer by Vancouver, rendering him a free agent.

At the AHL level, there are a handful of former Solar Bears who have changed zip codes for the 2022-23 season as well. Forward Ryan Lohin (2019-21) has moved from an AHL-based deal with the Seattle Kraken to the Hartford Wolf Pack, meaning it’s possible Solar Bears fans could see Lohin lacing up the skates for the rival Jacksonvile Icemen, while defenseman Alex Green (2020-21) has gone north of the border on an AHL contract with the Laval Rocket after spending the last two seasons under NHL contract with Tampa Bay.

It should be noted that the Syracuse Crunch made a roster addition on Monday that could affect the Solar Bears for the 2022-23 season, as the AHL squad inked goaltender Jack LaFontaine to a one-year deal. LaFontaine had the rare distinction of playing in the college ranks, ECHL, AHL and NHL last season after making the jump to the pro ranks midway through the year when he signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, the team that had originally drafted him.

Why is LaFontaine’s signing relevant for Orlando? The Lightning currently have four goaltenders already under contract for the upcoming season, making LaFontaine - the 2021 Mike Richter Award winner as the top goalie in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota - a depth signing that will buffer Syracuse in the event a goalie within the Lightning pipeline suffers an injury. Given those circumstances, it can be presumed that LaFontaine will see some action with the Solar Bears.

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