Megna's Marked Improvement Made Rangers Step Up On Day One

Thursday, July 2, 2015
Jayson Megna led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with 26 goals in 63 games during the regular season. Photo credit: Amy's WBS Picture Page.
Former Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Jayson Megna didn't remain an unrestricted free agent for long, and after signing a one-year, one-way contract with the New York Rangers on the opening day of free agent signing period he's poised to compete for another crack at the NHL.

"I think it's an extremely exciting opportunity for me," Megna said about his initial talks with the Rangers. "My agent and I set parameters for what we wanted in an organization, opportunity wise as well as with contract negotiations," he added. 

"New York [Rangers] was the team that stepped up and gave us exactly what we were looking for."

Megna will have a former Penguins teammate likely battling alongside him come training camp this fall, but the familiarity might work in their favor to vault both into the NHL next season.

"I think it's going to be great being back with Gibby," Megna said of Brian Gibbons also signing with the Rangers on July 1st. "We had some really good chemistry my second year."

Penguins Re-Sign Conor Sheary

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Conor Sheary has earned his first NHL contract.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Conor Sheary to a two-year entry level contract.

Sheary joined the AHL Penguins in the spring of 2014 following his senior season at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and made an immediate impact in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs - tallying 11 points (6G-5A) in 15 postseason contests and quickly making a name for himself as a small but skilled winger capable of producing offense in a highly-competitive environment of pro hockey.

Sheary followed up a successful postseason with a solid rookie campaign last year, leading the AHL Penguins in scoring during both the regular season (58GP, 20G-25A) and the 2015 postseason (8GP, 5G-7A). It was only a matter of time as to when he'd sign his first NHL contract and for Sheary - an undersized and undrafted product from Massachusetts - the hard work paid off and he received a well deserved NHL deal in free agency.

Back in late July of 2014, after speaking with Sheary at the Penguins' annual development camp, I got the sense that he was determined to have a breakout season and draw the attention of NHL teams for that 1st contract. Here's my chat with him at Development Camp about wanting to make a good first impression. Looking back, he certainly did.

The AHL Penguins Need A Third Goaltender

With Jeff Zatkoff likely moving back to NHL-backup position, Matt Murray (pictured above) and incoming rookie Tristan Jarry need some competition at the AHL level.
The Pittsburgh Penguins look to be set between the pipes for the 2015-16 season with Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff in the NHL, but at the AHL level the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins need a third goaltender - be it on an NHL two-way deal or an AHL contract - to bring about a goalie competition with returning 2nd year pro Matt Murray and incoming rookie Tristan Jarry.

While there are plenty of veteran options available in free agency to be brought in - David Leggio, Jeremy Smith, Mike McKenna and even former one-time Penguin Jason LaBarbera - most of the solid veteran AHL netminders from last season up for grabs want to continue a starting role and aren't quite ready to pack it in in terms of their NHL aspirations (except for maybe LaBarbera).

While a veteran mentor to the relatively inexperienced Murray and Jarry is ideal, getting a third body into the mix to provide some competition is never a bad idea - especially one that wouldn't be hard to send to the ECHL if Jarry does indeed prove he's ready for the AHL next fall.

Enter Michael Houser, a Youngstown, Ohio native entering his fourth year of pro hockey, who wasn't tendered a qualifying offer from the Florida Panthers and hits unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career today at noon.

The 22-year-old and former 46-game winner with the London Knights (OHL) went undrafted before being signed to an entry level contract by Florida. He began his pro career in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2012-13, before splitting time between the ECHL and AHL in 2013-14. In his first full season in the AHL last year with the San Antonio Rampage, Houser went 19-9-4 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage including finishing the regular season with a 13-1-2 record in his last 18 appearances.

I caught up with Jameson Olive, formerly of Fox Sports Florida and creator of Olive Hockey, for some insights into why Houser wasn't brought back. The way he describes Houser makes him a perfect fit for what the AHL Penguins need:
Houser was a capable AHL backup in San Antonio last season and was thrust into a starting role after Dan Ellis' emergency recall to Florida. 
He was streaky, but ran more hot that cold down the stretch. That being said, the Panthers don't believe he projected to be more than an AHL starter at best and made the decision to let him walk and see if Sam Brittain can show them more. 
The organization has several mid-level goaltending prospects, but is searching for an heir to Roberto Luongo.
Houser provides a low-risk depth signing for the Penguins to bolster their goaltending depth now that Eric Hartzell has moved on to unrestricted free agency after Pittsburgh declined to tender him a qualifying offer on Monday. 

