David Walker on going to Germany.

The Reign are officially in the market for a new number-one defenseman and captain.

David Walker (and his wife and unborn baby) will be leaving in August for the Schwennigen Wild Wings of the German Bundesliga. He talked about the new adventure, and why he’s committed to Europe for the first time in his pro career after contemplating retirement at age 32:
Continue reading “David Walker on going to Germany.” »

Reign announce season-ending roster.

The Reign have announced their season-ending roster, a list of 20 players of whom eight can be tendered qualifying offers no later than July 1:

Jordan Hill, Jase Weslosky, Jordan Morrison, Kyle Kraemer, Jason Fredricks, C.J. Stretch, Aaron Lewadniuk, Beau Erickson, Pat Bowen, Luke Beaverson, James McEwan, Brett O’Malley, Lane Caffaro, Craig Gaudet, Alex Bourret, Doug Krantz, Kellen Briggs, Chaz Johnson, David Walker and Matt Delahey.

Of the players who finished 2010-11 with the Reign, six are missing from the list:

• Forward Michael Pelech, who was assigned to the Reign by the Manchester Monarchs.

• Five veterans (as defined by the ECHL): Shawn Collymore, Shawn Germain, Jon Francisco, Chad Starling and Justin Taylor. Reign coach Karl Taylor has stated that he doesn’t send qualifying offers to veterans out of principle, since they can decline the offer and become a free agent without any possible compensation to the Reign.

Walker is a veteran. But the captain said that he expects to play in Europe next season [more on this in a future blog], so a qualifying offer sent to him would probably come with little consequence.

Also, note that teams are not required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract prior to July 1.

All the ECHL season-ending rosters can be found here.

Walker to Germany, and an important day tomorrow. Update.

Thanks to reader Dan for discovering this story out of Germany from Sunday indicating that David Walker signed with a team in the Bundesliga, the second-highest league in Germany. The defenseman will be joining the Schwennigen Wild Wings, the defending third-place team in the league.

Walker had a brief stint with the Iserlohn Roosters of the Deutsch Elite League a year ago before returning to Ontario. He went on to lead all Reign blue-liners in points (38) and penalty minutes (108) while playing 69 games in 2010-11.

The captain, who turned 32 on Monday, had been contemplating retirement, but it now appears he’ll be giving Europe another shot this season.

8:27 a.m. update: Walker confirmed he’s leaving for Germany on August 8.

Tomorrow, ECHL teams can begin signing players who were not listed on any of the league’s protected lists. The Reign may be able to bring in a few European players who have been away from North America for a year or two, but any impact players signed tomorrow are more likely to come from colleges and junior leagues across North America.

We’ll learn their names in the coming months.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back David Walker?

The rundown on defenseman David Walker:

2010-11 stats [career]: 5 goals, 38 points, 106 penalty minutes, minus-18 rating in 43 games.

Quote: “Now my wife’s pregnant, so there’s more than just thinking about her and I. It’s thinking about what’s best for the three of us, the four of us with the dog.”

Pros: Walker was never 100 percent all season but still led all Reign blueliners in points, penalty minutes and, unofficially, ice time. In addition to his perseverance and leadership, Walker brings most of the hockey skills that a defenseman can be taught — roughly everything other than blazing speed and a blazing shot.

Cons: It seems like Walker, who turned 32 Monday, is leaning toward retirement. If he does come back, the captain will be most effective if he can fight, something he couldn’t do often in 2010-11 because of a thumb injury sustained in Game 1. The Reign would prefer that he not show his age, too.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Shawn Germain?

The rundown on defenseman Shawn Germain:

2010-11 stats [career]: 4 goals, 14 points, 23 penalty minutes, minus-14 rating in 43 games.

Quote: “I don’t want to be a guy that keeps saying, ‘yeah I’m done,’ then come back. I already did that once. I think one of the things this year has taught me is never count things out. I can never say I’ll never play another game of pro hockey.”

Pros: Germain’s steady, veteran presence allowed him to play a huge role upon his return to Ontario last December. He wound up with four goals – a career high – and a surprise promotion to the American Hockey League at the end of the season.

