Lockout's end affecting CHL teams
BY JOHN RITTENOURE World Correspondent
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
2/05/13 at 6:01 AM
The NHL lockout ended on Jan. 6, but minor league hockey is still feeling the effects.
During the 113-day lockout, many NHL players ended up on team rosters in the triple-A American Hockey League. That forced many AHL players down to the ECHL or the CHL, of which the Tulsa Oilers are a member.
Now players are being called back and the minor leagues are replacing players midway through the season. Nine players in the CHL have been called up to either the NHL or the AHL. Seven others made lateral moves to the ECHL. Allen Americans defenseman Alec Martinez was called back to the NHL's Los Angeles Kings.
Tulsa was not left out. Despite lack of a direct affiliation with the NHL or AHL, forward Gary Steffes was called up to the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL and Mike Ullrich decided to leave the Oilers for the ECHL.
"Gary Steffes has been called up and has not come back down yet," Oilers coach Bruce Ramsay said. "He has played seven games for Lake Erie and I don't expect him back anytime soon."
Making matters worse, the ECHL stopped enforcing its gentlemen's agreement to honor existing player contracts. The Oilers lost Ullrich to the Trenton Titans.
"With no agreement this year they basically looked at our league," Ramssay said. "There were a lot of players playing here (CHL) before the NHL lockout and when that was over they were gone."
Even the single-A SPHL is affected. The Oilers acquired goaltender Shane Madolora and Tyler O'Kane from the SPHL.
Outside of player movement, CHL commissioner Duane Lewis saw a lot of positives for the CHL from the lockout.
"We got a lot of players who probably were not going to be in the CHL at the beginning of the year because the players were pushed down," said Lewis. "There were even some NHL contracted players looking for places to play.
"That was a positive because we got some new exposure from higher level athletics and the fans got to see those players."
The bad part was the player movement when the lockout ended.
"The NHL brought a lot of those players up to camp even though a lot of them won't be staying, then players start coming back down," Lewis said. "So at the minor league level we had a lot of turnover and roster changes. There was cost involved in bring new players in."
Four CHL teams (Allen, Denver, Bloomington, Missouri) have affiliations with AHL-NHL teams and saw the most player movement. Denver was affected the most as eight players were sent down, then called up from their roster over a period of time.
But the affiliation allows teams to work around the CHL salary cap.
The Oilers had an affiliation with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL a couple of years ago but are no longer affiliated.
"We are always open to the opportunity of an affiliation," said Oilers General Manager Taylor Hall. "Sometimes it is hard to get that relationship with different teams.
"It is a nice recruiting tool when you are affiliated but sometimes your best guys are taken.
"In our current situation where we are not affiliated the guys that we get we can keep around."
Having core players in place all year may be paying off for the Oilers, who won three straight at home last week and hope to extend their winning streak to four when they host the Rapid City Rush on Tuesday.
CHL honors Menei
Tulsa Oilers forward Ryan Menei was selected as the Central Hockey League Player of the Week for the week ending Sunday.
Menei tallied seven goals and four assists as the Oilers won all three of their games, including a 5-4 shootout win over rival Wichita on Saturday when Menei scored twice in regulation and snapped home the shootout winner.
The 26-year-old Menei has 10 goals in his last 10 games and ranks fourth in the CHL with 56 points.
- FROM STAFF REPORTS
Vs. Rapid City
7:05 p.m. Tuesday