Free Agent Frenzy Live Blog - Day 1

NHL and AHL rosters alike will look very different by the end of the day.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers have signed goaltender Michael Neuvirth to a 2-year deal worth $3.25 million - an average annual value of $1.62 million per season. This move leaves the Flyers with three goaltenders in the organization signed through next season (Steve Mason, Michael Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz). They'll likely be looking to add an AHL starter to battle with Stolarz for starting time in Lehigh Valley in the fall.
  • The Flyers also made depth signings to bolster the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roster, signing forwards Tim Brent (1-year) and Chris Conner (two-years) and defenseman Davis Drewiske (1-year) to two-way NHL contracts.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins were unable to sign any of their pending UFA's last second, and it didn't take long for some of them to find new homes:
    • Thomas Greiss: Two-year deal worth a total of $3 million with New York Islanders
    • Taylor Chorney: One-year (one-way) deal worth $700,000 with Washington Capitals
    • Paul Martin: Four-year deal worth $19.4 million with San Jose Sharks
    • Blake Comeau: Three-year deal worth $7.2 million with Colorado Avalanche
    • Jayson Megna: One-year deal with New York Rangers 
  • The trade that stole the show on the first day of free agency: The Phil Kessel trade. The Penguins and Maple Leafs made a massive trade to make it work for both sides:
    • Penguins Acquire
      • (RW) Phil Kessel
      • (D) Tim Erixon
      • (LW) Tyler Biggs
      • 2016-2nd round pick (PIT's own)
    • Maple Leafs Acquire
      • (F) Kasperi Kapanen
      • (D) Scott Harrington
      • (F) Nick Spaling
      • Conditional 1st round pick
      • 2016-3rd round pick 
  • The Penguins were also active in adding depth players to build competition for NHL jobs as well as stock the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster with depth:
    • Pittsburgh made official the signing of forward Sergei Plotnikov to a one-year, two-way entry level contract ($925,000/$70,000).
    • The Penguins re-signed forward Conor Sheary, adding him to a two-year entry level contract - his first NHL deal after playing last season on an AHL-only contract in 2014-15.
    • The Pens also added some defensemen in free agency, signing David Warsofsky (1-year, $600,000) and Steve Oleksy (1-year, $575,000/$250,000) to short term deals to restore some depth on the blue line at the AHL level following the departure of Scott Harrington in the Phil Kessel trade.
    • Pittsburgh also bolstered the forward depth with veterans Kevin Porter (1-year, $575,000/$250,000) and Kael Mouillerat (1-year, $575,000).
  • After talking with Jameson Olive, formerly of Fox Sports Florida, I've discovered a low-risk AHL depth signing at the goaltender position the Penguins should be considering this summer. Take a look at Michael Houser, who played well down the stretch for the San Antonio Rampage last season and is hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time in his pro career today.
The NHL's Free Agency Period begins at noon E.T.

This live blog will be the place to be for the latest news coming out of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers organizations as well as highlight free agent signings that affect the depth and balance of AHL teams around the league.

I wrote up some overviews of both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in recent days and have linked them below.

I will continue to post links to updates here throughout the day, so stay tuned both here and on Twitter:
@H_P_Hockey for Penguins-related news 
@TonyAndrock_TCG for news on the Flyers organization

Penguins Qualifying Offers, Sheary's Situation & Weekly Update

Flyers Qualifying Offers, AHL Phantoms Roster Update

Flyers Qualifying Offers, AHL Phantoms Roster Update

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Danick Martel, Nick Luukko and Petr Straka are three of several guys looking for a more prominent role with Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2015-16.
The Philadelphia Flyers organization has been one of the busier NHL clubs both at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and in the trade market. They've made several cap-shedding deals to give themselves more salary cap flexibility moving forward to make tomorrow's start of NHL Free Agency at noon, ET.

Believe it or not, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roster is already starting to take shape for this upcoming fall. After the jump, a look at the Flyers' qualifying offers to restricted free agents, a recap of the Flyers' 2015 Draft Picks and recent transactions and a look at the Flyers free agents who impact the AHL level with the Phantoms roster heading into 2015-16.