David Franke: Komets waiting for August to heat up for key signings

Komets general manager David Franke

The more patient Fort Wayne Komets fans are in July, the better things could be in August and September, General Manager David Franke said Wednesday.

The Komets have signed nine players for the 2018-19 season which is as many as any other ECHL team. The problem is, the Komets lost so much with their top four scorers and one of their top three defensemen signing earlier this summer to play in Europe. They also lost one of their top targets earlier this week when former Komet Kyle Thomas signed an American Hockey League contract with Utica, in what Franke said was an offer Thomas could not refuse.

“We’re working diligently at recruiting,” Franke said. “We’re working to still try to secure an affiliation which is looking a little better now. We are doing our job. We are scouring the agents and all the players that are available. There are a lot of the good players who are still looking for AHL deals and exhausting that who will then be trying to get the bet deal they can in the ECHL. Some of the better players are not moving right now, just because they have the hope of the AHL deal. Once that hope diminishes, we have our name in with a lot of players of that type.”

Traditionally, the better players continue looking for AHL deals until mid-August and then they pick out their best ECHL deal. Last year, Shawn Szydlowski didn’t sign until Aug. 7. In 2016, Trevor Cheek signed in late-July and Bobby Shea didn’t sign until Aug. 31, and in 2015, Jamie Schaafsma signed Aug. 18 and Alex Belzile on Sept. 1.

“The one thing people have to realize is that we lost a lot of players that this time last year were coming back to Fort Wayne, and most of them were already signed,” Franke said. “We’re having to replace that good talent and that takes a little while to replace with good talent. We could build a team right now and have a bunch of players signed, but they might not be the guys we’re actually looking for.

“If you build your team in June, you’re going to miss out on a lot of good players in July, August and September. You won’t have room for them or room for guys coming back from Europe if they change their minds.”

As for affiliation news, Franke said it’s tough to make progress now because this is when many NHL executives go on vacation because they’ve gotten past the draft, rookie camps, free agency and the salary arbitration process. Last year, the Komets didn’t announce their affiliation with Arizona and Tucson until July 31. The Komets have been discussing options with Las Vegas/Chicago and Nashville/Milwaukee.

Franke said he expects center Dennis Kravchenko to re-sign with the Komets, while center Marc-Olivier Roy is looking for an AHL contract and if that falls through, he’ll be back with the Komets.

Veteran Justin Hodgman is still on workers compensation, and Franke said the Komets cannot sign him while he’s still recuperating from his playoffs concussion.

He also said there were good reasons why the Komets protected their rights to rookie Phelix Martineau even though he had already signed an AHL contract with Laval. If Laval wants to send Martineau to the ECHL, they’ll have to send him to Fort Wayne, or if Martineau is sent to Laval’s affiliate in Brampton, the Komets will be due compensation for his rights.

“We’re working on so many things right now,” Franke said. “People just need to relax a little bit and not get fired up. We’re doing our job and it just takes time. We’ve been tracking guys since the spring when we were looking for players to bring in for the playoffs and at the end of the season.

“It’s a process every summer. For the last 28 years, it’s been a process and nothing has changed. We’re into the third week of July, and there’s still an awful lot of players out there. It’s not a big concern of ours right now that we don’t have more guys signed. It’s something we’re aware of and we’re actively working on. You don’t put a team together overnight when you are replacing the guys we are.”

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