Hey! I thought Orlando was supposed to be the Wild’s affiliate!
In all seriousness, this obviously has nothing directly to do with the Solar Bears beyond, I guess, the tangential link to the Wild. But it is interesting news for the league as a whole, as Setoguchi becomes at least the fourth NHL player to sign on with an ECHL club during the lockout. Forwards Nate Thompson of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brandon Dubinsky of the
New York Rangers Columbus Blue Jackets and Joey Crabb of the Washington Capitals are all playing with the Alaska Aces. And the San Jose Mercury News reports that San Jose Sharks power forward Ryane Clowe is practicing with the San Francisco Bulls (though he hasn’t yet decided whether he will actually suit up with the team).
This is one of the (very faint) bright sides of the NHL work stoppage. Some players who would otherwise be playing at higher levels are being pushed down as young guys who might have cracked an NHL roster are kept in the AHL instead or NHL regulars go in search of other places to play. That obviously raises the overall quality of play. (The flip side here, of course, is that guys at the very bottom of the chain are likely being pushed out of the ECHL entirely….So a labor dispute in which millionaires are fighting with billionaires is putting some guys who make $10,000 or $20,000 a year out of work entirely. Thanks again, NHL.)
Of course, don’t expect a rush of NHL superstars to wind up in the ECHL any time soon. This is first and foremost a development league.
For instance, teams are allowed to carry no more than four “veteran players” on their active roster, with a veteran defined as a forward or defenseman who has played at least 260 regular season games of pro hockey (players assigned to an ECHL team on an NHL or AHL contract must also be 24 or older and played in at least 260 games by the opening day of the season of the given year).
The ECHL also has a strict salary cap of $12,400 per week, so a guy who is good enough to play in the NHL can make a lot more money playing in Europe instead. Consider this: Thompson, Dubinsky and Crabb are only making $600 a week each with Alaska — the equivalent of $31,200 a year for guys who usually play in a league where the minimum annual salary is $525,000.