After a fair bit of speculation amongst PHF circles, the Buffalo Beauts finally announced Monday afternoon that they and forward Autumn MacDougall have agreed to a mutual contract termination.
The 25-year-old forward from Cole Harbour, N.S., had started her third season on a high note with the game-winning goal in the only win the Beauts had this season, a last-minute roofer to make it 3-2 in regulation against La Force de Montreal. Since then, her ice time had been dwindling up until her last weekend in Buffalo, a pair of losses against Minnesota at home where she saw a combined three minutes (if that) of TOI on the fourth line.
Then, a photo circulated on Twitter of the team in Boston with MacDougall noticeably absent, which prompted some questions about her status. Requests for comment resulted in both her and GM Nate Oliver confirming she was not present for the six-day road trip across New England, and that it was not injury-related.
With the official confirmation, naturally, comes some questions:
What’s going on with the lineup now?
The most obvious next move in my eyes involves Iveta Klimasova, who received two PTOs this past weekend against Boston. The practice player has been present throughout the season both at practices and games, showing off improved skating and a tremendous drive to prove herself worthy of a moment on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised (barring any cap issues) if Buffalo offers her a contract for the remainder of the season.
What do the bylaws say about contract release?
Bylaw 5.6, Player Release and Termination, states:
PHF Teams may release a player consistent with the terms of the standard player contract, with such player being entitled to all consideration under the standard player contract through the date of such release. Written notice of the player release must be filed with the League office, with the player release being official upon receipt of such notice by the League. As outlined in the standard player contract, players may terminate their standard player contract by providing Member Club with 30 days’ written notice. Written notice must be filed with the League office and acknowledged by the Member Club in writing, and the termination will be official 30 days following written acknowledgment.
With this context, it’s possible this was in the works for a while, though it definitely doesn’t seem that way. It wouldn’t be the first time the Beauts have held cards close to their chests, but it also wouldn’t be the first time that things have occurred with... let’s say, flexible interpretation of the bylaws and rules.
Did the Players’ Association know beforehand and have a say?
Unclear at this point — given that Auttie has been a PA rep for the team in the past, I don’t doubt she knows their role in her own contract negotiations and status, but the rest of us have been in the dark regarding it for the better part of the season... so who knows.
Where to now for Auttie?
Also unclear — though she did assure me via DM that she plans on getting back onto a PHF roster very, very soon. It seems like she’s really at peace with her decision, and moreover that the parting with Buffalo leaves the door open in the future (if personnel change, at least). The press release included this from Oliver:
“The Beauts and Auttie have parted entirely amicably, and we wish her nothing but the best as she continues her professional career... We thank Auttie for her three seasons as a Beaut and we hope to see her around the rinks sometime soon.”
MacDougall had been a top point producer, especially last season on an anemic offense, and also showed superb penalty killing prowess. With the roster changes over the past season, maybe it’s true that she didn’t have as clear of a role; however, the clear lack of performance from this team is something I’ve already talked about at length prior to this news. Included in the need to rework the lineup would have been placing Auttie with forwards who could give her more of a spark, such as Mikyla Grant-Mentis or Courtney Maud, but of course that’s all moot now.
With that said, I definitely wish Auttie all the best as she figures out her next move, and I only hope the next team that gets her gives her the shine she deserves.