With free agency already underway, the Hershey Bears continue the process of determining their roster heading into the 2012-2013 season. As part of a three part series, Inside Hockey will break down the free agent goalies, defenseman and forwards. Take a look and find out the chances of which free agent forwards could return.
Entering the 2011-2012 season, many thought they knew the role of Keith Aucoin. But the truth is no one did. He earned a late season call up to Washington and never returned to the Bears’ after that. He proved to be a solid presence on the Capitals’ fourth line and even earned sometime on Washington’s power play units.
Aucoin registered three goals and eight assists in 27 regular season games with the Capitals’, the highest point production by the 33 year old forward since the 2007-2008 campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes. He has always produced in the AHL as a top line player, reaching the 70 point plateau during his past four seasons in the minors.
Contract: Expect Aucoin to sign with another NHL team. This is one of his last shots at the highest level in hockey. There is a good chance Aucoin returns to the AHL as his playing days draw closer to an end.
Hamill was traded to the Washington Capitals in the deal for former Bears’ allstar, Chris Bourque. The former eighth overall pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft has been a disappointment so far and the Bruins’ decided to move on. Last year, Hamill contributed 21 points in 51 games for the Providence Bruins of the AHL. He is currently a restricted free agent, meaning Washington owns his negotiating rights.
Contract: Expect Hamill to accept the qualifying offer, looking to get his career back on track. He has a good chance to take over as the second line center behind Ryan Potulny following the trade that sent for Hershey Bear, Cody Eakin to the Dallas Stars.
King joined the Bears’ roster early last year, following being placed on waivers by the Capitals’. His role with the Capitals’ was one as an enforcer, but King registered only 13 penalty minutes in Hershey. He contributed on the fourth round, dishing out four assists in the regular season. He scored his first goal with the Capitals’ organization in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. King held a cap hit of $637,500 last year, but should not receive an offer much higher than that.
Contract: Expect King to look for a two way deal, attempting to crack the opening day lineup as an enforcer outside the Capitals’ organization.
Rechlicz enters free agency following compiling 267 penalty minutes, his most in his career. This style of play is what fits his role. He registered one goal and one assist in 44 games with the Bears’ last year, bringing energy to the game along with supporting his teammates. The Bears’ are in need of an enforcer this upcoming season and Rechlicz would be a good fit. He’s a fan favorite and has been great in helping out the community.
Contract: Expect Rechlicz to look for an NHL contract with the Capitals’. If he does not receive one, he could accept an AHL deal with Hershey. Although enforcers are needed across the NHL, there are many that can do the same job as Rechlicz but can provide more offensively.
Hanson, a 26 year old center came over Washington following three years with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. His season was cut short due to injury, only appearing in 52 regular season games. In those games, Hanson provided good penalty killing along with ten goals and eleven assists.
Contract: Hanson will be looking for a two way contract from another NHL team and a return to Hershey seems unlikely.
Keeping Greentree will be an intriguing choice for the Capitals’ and Bears’, following a season in which the former Philadelphia Flyer underachieved to say the least. The 28 year old left-winger suffered through an injury filled season, contributing 34 points in 50 games. He played primarily on the second line, including some time on the power play. He is not a physical player and often didn’t bring much energy to the lineup.
Contract: I expect Greentree to look around for a two way deal with another NHL team, but return to the Hershey Bears to take on the role as left wing on the Bears’ second forward line.
Mink was the Bears’ fifth leading scorer this past season, although he appeared in only 48 regular season games. He returned to chocolate town following AHL stints with the Rochester Americans and Peoria Rivermen. Mink netted 42 points in 48 games with Hershey. With the lack of scoring depth on the Bears’ roster, Mink is a player that Doug Yingst should keep an eye on.
Contract: I expect Mink to resign with the Bears’ on a one year contract, taking on the role of second line right wing while earning some time on the power play.
Andrew Carroll has played the last two seasons in Hershey, following stints with Hartford, Abbotsford and Peoria. He played sparingly as the fourth line center for the Bears’ including time on the penalty kill. He doesn’t provide much offensively, only netting six points including one goal in 68 games this past season. With young center, David Civitarese signed for the 2012-2013 season, Carroll doesn’t seem likely to return to Hershey.
Contract: Expect Carroll, a fourth line grinder to sign an AHL contract with another team hoping for more playing time.
Lacroix played a small role for the Bears’ this year, playing in Hershey due to injuries and call ups to Washington. The left winger totaled three points in 29 games with Hershey, proving he is not yet ready to become a mainstay at the AHL level.
Contract: Expect Lacroix to sign a deal with an ECHL team, including a possible return to the South Carolina Stingrays.
You can view the first two free agent previews on the Hershey Bears Below.