It’s early Monday morning and Kansas City Mavericks second-year coach John-Scott Dickson is on the phone in his office, visiting with a former member of the Kansas City Mavericks, who he hopes will return for the upcoming ECHL season.
“We’ve make contact with a lot of free agents and guys who were on American League two-way contracts – made a lot of contacts and now, the waiting process begins,” Dickson said.
“Guys are looking for certain contracts. We’re pitching what we have to offer in our area to let them know how we can help them. Talked to players from last year’s team, now go through qualifying offers on July 1. We can make eight of those and then we go on building our team.”
The Mavericks released the team’s season-ending roster for the 2016-17 ECHL season last Friday.
Season-ending rosters include up to 20 players, but cannot include any players who did not sign an ECHL contract in 2016-17.
The Mavericks roster includes Josh Robinson, Zach Nagelvoort, Zach Tolkinen, Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel, Alex Brooks, Stephen Silas, Rocco Carzo, Dan Correale, Matt Robertson, Justin Breton, Jared VanWormer, Shawn Pauly, Dane Fox, Andrew Courtney, Radoslav Illo and Darren Nowick.
Each team may reserve the rights to a maximum of eight players from the list of 20 by extending a qualifying offer no later than July 1. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four can be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the 2017-18 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded. Teams are not required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract prior to July 1.
The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until Aug. 1. Then the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player retain the rights to that qualified player for one season.
“I think our fans are going to like the way we’re building our team for the upcoming season,” Dickson said. “We’re going after some big-name players – guys who can score, and some guys who can make a difference defensively.”
When asked about being in the same division with teams like Allen and Colorado, who have combined for four consecutive championships (Allen with the last two in the ECHL and one in the now defunct CHL and Colorado, the 2016-2017 ECHL champion), Dickson said he and general manager Brent Thiessen and owner Lamar Hunt Jr., are attempting to build a team that can be physical, yet play solid hockey.
“You have to have the scorers and the skaters and a guy who gets it done in the net, but we want to have a presence on the ice, a physical presence, for when we play teams like Allen and Colorado,” he said. “They are so talented – but they are physical and aggressive.
“I thought our team last year showed a lot of grit and toughness late in the season. We really came together when we got players on the ice who were playing for the Mavericks and not the names on the back of their jerseys. We had a presence on the ice when we played Allen late and a lot of that had to do with Jacob Doty (who will not be a part of the team this season because he is signed with the St. Louis Blues organization and the Mavericks are no longer associated with the Blues).
“That’s the type of player we’re looking for, and we’ve had some great responses from the players we’ve contacted.”
The Mavericks had a two-year affiliation with the New York Islanders and an affiliation with the Blues last season. This year, they will be affiliated with the NHL’s Calgary Flames and their AHL Stockton Heat team.
“The Heat are really busy now with the expansion draft, which is Friday, and the NHL draft, which is next week June 23-24),” Dickson said. “Hoodie (assistant coach Kyle Hood) and I are going to Chicago for the draft to make some contacts and visit with some coaches. It should be a great learning experience for both of us.”
Many Mavericks fans are interested in the team’s approach to signing veteran players. A team that extends a qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until Aug. 1.
After Aug. 1, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, they will be restricted free agents and able to seek and secure offers from other ECHL teams.
Restricted free agents may not be traded. When a restricted free agent receives a contract offer from a team other than the team with the player’s rights, and the restricted free agent wishes to accept the contract offer, the restricted free agent and the offering member must agree to contract terms within 24 hours. The ECHL also must be notified along with the team with the player’s rights and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. The team with the player’s rights will have seven days after the date it is notified to exercise its right to match the contract offer.
If a restricted free agent does not sign an offer sheet or a contract to an ECHL team by Aug. 31, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.
“Some guys take the chance and wait to sign,” Dickson said. “That can be good or bad for the player. We’re hoping to get our guys signed, get them in camp and get ready for the season.”