Although the majority of attention is on NHL teams as they sign free agents, American Hockey League teams also have roster spots to fill, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are no exception.
Last year’s regular season champions have lost some big pieces, but they have also re-signed some good players from last year's team and landed some solid players from other organizations.
Here is a rundown of who will be back for 2011-12 and who will be continuing their career elsewhere, as well as who will wear the black, gold and red for the first time.
Out: Chris Collins
Collins will be going back to Europe for a second time, as he also played in Finland and Germany during the 2008-09 season. He will play for the Numberg Ice Tigers in Germany for the 2011-12 campaign.
He had 34 points and a plus-17 in 77 regular season games last year, and he also had five points and a plus-two in 12 playoff games. In his AHL career, Collins has also played for the Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate for the Boston Bruins.
Returning: Ryan Craig
Craig was unanimously voted as the 2010-11 Penguins captain after he joined the team from divisional rivals, the Norfolk Admirals.
He finished the season with 48 points and had seven points in the playoffs. A veteran of almost 200 AHL games, Craig was re-signed to a one-year contract.
Out: John Curry
Curry leaves the Penguins as the team’s all-time leader in regular season wins (103) and playoff wins (18). He took the team to the Calder Cup Finals in 2008 and was a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins practice squad when they won the 2009 Stanley Cup.
He bounced back from a poor season in 2009-10 by going 23-13 with two shutouts, while posting a 2.44 GAA and a .905 save percentage. He was also named to the 2011 AHL All-Star Game.
Last month he signed a contract with the Hamburg Freezers in Germany.
Out: Andrew Hutchinson
Hutchinson, who won the 2004 Calder Cup with the Milwaukee Admirals and went to the finals with the Texas Stars in 2010, has signed to play in the KHL.
In 54 games he had 36 points and an even rating, and posted five points in the playoffs. He was also an alternate captain.
Returning: Bryan Lerg
Lerg became one of the surprises of the Penguins’ 2010-11 season. In addition to posting 32 points, he also had a plus-16 rating, accomplishing this in 65 games. He had three points during the playoffs.
He has previously played for the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Lerg was re-signed to a one-year deal.
In: Colin McDonald
McDonald was recently signed by the Penguins after spending last season with the Edmonton Oilers organization. He played for their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.
He had a successful 2010-11 season, making the AHL All-Star roster and winning the Willie Marshall Award, which is awarded to the AHL’s leading goal scorer during the regular season. McDonald finished the year with 42 goals and 58 points and also had two points in six playoff games.
The Penguins awarded him a one-year contract.
In: Alexandre Picard
He was with the Montreal Canadiens last season, where he had eight points in 43 games. Picard spent the majority of his AHL career with the now-defunct Philadelphia Phantoms, but has not played in the minors since the 2007-08 season.
Out: Corey Potter
On the first day of free agency, Potter signed with the Oilers organization.
He was a good offensive defenseman this year, putting up 37 points in the regular season and nine points in the playoffs. This was the third 30-point season of his career; he hit the mark twice while playing for the Hartford Wolfpack (now known as the Connecticut Whale).
Returning: Zach Sill
Sill will be back for his third season with the Penguins. In 2010-11, he improved on his rookie year totals with 30 points and was not afraid to get physical, as he also had 85 penalty minutes. He had three points in the Penguins’ playoff run.
Sill was given a two-year contract.
Out: Brett Sterling
The 2008 Calder Cup winner, who has struggled to earn a permanent spot on an NHL roster, left the Penguins and signed with the St. Louis Blues.
This year, he had 53 points in 65 games and six points in 12 playoff games. He also had six points in the postseason.
Returning: Ben Street
Street was successful in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers in addition to impressing up in Wilkes-Barre. He had 51 points in 38 Nailers games and went to the ECHL All-Star Game. He was also named the ECHL Rookie of the Year.
With Wilkes-Barre/Scranton he had 23 points in 36 games.
Street, who was undrafted after his career at University of Wisconsin, re-signed for a year.
Returning: Brad Thiessen
Thiessen was the winner of last year’s Baz Bastien Award, which is given to the AHL’s outstanding goaltender.
In 46 games he set a new franchise record for wins in a season with 35. His overall record was 35-8-1, with a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage. He also had seven shutouts.
In the playoffs he went 6-6 with two shutouts, while posting a 1.67 GAA and a .940 save percentage.
Out: Steve Wagner
Wagner played his first full season with the Penguins this year after being traded from the Blues in 2009-10.
In 69 games, he had 28 points and had four points in 12 playoff games. During Game 6 of the East Division Semifinals against Norfolk, he became the first Penguins defenseman to post a hat trick. He had a natural hat trick in the first period of the game.
Wagner will play with Adler Mannheim in Germany for the 2011-12 season.
Returning: Geoff Walker
Walker will be back in Wilkes-Barre for another year after a career season in which he posted 30 points in 74 games. He also had four points in the postseason.
Walker will be playing his third professional season this year. He played with the Manchester Monarchs, the affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, before joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
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