Best Available AHL-Level Free Agents

Saturday, July 30, 2016
Despite a strong 2015-16 season, goaltender Michael Leighton remains a free agent heading into the month of August. Photo: Amanda Statland
Almost a month into hockey's free agency period and there are still several unsigned free agents who were key contributors to their previous AHL clubs in 2015-16.

To keep track of all the AHL-level free agent signings this off-season, stay tuned here. Here's my 2016 Free Agent Tracker and a team-by-team list of who is signed for the upcoming season as well as where each team's respective free agents have moved on to.

The following is a list of five forwards, five defensemen and five goaltenders still available that can be difference makers in the AHL in the upcoming 2016-17 season.

I'll be linking to this often, but for those interested in helping me continue to travel across the east coast covering the AHL in the upcoming 2016-17 can do so by sharing/donating to my GoFundMe page. Every little bit helps, and sharing the page to others who might be interested is just as important. Help spread the word!


Eric O'Dell - Age 26
Last Team: Binghamton/Rochester
2015-16 Season Stats: 67GP, 25G-23A, -16, 49 PIM

Traded mid-season last year, O'Dell finished with 25 goals. Is it time for him to accept an AHL deal somewhere or is he still holding out hope for another NHL deal this fall?

Danny Kristo - Age 26
Last Team: Chicago
2015-16 Season Stats: 71GP, 25G-23A, -2, 29 PIM 

The former North Dakota standout remains unsigned despite three straight 20-goal seasons (25, 22, 25). Rumors are circulating that he's close to signing a contract for next season, but it's a wait and see situation. Regardless of AHL or NHL contract, if he stays in North America he will definitely add to an AHL team.

Jason Akeson - Age 26
Last Team: Rochester/Binghamton
2015-16 Season Stats: 73GP, 13G-39A, -21, 18 PIM

Two years ago with the Philadelphia Flyers, Akeson got his first real break into the NHL. After going pointless through the first two months of the season he was re-assigned to the AHL and had been there since. An elite AHL-level offensive player, his NHL window may be closing and he might have to decide between an AHL deal and an overseas contract.

Greg Rallo - Age 34
Last Team: Texas
2015-16 Season Stats: 57GP, 22G-22A, +18, 16 PIM

Five 20-goal seasons in the AHL should mean he'll get another AHL contract for 2016-17, but where? He's not getting any younger, but as a 33-year-old last year with Texas he was still nearly a point-per-game player in the AHL.

Drew Shore - Age 25
Last Team: Stockton/Calgary
2015-16 AHL Stats: 59GP, 10G-28A, -17, 22 PIM

The former University of Denver product was not tendered a qualifying offer by Calgary and hit the free agent market on July 1st as a bit of a surprise. The fact that he remains unsigned a month later is a bit concerning. He's split time between the NHL and AHL throughout his pro career and offers organizational depth down the middle. How is he still a free agent?


Marc-Andre Gragnani - Age 29
Last Team: Albany
2015-16 Season Stats: 57GP, 1G-30A, Even, 16 PIM

EDIT: Signed in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk

There have been several unconfirmed reports that Gragnani is heading overseas for the 2016-17 season. Some have him heading to Switzerland to play in the NLA while others have him signing in the KHL. He's at that age where if it's between an AHL contract and an overseas deal that it's time to cash in.

Peter Harrold - Age 33
Last Team: Chicago
2015-16 Season Stats: 70GP, 1G-23A, +6, 24 PIM

Age is a concern, but Harrold brings multitude of pro experience. Assistant captain last season with Chicago, perhaps his delayed signing has to do with the amount of AHL clubs that have openings for veteran players (can only dress up to six skaters).

Jakub Nakladal - Age 28
Last Team: Calgary/Stockton
2015-16 AHL Stats: 35GP, 2G-12A, -3, 30 PIM

Split his first season in North America between AHL and NHL. Will he stay in North America? Defensive defenseman playing for his native Czech Republic in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Jerome Leduc - Age 24
Last Team: Rochester/Binghamton
2015-16 Season Stats: 76GP, 11G-15A, -22, 34 PIM

Back-to-back 25-point seasons in his first two full years at the AHL level. Just turned 24 years old, the offensive defenseman could be a good depth addition to an AHL blue line looking for more offensive punch.

Brandon Burlon - Age 26
Last team: Albany
2015-16 Season Stats: 56GP, 4G-17A, +1, 56 PIM

Five years with Albany, has yet to crack an NHL lineup. Responsible two-way defender at the AHL level with 292 games of experience. Might need to take an AHL contract to find work this upcoming season.


Michael Leighton - Age 35
Last Team: Rockford
2015-16 Season Stats: 46GP, 28-8-8, 2.44 GAA, .918 SV%, 5 SO

After a dominant season last year in the AHL, Leighton finds himself a free agent still - not being offered a contract to return to the Chicago Blackhawks organization. A lucrative AHL deal might be enough for a team to get his services, likely in a mentoring role toward a team's goaltending prospect.

Yann Danis - Age 35
Last Team: Albany
2015-16 Season Stats: 47GP, 28-12-5, 2.22 GAA, .908 SV%, 8 SO

A bit surprising that Danis hasn't found a new home for 2016-17, but the veteran goaltender is coming off a strong season with a defense-first oriented club last year. Is there an NHL contract out there, or is the delay in signing a decision between an AHL deal or heading overseas?

Brad Thiessen - Age 30
Last Team: Lake Erie
2015-16 Season Stats: 22GP, 12-4-4, 1.95 GAA, .929 SV%, 3 SO

Once a 35-game winner with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Thiessen has become a journeyman goaltender heading overseas for a year and returning back to North America and splitting time between the ECHL and AHL. Could Thiessen get an AHL deal and battle for more AHL time in 2016-17?

Joni Ortio - Age 25
Last Team: Stockton/Calgary
2015-16 AHL Stats: 20GP, 9-9-0, 3.36 GAA, .893 SV%, 0 SO

Ortio had a rough year in the Flames organization last year and really fell out of favor, not being tendered a qualifying offer and hitting free agency on July 1st. Still unsigned, but could have a bounce-back kind of year in the right situation in the AHL.

Dan Ellis - Age 36
Last Team: Hershey
2015-16 Season Stats: 43GP, 25-12-5, 2.38 GAA, .908 SV%, 4 SO

Age is starting to catch up to the 13-year pro, but he was a 25-game winner in Hershey last year before losing the #1 job down the stretch to Justin Peters. Could be a good AHL add for a team looking to pair its young goalie with a solid veteran mentor.

Be sure to follow along on Twitter -> @H_P_Hockey and @TonyAndrock for all the latest AHL-level news and free agents signings this summer.


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