From surprising signings (hello, Shannan Szabados!) to returning players in new cities, the first month of NWHL Free Agency has been quite eventful.
The structure of this offseason’s free agency has been a bit different. Since players sign one-year contracts every player is a free agent every offseason. Typically, returning players are restricted free agents for the first month and then unrestricted after. However, since the league expanded with the Minnesota Whitecaps, all players are unrestricted free agents, according to the league.
Twenty-six players signed in the first month. With 125 roster spots, 20.8% of the league is filled. Nine first-year players have signed thus far. Eight goaltenders signed in the first month, with the Metropolitan Riveters and Buffalo Beauts filling all three of their goalie spots. Two goaltenders are first-year NWHL players: the Boston Pride’s Katie Burt and the Beauts’ Shannan Szabados.
* - first year player ** - signed with different team than last season
Everyone is Whale watching as the Whale have signed 0 players. Where you at, Whale?
Forwards: Emily Field
Defenders: Alyssa Gagliardi
Goalies: Katie Burt*
The Pride opened the offseason by signing not a player but a new coach in Paul Mara. The assistant coach of the gold medal-winning Team USA will surely bring some clout to the team.
They’ve signed three players for 12% of their roster. First-year player Katie Burt was the first overall draft pick in 2017 and a good signing for the team. If Brittany Ott returns, they’ll make a great goaltending pair. Emily Field and Alyssa Gagliardi both re-signing is a strong start to returning their core who will look to improve after a rough 2017-2018 campaign.
The biggest question is if any of the National Team players from the first two seasons will return. Having Mara behind the bench could draw players looking to keep playing with USA Hockey.
Defenders: Lisa Chesson, Savannah Harmon*, Jacquie Greco
Goalies: Nicole Hensley*, Julie DiTondo, Shannon Szabados*
The Pegula-owned team has stampeded into free agency. They’ve signed 14 players, the most in the league, filling a whopping 56% of their roster including six first-year players. They’ve also filled all three goalie spots, leaving fan favorite Kelsey Neumann’s NWHL future uncertain.
They also take the award for “most surprising signings.” It’s has been one shocking sign after another as they signed Team USA’s Dani Cameranesi and Nicole Hensley on back-to-back days. Almost two weeks later, they inked a deal with Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados, which was arguably the biggest shock in women’s hockey so far this offseason.
Add in Kelly Babstock and the return of Corinne Buie and Hayley Scamurra, the Beauts are poised to make a fourth straight appearance in the Isobel Cup Finals for their chance to become the first team to raise the Cup twice.
Forwards: Amanda Kessel, Kelly Nash, Rebecca Morse
Goalies: Katie Fitzgerald, Kimberly Sass, Sarah Bryant
The reigning Isobel Cup Champions have re-signed six players, including all three of their goaltenders from last season. Though they clearly fared just fine last season without Amanda Kessel, it was also a season without any National Team players. Having her back can only help the Riveters’ chance at recapturing the Isobel Cup, especially with how stacked the Beauts are looking.
Last season’s head coach Chad Wiseman left the team for a job closer to home in Canada. So far, no new coach has been announced, which might be slowing down their free agency signings.
Forwards: Hannah Brandt*
Defenders: Lee Stecklein*
Goalies: Amanda Leveille**
The newest NWHL franchise his three players signed, including 2018 NWHL Goaltender of the Year Amanda Levielle. All are alumna of the Golden Gophers. Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein are both Minnesota natives. These signings are a prime example of the draw NWHL founder and commissioner Dani Rylan saw in bringing the league west: homegrown talent.
There’s been a lot of confusion over the general manager and coaching situation for the team. Jack Brodt, one of the Whitecaps’ co-founders, was listed as the general manager and coach of the team prior to the acquisition. Some reports have had him returning, one has Robb Stauber as the coach, and others has the team still looking for both.
With two Olympians on the roster already and more to most likely follow, the Whitecaps are posed to be threat in their first season.