Mavericks sign rookie, extend qualifying offers to seven

Bill Althaus
The Kansas City Mavericks signed rookie defenseman Luke Bafia of Western Michigan University and extended qualifying offers to seven other players Wednesday.

It’s been another busy day for Kansas City Mavericks president and general manager Brent Thiessen and Tad O’Had, the team’s new head coach and director of hockey operations.

The ECHL team announced the signing of another rookie Wednesday afternoon, adding defenseman Luke Bafia out of Western Michigan. The Mavericks signed defenseman Tommy Muck of Bemidji State on Monday.

The Mavericks also released the names of seven players who received a qualifying offer from the team by the June 30 deadline.

Those players are defenseman Kevin McKernan, forward Charlie O'Connor, left wing Mitchell Vanderlaan, right wing Matt Schmalz, forward Michael Parks, left wing Jack Walker and right wing Sam Kurker.

Players who had already signed a contract by June 30 did not need to receive a qualifying offer.

“Obviously those players have received a qualifying offer, and now it’s up to us to sign them to agreements,” Thiessen said. “It’s really an exciting time for our franchise. After what seems like forever, things are heating up with these announcements, and many more to come.”

Each team was entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight qualified players. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four could be veterans (260 regular-season professional hockey games played at the AA level or higher as of the start of the upcoming 2020-21 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded.

The qualifying offer remains open for acceptance until July 16, when it becomes voided. The team may then sign the qualified player to any salary or can take no more action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player retain the rights to that player for one season.

O’Had, who has said that youth will be an important part of this year’s team, is excited about the signing of Bafia.

“Luke was a tremendous asset at Western Michigan,” O’Had said. “He plays with jam and grit. He’s willing to block shots and play on the edge. He was coached extremely well by Andy Murray at WMU and was a successful junior player.”

Bafia, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound native of Parrish, Florida, comes off of a strong senior year for the Broncos, compiling 11 points on one goal and 10 assists to go with a plus-10 plus-minus rating.

The 24-year-old played junior hockey with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL and Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the NAHL.

“We’re looking for the right mix of players,” O’Had said. “Luke’s a tough, physical player with a team-first mentality. He breaks out pucks very well and has a heavy shot from the point. Our fans will love his rugged style of play.”

Of the qualifying players, all but Parks and Kurker finished last season with the Mavericks. Parks, a St. Louis native, finished the 2019-20 season with HKM Zvolen of the Slovak pro league after 18 games with the Mavericks, tallying five goals and seven assists. He had 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 16 games in Slovakia.

Kurker totaled 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in 32 games with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel and added an assist in 11 games with the Mavericks’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat.

McKernan totaled 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 56 games with the Mavericks last season. O’Connor had three points (2 goals, 1 assist) in 13 games; Vanderlaan totaled five points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 14 games; Schmalz had 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 20 games; and Walker had 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists) in 25 games with the Mavericks.