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Around the Rink in the PHF: May Moolah

An emptying of the notebook in a way...here’s a bunch of notes I’ve been taking since we last met around these parts.

NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs - Championship Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Welcome back to Around the Rink!

It’s been a minute since I last posted one of these and a lot has happened, so there is a lot to get to, and I’m trying to get as much of it out before more stuff happens! Thanks to all of the readers who have been along on this journey, and especially thank you to my teammates and the players and staff who are always so helpful.

And here, we, go!

Point Shots

1* Let’s start at the top. Congrats and welcome to the PHF Reagan Carey; she was named the league’s third commissioner on April 26. When she spoke that night in a media conference call it was revealed that she would be taking over full-time until May 10. But that didn’t mean that she was sitting around doing nothing. While there were no updates (and there still haven’t been on expansion) - more on that in a minute - Carey has already started to fill out her staff.

On May 4, the PHF appointed Mel Davidson to the role of Director, League and Hockey Operations and she will contribute to a department led by holdover Lisa Haley, who is the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. Seven days later on May 11, the PHF named Kacey Bellamy as the Scout and Player Relations Liaison. Both women bring a wealth of experience and connections to their respective gigs, and both appear to be home run hires.

2* Speaking of expansion….some of you may have been able to decode something I tweeted about a week ago. Full marks to you if you did! We knew the first of the two expansion teams for Season 8 is supposed to be in Montreal, and ATR has learned through various sources that the second team is likely going to be in Providence, Rhode Island. Why hasn’t it been announced yet, with players already signing - eight officially - as I type this? That is an excellent question that I do not have the answer to.

Adding a team in Providence (we’ve heard that Connecticut ownership may be involved somehow) will cut into the player pool of both the Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride, and perhaps even cause some bidding wars for certain players. Wouldn’t it? That’s not to say that there isn’t loads of talent in the New England area, there is. But a team in Western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Ohio might also have a lot of talent to choose from as well.

3* As I mentioned, eight player signings have been announced already, and there are definitely more in the queue awaiting their release ATR has learned. By all accounts, this has been the wildest free agency period to date in the league, and it will be fascinating to see how things play out as we inch along towards Season 8.

Toronto Six Vs. Boston Pride At Warrior Ice Arena Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As of May 11, the Toronto Six have re-signed captain Shiann Darkangelo and goaltender Elaine Chuli to one-year deals. No shocker there. They are the OG T6 and we expect to see the Woods’s (all three of them) back in Toronto again. On May 9, the Six did lose Mikyla Grant-Mentis to the Buffalo Beauts - the team she started her pro career with. There have been a lot of reports out there about the term, money, etc. so here’s what I know.

3.1* It’s a one-year contract, and all contracts are in US dollars. Teams can only offer up to two-year contracts, that’s the max. The current policy of the league is to not comment on player salaries and we know that whatever information reported/leaked to anyone wasn’t from anyone in the Beauts organization. This had nothing to do with the PWHPA in any way, shape, or form, and that name was never mentioned during contract negotiations. At the end of the day, one of the best players in the game today became available, so what GM wouldn’t want to take a shot at signing her? (There were multiple teams involved).

Most PHF players don’t have agents, but some do, including Grant-Mentis.

4* The Beauts kicked off free agency with the first announced signing - defender Dominique Kremer re-signed with Buffalo for two years. Four days later they announced another signing of a defender for two years - Jess Healey, who played in the SDHL for three seasons. The Beauts' defense was a bit leaky at times last season and for the second straight full season, they were first (or last I guess) in goals-allowed. There will likely be more changes, which I didn’t necessarily expect at the end of the season, but I understand the reasoning why. Numbers don’t lie.

4.1* ATR has confirmed that Head Coach Rhea Coad is back for another season as the Beauts’ bench boss; also returning are Julia TiDondo (assistant) and Mark Zarbo (special assignment). Best wishes to forward Erin Gehen who announced her retirement on April 22. The New York native appeared in 45 games over three seasons with the Beauts, was an alternate captain this past season, and was one of the most passionate and caring players the franchise has ever seen.

