NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays are enjoying a short off season due to their run to the Kelly Cup Finals. However, the upcoming campaign waits for no team and there is work to be done in order to get ready for the 2021-22 season. Last year’s players have all returned home and now the organization looks to build a solid foundation in which to make another run to the Kelly Cup Finals. With the team’s end of season roster announced earlier in the month, the next step for the team was to start signing players and offer qualifying offers (QOs) to unsigned players.
The team could tender offers to eight players, with no more than four of those players being veteran (v) players (260 or more regular season games played).
The Stingrays have announced that they have extended qualifying offers (QOs) to the following players:
Goalie: Alex Dubeau
Defensemen: Max Gottlieb, Doyle Somerby, and Tariq Hammond
Forwards: Cameron Askew, Dan DeSalvo (v), Dylan Steman, and Max Novak (v)
“We did our best to communicate with players at exit meetings and into the offseason to figure out what makes the most sense for our QOs,” said head coach Ryan Blair. “We have some good pieces coming back and will continue to work to bring the best people and players to Charleston.”
My analysis on the players receiving a QO:
Alex Dubeau was an easy choice. While goalies move in and out of the league pretty regularly, Dubeau racked up some incredibly solid numbers before being sidelined with a season-ending injury in the middle of May. Dubeau posted a 16-4-5 record with a 2.84 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He only lost back-to-back regulation games once the entire season. Dubeau is a solid and known commodity that can give a team a mental edge in games.
The defensemen were relatively easy to choices as well. All three players have AHL playing experience and could likely find themselves in AHL camps in the fall. All three have risks that match their upsides.
Somerby has spent three-and-a-half seasons in the AHL with last year being his only stint in the ECHL. He had a very solid stint with the Tuscon Roadrunners last year and could be a player that doesn’t see the ECHL next season at all. Hammond also spent a portion of the season in the AHL with the Henderson Silver Knights. While he didn’t skate in many games, they did hold on to him over other players that came in and out of the organization during the season.
Hammond did have a bit of a down season in comparison to his previous year with the club. He wasn’t the shut-down player that he was the year before. Still, he led the team with a +9 rating but it was down from his previous +29 the year before. When he is on track he is an elite ECHL defender and the Stingrays need him.
Gottlieb was mostly solid all season for the Stingrays and was their highest scoring defender in the playoffs. He did have lapses where he turned over the puck at inopportune times and his undisciplined penalty in the final game of the season demonstrate that there is still room for growth in his game. The ECHL is a developmental league and as a top tier defender in this league and deserved to be brought back.
The forwards given QOs set the team up for success. Steman and Askew are solid ECHL players that can play up and down the line for the Stingrays. Steman can be a game changer when he is on his tough gritty game. He can struggle during even-strength play with defensive responsibilities and was a team-worst (for active players) -13 at the end of the season, which was up from his season-low -20. If he can find balance in his game he can emerge as a top tier player.
Askew had an off season, in terms of point production, last year that wasn’t helped by his inability to regularly crack a lineup that was so talented and veteran-heavy. Askew looked comfortable when slotted with Cherniwchan and Florek as his big body and net presence favored their style of play. Unfortunately for Askew, he wasn’t a regular on that line and his positioning on other lines or as the depth forward didn’t allow him to find a groove for his game. He will have to put that behind him this year and take advantage of his chances regardless of his roster spot.
There were six veteran players on the end of season roster; Dan DeSalvo, Andrew Cherniwchan, Max Novak, Cole Ully, Justin Florek, and Mark Cooper. Ully has signed a contract overseas to play in Europe. Of the five veterans remaining in that group, only four can return and that number could be less if the Hershey Bears or Washington Capitals assign a veteran player to South Carolina. With Novak and DeSalvo receiving QOs, that potentially leaves the other three veteran players in an uneasy situation. DeSalvo had another fantastic year posting 54 points in 60 games with 16 goals and 38 assists. He put in another five goals with five assists in 13 playoff games. Novak has great vision and continues to set his linemates up for success. The bulk of his 43 points in 57 games came off of an impressive 35 assists. He also found success in the postseason adding four goals and six assists to his totals.
The players who haven’t received qualifying offers aren’t necessarily gone from the organization. Some players may have signed contracts prior to the QO deadline. Those players did not need to receive QOs and allowed the team to focus on other players. Sometimes a team will give a QO to a player not expected to sign back with the team. This allows the team to hold their rights and trade with other ECHL teams for those rights should the player wish to play elsewhere. Or if a player has decided to play in Europe, should they return to the ECHL to play later in the year it ensures the player will return to Charleston or that the Stingrays will get trade compensation from another ECHL team should the player wish to sign elsewhere.
Players from last year’s team who have signed elsewhere:
Tyler Nanne (D) Bratislava Capitals (Austria) (AHL contract and Stingrays did not own his rights)
Cole Ully (F) HKM Zvolen (Slovakia)
Jordan Klimek (D) DEAC (Hungary) (was not on playoff or end of season roster)
Brett Supinski (F) Västerviks IK (Sweden) (rights belonged to Idaho due to COVID)
Darien Craighead (F) Norfolk Admirals (was not on playoff or end of season roster)
Players from last year’s team re-signed by the Hershey Bears:
Macoy Erkamps (D)
Mason Morelli (F)
Will Graber (D)
For a full list of ECHL offseason transactions, visit our transaction page.
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