Cons: For the second straight year, the answer to this question depends on Germain’s post-hockey plans. The last time, he only came back because of a convenient four-month window in his firefighter’s training. That window might not exist in 2011-12.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Jordan Hill?

The rundown on defenseman Jordan Hill:

2010-11 stats [career]: 3 goals, 9 points, 26 penalty minutes, minus-10 rating in 28 games.

Pros: It was easy to forget (like I did for a moment) that Hill was in Ontario on an ECHL contract, since the rookie defenseman spent more than half the season in the AHL. At this level, his size (6-2, 195 pounds), skating and pugnacity are all assets. Hill showed he can occasionally chip in on offense, too.

Cons: He’ll probably never be a truly gifted offensive defenseman, and you wonder where the minus-10 rating came from. Still, Hill looks like a player on the way up and an AHL contract seems like his most likely deterrent to re-signing. It’s hard to imagine Karl Taylor won’t try.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Jase Weslosky?

The rundown on goalie Jase Weslosky:

2010-11 stats [career]: 9-7-3 record, 2.79 GAA, .916 save percentage.

Quote: “I definitely wouldn’t have an issue coming back at all.”

Pros: He only played four games in a Reign uniform, but Weslosky’s numbers (2-1-0, 2.00, .943) were relatively eye-popping. A fourth-round draft pick by the Islanders in 2006, it’s not unreasonable to think his skills are no fluke. Weslosky has the combination of size (listed at 6-2, 185) and mobility that often allows goalies to move up in the pro ranks.

Cons: There is a decent chance the Kings will send goalie prospect J-F Berube to Ontario next season (similarly to how they developed Jeff Zatkoff), leaving one opening in net. Regardless, Karl Taylor has at most two open goalie jobs. He might be able to find a better candidate than Weslosky, a second-year pro who passed a four-game audition.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Justin Taylor?

The rundown on forward Justin Taylor:

2010-11 stats [career]: 7 goals, 21 points, minus-1 rating, 42 penalty minutes in 41 games.

Quote: “I’m getting to that age where I need to go over and start making a little more money. It’s also a little easier on the body, as far as the European schedule. But I really had fun here. I loved the area.”

Pros: Taylor has size (6-4, 210) and a good set of hands, is strong on the forecheck, and has plenty of experience at the next level. He also appeared to be recovered from the back injury that cost him all of 2009-10, especially in his final 12 games (four goals, nine points, plus-1).

Cons: Taylor became a veteran (more than 260 professional games played) last season and ECHL teams can only have four. If he’s going to be worth a spot, and doesn’t go to Europe, Taylor needs to prove that his first 29 games (three goals, 12 points) were just a fluke.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back C.J. Stretch?

The rundown on center C.J. Stretch:

2010-11 stats [career]: 9 goals, 21 points, minus-8 rating, 33 penalty minutes in 46 games.

Quote: “Honestly the goal is to play at the next level somewhere. … Whatever team it is at the next level, that’s what team I’ll play on. … If not, I see myself playing for the Reign again.”

Pros: Always among the Reign’s most creative offensive players, Stretch was finally playing regular minutes, scoring consistently, and defending reasonably well by the end of the season. The Irvine native also single-handedly brought at least a dozen patrons to the stands at every home game.

Cons: Stretch is not particularly big (5-11, 195) or fast, and didn’t finish scoring chances nearly as well as he created them. More frustrating was his defense; Stretch must prove he can be more than just a power-play specialist.

Poll: Should the Reign bring back Chad Starling?

The rundown on defenseman Chad Starling:

2010-11 stats [career]: 0 goals, 1 point, minus-1 rating, 16 penalty minutes in 14 games.

Quote: “This is honestly the first summer in five years that I haven’t had surgery at the end of the year. I’m healthy for the summer so I can go home and start training.”

Pros: After undergoing two surgeries in January, Starling was still in good enough shape that he could have played in the playoffs. What the “goalie’s best friend” brings is no secret — a physical presence around the net, leadership on and off the ice, and the best shootout move in the league. Starling’s experience would be especially valuable if David Walker and Jon Francisco don’t return.

Cons: The 6-foot-6 defenseman must prove that his injuries are behind him. Specifically, that his skating and mobility – which were not assets before his surgeries – won’t be a major liability at age 31.