Walleye hand out 5 qualifying offers

Team shows interest in retaining players that have next-level talent

Toledo has tendered an offer to retain the services of Adam Hobson and four other players.
Toledo has tendered an offer to retain the services of Adam Hobson and four other players.

The Toledo Walleye have extended qualifying offers to five players for the 2013-14 season.

The organization has expressed interest in retaining forwards Aaron Bogosian, Adam Hobson, Joey Martin, and Travis Novak, along with defenseman Nathan Martine.

The ECHL on Monday released the list of players that received qualifying offers from the league’s teams by the June 30 deadline.

Each team was entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight players. Players who had already signed a contract by June 30 did not need to receive a qualifying offer.

The offers will remain open until Aug. 1 and then they become null and void.

Walleye coach Nick Vitucci called it a procedural matter.

“It’s just one of the steps we have to take. I’m not sure where any of these five guys will fit yet or if they will want to come back,” Vitucci said.

He said some of those players will pursue opportunities at the higher level American Hockey League.

“We will retain their ECHL rights if it doesn’t work out for them at the higher level,” Vitucci said.

He said the team’s roster will not fully take shape until after the team’s NHL affiliates in Detroit and Chicago hold their prospect camps later this month.

The Blackhawks camp is July 8-12 and the Red Wings camp is July 10-15.

The Walleye had reserved the rights to 15 players — eight forwards and seven defensemen. Vitucci said he hoped to bring back “about a dozen” of those players.

The other players on the list were forwards Nino Musitelli, Kyle Rogers, Randy Rowe, and Stephon Thorne. The defensemen on the list were Cody Lampl, Wes O’Neill, Phil Oreskovic, Phil Rauch, Joey Ryan, and Erik Spady.

Vitucci said some of those players may verbally agree to sign a contract and a qualifying offer did not need to be extended.

Vitucci also said he would not send out qualifying offers to the four veterans on the list because they can still opt to become free agents. He said he would likely offer contracts to Rogers, Rowe, Oreskovic and O’Neill in early August.

Vitucci said about four or five players have already expressed interest in returning.

TOLEDO CUP CONNECTIONS: One of the Walleye’s NHL affiliates, the Chicago Blackhawks recently won the Stanley Cup and former Toledo Storm goalie Mark Bernard will have his name etched on the iconic trophy for the second time.

Bernard is the general manager of minor league affiliations for the Blackhawks. Bernard, who played one season in Toledo (2000-01), is a former ECHL goalie. Bernard later served as an assistant coach with the Storm in 2002-03.

Bernard also had his name engraved on the Cup when the Blackhawks won in 2010. Vitucci was a teammate of Bernard’s in 1992-93 with Hampton Roads.

“He gets a ring and was part of the parade, so we’re thrilled for him,” Vitucci said.

Bernard’s 12-year-old son Jackson, who was born in Toledo, was part of the on-ice celebration in Boston when Chicago clinched the Cup.

“I know Mark was most excited about that,” Vitucci said. “The families all got to fly on the team plane.”

SOLAR BEARS HONORED: The league awarded the Orlando Solar Bears franchise with its ECHL Team Award of Excellence.

The award recognizes the ECHL team that executes a well-rounded business plan including marketing, media relations, and merchandising while also distinguishing themselves in the community.

The other finalists were the Cincinnati Cyclones and San Francisco Bulls.

The Solar Bears finished third in attendance with an average crowd of 6,668 fans per game. Orlando also led the ECHL in jersey sales.

The Walleye organization has twice been selected as the recipient of the award (2009-10 and 2011-12).

ALL-STAR GAME SITE: The ECHL also announced that Orlando has been selected to host the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game.

The Solar Bears completed their first season in the ECHL in 2012-13.

Orlando plays its home games at Amway Center, which is also home to the Orlando Magic of the NBA.

“We all know the city of Orlando is a great winter destination,” ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said. “Couple that with a world-class arena and the strong following the Solar Bears have developed and we have a perfect location for our 2015 All-Star Classic.”

The ECHL all-star game has produced more than 60 players who have gone on to play in the NHL, including 45 since 2002 when the format was changed to feature younger prospects.

A site for this season’s all-star game has not been decided.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.