Rivermen Contract Status for 2012-13
May 23, 2012
Each summer rosters all over hockey change, some dramatically and some slightly. The hardest part for fans is keeping the contracts straight. Who’s staying? Who’s leaving?
Below is a list of the Rivermen who are under contract for next season and those whose contracts are expiring on June 30.
Under Contract=the player is signed by the St. Louis Blues (or the Peoria Rivermen) for the 2012-13 season. While they played for the Rivermen in 2011-12, they can also play in the NHL (if signed by the Blues) or the ECHL during this upcoming season.
Restricted Free Agent=this player will need to sign a new contract before the start of the 2012-13 season. The Blues have the option to offer this player a qualifying offer to retain negotiating rights. If a qualifying offer is not made by July 1, this player will become an unrestricted free agent.
Unrestricted Free Agent=this player is free to sign with any team in any league for the 2012-13 season.
Jake Allen - G
After a slow start to his sophomore season (4-10-0-1), Jake Allen returned to his all-star form down the stretch. He started 19 of the team’s last 21 games following Ben Bishop being traded to Ottawa and posted a 2.53 goals-against average over that time. He finished the year 13-20-0-2 with a 2.94 GAA and 0.915 save percentage. Through two years of his entry-level contract, the Blues second round pick in 2008 will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Chris Bruton – RW
An unrestricted free agent following the 2011-12 season, the Rivermen signed Chris Bruton to a one-year, AHL contract for 2012-13 on May 21. He originally joined the Rivermen on a tryout contract from ECHL Alaska and earned an AHL deal for the final months of last season. He posted 66 penalty minutes – 9 fighting majors – and five points in 38 games with Peoria.
Ian Cole – D
After starting the season with the Rivermen, injuries forced Cole into action at the NHL level early on. He finished with 22 games played in Peoria and 26 for St. Louis but spent the majority of the season with the parent club. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Adam Cracknell - C
The Rivermen captain in 2011-12, he posted the best offensive numbers of his career with 23 goals, 26 assists and 49 points. With his contract set to expire on June 30, the St. Louis Blues chose not to risk him in the free agent market and signed him to a one-year extension in March. Not just an important contributor on the offensive side, Cracknell was a plus-18 which was the best mark among all Rivermen forwards.
Mark Cundari – D
Cundari appeared in just 48 games in 2011-12 for Peoria but was still fourth on the team in points by a defenseman (15). He will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Stefan Della Rovere – LW
A checking-line winger, Della Rovere cracked the 100+ penalty minute plateau (116) for the second straight season. He was a key cog in a Rivermen penalty killing unit that finished third best in the AHL at 84.5 percent and also chipped in 10 points (four goals, six assists) offensively. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Cade Fairchild – D
The Blues fourth round pick in 2007 turned out to be one of the top defenseman in the AHL this season. He was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team and to the Western Conference All-Star Team. His plus-26 rating led the Rivermen and was fourth best in the league. A rookie from the University of Minnesota, Fairchild earned five games on NHL experience this season.
Evgeny Grachev - LW
Acquired in a trade from the New York Rangers last summer, Grachev began the 2011-12 season with the Blues. He recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in 26 NHL games before joining the Rivermen in December. The Russian-born winger turned 22 during the season and compiled 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 39 games with Peoria. He will be a restricted free-agent at the completion of the 2012-13 season.
T.J. Hensick - C
One of the most gifted AHL forwards to ever wear a Rivermen sweater, Hensick led the team in points for the second straight year. His 70 points finished first in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the American Hockey League. His 49 assists set a AHL Rivermen single-season record were fifth most in the AHL. His two-year contract expires at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Phil McRae – C
In just his second professional season, Phil McRae was one of six Rivermen to reach the 20-goal plateau during the 2011-12 campaign. His 23 goals were nearly double what he put up during his injury-shortened rookie year. The son of former Rivermen/Blues enforcer Basil McRae, Phil will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Derek Nesbitt – LW
Due to be a UFA on July 1, the Rivermen rewarded Derek Nesbitt’s career season with a new contract on May 18. He set AHL career-highs in games played (75), goal (22), assists (33), points (55), and penalty minutes (14). Playing alongside T.J. Hensick, Nesbitt also scored eight power-play goals.
