For the full announcement, click here.
For the highlights, read on …
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:
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.
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.
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.
David Walker had some big news Tuesday — news that could affect the captain’s decision whether or not to return for an eighth season of pro hockey.
Still, Walker wouldn’t say which way he was leaning on the retirement question, although hockey might seem like a trivial pursuit rather soon (keep reading…). For the record, he finished with five goals, 38 points, a minus-18 rating and 106 penalty minutes in 69 games. The 69 games-played stat might be the most impressive, considering he injured his thumb in a fight on opening day and wasn’t the same all season.
Knowing that Walker will have plenty more to say in a month, when he expects to decide on his future, we kept it short:
The Reign lost in almost typical fashion. Take away the final three minutes of the first period, and they played one of their better games in recent memory – getting more scoring chances, more shots on goal, and more time in the offensive zone than Idaho. That doesn’t happen often.
Of course, you can’t take away those inexplicable three minutes of hockey in which Idaho scored three goals – twice on the power play and again at even strength.
“That’s kind of been the problem we’ve had all year, putting a 60-minute game together,” David Walker said. “Yeah, it’s one of our better games. We got blocked shots, put a lot of shots on net, did a lot of things we wanted to do at the start of the game. But when a team has a power play that good, you can’t give them opportunity after opportunity to do it.”
Walker went on to point out that playing well means little. Alaska is on its way to beating Victoria (the game is currently in the third period). Assuming the 4-2 score holds, the Reign would be left with 11 games in which to make up nine points on the seventh-place Salmon Kings to make the playoffs. So long as the Reign have at least five games to play, and Victoria keeps losing – a loss tonight would be its fourth straight – there’s a chance.
The Reign played without Chaz Johnson and James McEwan; tomorrow’s editions
of the Sun and Daily Bulletin will have plenty on the Reign’s reaction
to the ECHL suspensions. I didn’t have room for many details on the game, so here are a few:
The Reign played more in character with the team that entered the weekend on a 6-3-1 run than the team that lost 7-2 a night earlier.
It still wasn’t enough. Idaho pulled out the win in the skills competition (they went 2-for-3; the Reign went 0-for-4) and scored in the closing minutes of the first and third period to pull out the shootout victory.
Alex Bourret, Jordan Hill and Chaz Johnson scored, and Zacharias stopped 33 shots between regulation and overtime. David Walker missed the game with a lower-body injury, and forward Justin Taylor left midway through the game due to an undisclosed injury. Considering the Reign also played without regulars Shawn Collymore and Brett O’Malley, it was a gutty and well-deserved point in the standings.
But will it be enough? The Victoria Salmon Kings won the shootout, pulling nine points ahead of the Reign in the standings with 15 games to play.
The Stockton Thunder visit at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Reign’s 3-2 deficit in third period wasn’t too much to overcome on Wednesday, and they can only hope their six-point deficit in the standings isn’t too large, either.
Clearly, the Reign are a team in the mood for comebacks. Jordan Morrison’s goal with 4:50 left in the third period, and an overtime goal by Kyle Kraemer, lifted them to a 4-3 win over Idaho before an announced crowd of 6,644 at CBBA. Mike Zacharias (10-11-3-3) stopped 36 of 39 shots to win his second straight start.
Kraemer also scored a power-play goal in the first period and Justin Taylor scored at 7:25 of the second to give the Reign a 2-0 lead. Idaho went ahead on unanswered goals by Cody Purves, Mark Derlago and Junior Lessard.
The Reign went 2-for-3 on the power play and also killed off a pair of third-period power plays after Purves scored on the Steelheads’ first man-advantage shift of the game.
The Victoria Salmon Kings (24-27-1-2, 51 points) still hold the seventh and final playoff position in the Western Conference, six points ahead of the Reign (20-30-2-3, 45 points). The Salmon Kings have one game in hand, but the pressure is on them now to beat Utah in their next game Friday.
A few more notes:
David Walker’s ironman streak looks like it will end tonight against the Idaho Steelheads.
“If I were a betting man,” he said, “I’d say yes.”
The captain skated on his own for about five minutes prior to the team’s morning skate, but reported afterward that his lower-body injury was still “a little tender.”
Walker, the only Reign player who has appeared in all 54 games this season, said that the injury is a recurring one that finally caught up to him.
“It’s just the buildup of one of the lower-body injuries that hadn’t gotten to this point until now,” he said. “You try to force yourself (to play), even with bumps and bruises.”
Walker could be replaced in the lineup by Jordan Hill, who is eligible to come off IR and took part in the full morning skate. Hill has missed the last seven games with a leg injury he suffered Feb. 9 against Stockton. The Reign could also skate five defensemen, a tactic that Karl Taylor hasn’t been afraid to employ recently.
The Reign have leaned heavily on Walker this season. He leads the team in assists (25) and game-winning goals (3), is second in shots (118), third in points (30) and penalty minutes (100), and tied for fourth in power-play goals (4). Minutes per game aren’t recorded by the ECHL, but it’s a safe bet that Walker would lead the team in that category, too.
Forward Brett O’Malley (lower body) also took part in the morning skate. Alex Bourret (head) did not.
Mike Zacharias is expected to get his second straight start in goal.
One other note: 10 days after leaving Ontario, the Elmira Jackals fired head coach Malcolm Cameron. The Jackals have three wins in their last 16 games despite a roster laden with NHL prospects from the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators. General manager Robbie Nichols, interviewed here by a local TV station, will take over. Here’s the official release on ECHL.com.