Views from the Press Box with Dan Weiss

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Sunday marked the kick-off of free agency in the hockey world and the unofficial countdown to the start of the 2012-13 season as rosters begin to take shape. Through the first five days, the Rampage have been active participants welcoming back some old faces and bringing in new ones, while at the same time waving good-bye to a couple of their key pieces from a year ago. Free agents Greg Rallo and Dov Grumet-Morris were the first to sign on the dotted line Sunday, both inking new one-year two-way pacts. It was quite a memorable weekend for Rallo and his wife, as the couple also welcomed their first child Saturday. The good news is they get to stay in San Antonio in all likelihood, and that’s good for Rampage fans. Despite getting off to a slow start, Rallo rebounded with a strong second half and finished with 19+ goals and 40+ points for the third consecutive AHL season. His veteran presence and voice in the locker room will also be an asset for what figures to be a younger group this coming season. Meanwhile, Grumet-Morris had already re-signed a new AHL deal with the Rampage in the spring, but was rewarded with his first two-way contract after collecting an AHL career-best 19 wins. With the potential return of Jacob Markstrom to at least begin the season, Grumet-Morris solidifies what was one of the best goalie tandems in the league a year ago. The two combined to post a 36-25-2 mark with a 2.32 goals against average and a .924% save percentage. When considering the old hockey cliché that teams like to build their roster from the net out, the Rampage are already off to a great start.

Florida also signed two players this week that figure to be in the Rampage plans come October. Free agent forwards Jon Rheault and Jean-Francois Jacques both signed one-year two-way contracts and arrive with a wealth of AHL experience. Rheault, who was born in Arlington, Texas but has lived in New England since he was three, had 15 goals and 30 points in his first 36 games with Abbotsford last season before suffering a myriad of injuries that sidetracked the rest of his year. The fourth-year AHL winger has had a nose for the net with 36 goals and 83 points in 194 career games, and possesses an impressive playoff resume with 9 tallies in 21 career post-season contests. Jacques, a former second-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers, netted 21 goals in 65 games with Syracuse last season, and has 68 goals and 143 points in 209 games. A big body at 6’3 and 230lbs, Jacques also 166 NHL games to his credit, including six last year with the Anaheim Ducks. Rheault and Jacques hope to off-set the loss of San Antonio’s top three scorers from a year ago who all signed with new teams this week. Jon Matsumoto and Bracken Kearns both inked contracts with the San Jose Sharks, while Bill Thomas signed a new deal with the Colorado Avalanche. That trio amassed 72 goals and 164 points last season, which is a lot of offense to make up. But one thing we learned from General Manager Mike Santos last season is that he hardly sits on his hands when it comes to improving the roster, so expect him to fill the void over the remainder of the summer. Meanwhile, Mark Cullen and Sean Sullivan remained unsigned, as do the Rampage restricted free agents of Michael Caruso, James Wright, Eric Selleck and Brian Foster.

The Hershey Bears are becoming the new destination point for former Rampage skaters. Four former members of the herd, Jon DiSalvatore, Jeff Taffe, Garrett Stafford, and Mathieu Beaudoin, all signed in Chocolatetown this week as the Bears look to rebound from an early playoff exit last season. While the Rampage offense certainly took a bit of a blow this week, the same can be said for the Houston Aeros who lose 46 goals and 114 points with the departures of DiSalvatore and Taffe. Like Bracken Kearns, DiSalvatore is one of those players who keeps getting better despite getting older. The 31-year-old has posted an identical 28-33-61 stat line for the last two seasons, and has scored 20 or more goals in each of his nine seasons in the AHL. Now that’s a model of consistency.

Finally this week, please keep Brett MacLean and his family in your thoughts. The 23-year-old and holder of just about every offensive record in Rampage history collapsed while playing a pick-up game Monday in his hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario. MacLean suffered what the Phoenix Coyotes called a “cardiac emergency” and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He was transferred out of the intensive care unit Wednesday and is currently listed in stable condition, though no reason has been given for what happened to this point. The good news is he is in the care of excellent doctors, and we wish him a speedy recovery and a chance to return to the ice in the near future.

Views From The Press Box Archieve
Week 1: June 15, 2012
Week 2: June 22, 2012
Week 3: June 29, 2012

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