Anthony Nigro – C
Arguably a candidate for most-improved player, Anthony Nigro flourished in 2011-12. He was one of Peoria’s best faceoff men and played in nearly every role. He improved in every statistical category – most notable a minus-8 as a rookie was morphed into a plus-12. He also recorded 10 more points (15 vs. 25) in his second year than his first. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
Brett Ponich – D
Standing at 6-7, Ponich is the tallest defenseman in Rivermen history. He appeared in 61 games for the young defense corps and posted an even plus/minus rating.
Tyler Shattock – RW
After putting up 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) as a rookie in 2010-11, Shattock matched that total in 2011-12 (seven goals, eight assists). A defensively-responsible winger, he saw increased ice time this season and reduced his penalty minutes from 60 to 20. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season.
David Shields – D
Assigned to ECHL Alaska to start the season, Shields returned to Peoria and made an impact. He earned increasing ice time over his 47 games with the club and finished with four assists.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Jay Barriball – RW
Injuries limited the rookie to just 21 games this season but Jay Barriball was effective in his limited action. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and had speed that makes opposing defensemen nervous. While he has only played one full season of professional hockey he is a restricted free agent because he turns 25 in May. Barriball spent five seasons (including a medical red shirt year in 2009-10) at the University of Minnesota.
Anthony Peluso – RW
A true heavyweight, Anthony Peluso set a career-high with 159 penalty minutes while also posting a career-best plus-2 rating. He collected 13 fighting majors against other team’s toughest players. He has 34 AHL fights in three seasons with the Rivermen.
Brett Sonne – C
A third-round pick by the Blues in 2007, Brett Sonne has seen his role change since his 24 points as a rookie. A constant presence on the penalty-kill, Sonne chipped in 17 points from a defensive-center position.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Jonathan Cheechoo – RW
It wasn’t 56 goals but Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56 points were enough to put him second (behind only Hensick) on the Rivermen. His 25 goals were the most on the team. His offensive production picked up as the year went along and Cheechoo - who will turn 32 in July – showed no signs of slowing down.
Brennan Evans – D
The stay-at-home defenseman Brennan Evans finished the second and final year of his deal with the Blues/Rivermen in 2011-12. He ended the season with a plus-1 rating and logged a lot of ice time against other team’s top forwards. The 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Evans also accumulated 125 penalty minutes.
Jake Gannon – D
Injured on Nov. 11, 2011, Jake Gannon missed nearly the entire season. Poised for his first full season in the AHL, Gannon saw time in only 12 games before a concussion kept him out the rest of the season.
Kyle Hagel – RW
Coming off a season where he led the AHL in fighting majors with 32, Kyle Hagel’s season ended in October following a shoulder injury. He saw time in only seven games and fought three times.
Shaun Heshka – D
A great pickup in November, Heshka joined the team from the Binghamton Senators in exchange for future considerations. He proved to be a trustworthy defender who added 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 60 games with the Rivermen. He was also a plus-3 rating. Heshka signed a contract for 2012-13 with Ässät in Finland on April 26.
Chase Polacek – RW
A former Hobey Baker finalist, Chase Polacek bounced back and forth between Peoria and Alaska before his injury in December. He had a goal and an assist in 16 games with the Rivermen and two goals in two games with the Aces.
Brett Sterling – LW
The team-leader in goals with 22 was loaned to Portland at the trade deadline in exchange for Patrick O’Sullivan. Sterling finished the season with 30 goals, 32 assists and 104 penalty minutes between Peoria and Portland.
Danny Syvret – D
Danny Syvret finished ninth in the American Hockey League in points by a defenseman. His 42 points were sixth on the Rivermen while he appeared in 75 games. He logged more ice time than any other Rivermen while playing on both the power play and penalty kill.