Portland, ME – It was yet another busy day on the free agency market for the Phoenix Coyotes.
They are not only filling out their own roster with the recent signing of defenseman Keith Yandle to a five-year extension, but they are working feverishly signing players for their AHL affiliation, the Portland Pirates.
The Coyotes have signed defensemen Nathan Oystrick and Dean Arsene to one-year, two-way contracts on Tuesday.
Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
Oystrick, 28, is a two-time AHL All-Star, spending last season with the Peoria Rivermen, AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, where he was tied for second in goals among AHL defensemen with 15 goals on the season.
At 6-0, 207-pounds, Oystrick has been often considered on the top defensemen in the American Hockey League, winning a Calder Cup with the Chicago Wolves in the 2007-’08 season.
Pirates GM Brad Treliving said getting Oystrick gives the Coyotes depth at defense and gives the Pirates an offensive defenseman, who can handle significant time on the power play.
“You have offensive guys and defensive guys and Nathan to me is an elite American Hockey League defenseman,” said Treliving. “His numbers reflect that. He can play, be productive on the power play. He can handle the puck, play with some bite and jam on the blueline. He’s a tremendously hard competitor.”
Besides Oystrick, the Coyotes signed defenseman Dean Arsene adding yet another defenseman to the lineup that bolsters Garrett Stafford, Tyler Eckford and potentially Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The undrafted defenseman has been a staple to the Hershey Bears for nearly six seasons, winning the Calder Cup twice before moving on to Springfield Falcons and Peoria Rivermen where he spent last season.
While with the Rivermen last season, he scored 11 points (1g, 10a) in 77 games.
It’s his experience that makes Treliving feel like Arsene could be a potential candidate for captain of the Pirates. He was the captain in Hershey, Springfield and in Peoria.
“Absolutely,” said Treliving on Arsene being captain material.
“He’s a guy who is a leader and a guy who can grab the kids by the hand and show them the right way to play. He is one of the top guys and has been one of the top guys in that role for some time.”Treliving wouldn’t confirm the signing of goaltender Jason Bacashihua saying that no other goaltender has a completed contract.
The Coyotes also announced today that Matt Watkins was signed to a one-year deal.
Watkins played last season for the Coyotes previous AHL affiliation in San Antonio where he scored 15 goals, 20 assists for 35 points in 64 games.
The Pirates will have a Canadian flair to their division next season after the American Hockey League’s Board of Governors approved a brand new divisional alignment for the 2011-’12 season.
The AHL is shifting away from a format of four divisions to two conferences, Eastern and Western, comprised of three divisions.
The Pirates will compete in the Atlantic Division made up of five team including Manchester, Providence, Worcester and the new franchise – former Manitoba Moose – in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Besides the Atlantic Division, the Eastern Conference will consist of the Northeast Division (Adirondack, Albany, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Springfield) and East Division (Binghamton, Hershey, Norfolk, Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).
The Charlotte Checkers, who played in the Eastern Conference last season, moved the Western Conference and will play in the Midwest Division with Chicago, Peoria, Milwaukee and Rockford. The other divisions are the North (Rochester, Toronto, Hamilton, Lake Erie and Grand Rapids) and the West (Houston, San Antonio, Texas, Oklahoma City and Abbotsford).
The Board of the Governors also approved a new playoff format for the 2011-’12 season.
Instead of a the top four teams in each division making the postseason, the league will move to conference based playoff format much like the NHL where the eight teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs with the divisional winners earning the top-3 seeds.
The conference quarterfinals will consist of a best-of-five series with all other playoff rounds being a best-of-seven series with teams being re-seeded after each round.