5* The same day that the Beauts announced the signing of MGM, the Metropolitan Riveters re-signed captain Madison Packer (2 years) and Kendall Cornine (1 year). Earlier that morning the Rivs had announced the hiring of Venla Hovi as the fourth Head Coach in team history, and that her predecessor Ivo Mocek would be returning as Associate Head Coach.

Four days earlier, on May 5, the team made official the hiring of Digit Murphy as Team President and made the announcement that Tori Charron (who played 16 games for the Six last season) was their new GM.

I expect the Riveters to be active in free agency as they look to revamp the roster after a disappointing season and be involved in some bidding wars. Don’t believe me? Well on May 10 they added Amanda Pelkey - a 2018 gold medalist with Team USA and a former NWHL player (S1-3). That was the type of experienced player the team lacked in each of the past two seasons. We have a feeling she won’t be the last new member of the team.

6* The Whale, Minnesota Whitecaps, and Boston Pride have yet to announce any signings as I’m typing this, but they have been active. I haven’t been able to nail down any confirmations regarding Connecticut, but have heard that maybe up to nine players have been re-signed or signed thus far. Is captain Shannon Turner among them? Honestly, I don’t know. But was told that ‘they’re definitely not making it easy’, by someone close to her.

7* Next season the Whitecaps are going to look a lot different. And I’m not talking about a uniform makeover. We’re pretty confident that they’ve signed defender Sidney Morin - a 2018 Olympic gold medalist who has played in Sweden (SDHL) and Switzerland (SWHL) the past five seasons - and that they’ve re-signed forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk; the duo were teammates at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Who you likely won’t see is either one of the Brodt sisters - Winny and Chelsey - and most of the players who paved (and paid their own) way for professional women’s hockey in Minnesota.

NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs - Championship Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Here’s where things get wild - Minnesota allowed players like Allie Thunstrom and Jonna Curtis to field offers from other teams. I don’t know about you, but if it was me I would’ve had them signed up as soon as humanly possible. But whoever is running things doesn’t feel the same way about the two players that were roughly 75% of the team’s offense the past few seasons. One of them has already signed with another team (rhymes with Austin), and when she told the Whitecaps’ brass of the offer there was never a counter-offer. Again if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen a clue or two and figured it out.

8* With Boston adding a big name (for not one, but two years, btw) that means fewer pieces of the pie to divide between the rest of the team. Two star-spangled players that we know of asked for more money (which they have every right to) and were refuted. Maybe they end up in Providence? Another name to keep in mind if that is where a new team lands is Janine Weber; she went to school there and I believe that is where her husband works.

9* Other news and notes! Goaltender Tera Hofmann has relocated to New Jersey for her off-season training and is looking to land a gig somewhere. If a team in Montreal actually happens two names I would keep an eye on would be Alyson Matteau and Brooke Stacey. I wouldn’t expect to see defender Rebecca Morse back in Connecticut, but I believe defender Allie Olnowich will be back with the Riveters. I think the Beauts have re-signed Autumn MacDougall, but haven’t confirmed that; Buffalo could announce another signing by the end of this week. We know there are a handful of players around the league that maybe aren’t as decorated or well-known as others who are looking for new hockey homes and places where their skills and personalities are appreciated and respected.

9.1* We could see a heavy veteran presence (and we could not) in Buffalo for their Free Agent Camp (June 18-19), as a lot of players have reached out to their GM Nate Oliver, and/or myself to get connected with him.

10* Eleni, Mike, and I will discuss all of this and more I’m sure, on the next episode of the PHFuture Considerations podcast which we should be recording at the beginning of next week. Thanks to everyone who has listened to any or all of our first six forays into this neck of the woods. You can find us on Spotify, Apple Music, etc by searching for: The Ice Garden.

Notable Quotable:

Mike Keenan coached the Calgary Flames for a while and a lot of people would ask me if I was related to him. Funny thing, my grandpa’s name was Mike Keenan haha, but (he’s) not that one. So I got that question a bit, especially when he was coaching in Calgary.” — Buffalo defender Emma Keenan.