Hot On The Heels of #TradinSZN, Sparta Finalizes Roster In Free Agencyby Sean Gallagher | October 10, 2018, 11:46 PM ET
Active on the trade market in the weeks before the Expansion Draft, St. Louis' roster looked to be pretty well set well before this year's training camp. There was question of who would slot in on the 4th line with seeming locks Markus Granlund and Blake Coleman and the third defensive pairing looked like it would be open for rookie Nick Seeler to sneak in, though that seemed unlikely with such a veteran-heavy lineup.
Through two rounds of the SICHL's notoriously crazy and cutthroat free agency, it seems the Spartans have answered those questions.
With defensemen Luca Sbisa and Kevin Shattenkirk testing the restricted free agency waters, GM Sean Gallagher wasn't sure if he'd need to fill one spot on defense or three. Additionally, that open spot on the 4th line seemed to have several options in FA that would be better than going "in house".
"Shattenkirk and Sbisa earned the right to test free agency," said Gallagher, "I was confident they'd find our qualifying offers to be their best options, but you never know. We had to plan for any contingency."
Boldly going after three targets, Sparta landed Jay Beagle to center their 4th line and also signed Niklas Hjalmarsson and good ol' go-to Spartan Roman Polak to deals. Polak has played 443 games for the franchise, good for third all-time in team history.
With Sbisa and Shattenkirk choosing to accept their qualifying offers, St. Louis suddenly finds themselves with seven legitimate SICHL defenders. What that means is that the team has yet another interesting decision ahead of them. "No, not a perfect situation," said Gallagher, "Not the way we hoped this would go, but it's a product of the SICHL system. You make choices and gambles and then deal with the fallout later."
Will the Spartans enter training camp with all seven defenders? Will they carry them through the early season to evalutate which players fit best in the system? Or will they trade one for futures or package two for a different player? All seem like legitimate options at this point and management, obviously, refused to comment on the situation. For now, it seems, the team looks set to head into camp with few open jobs considering the players under contract:
Skinner - Kopitar - Radulov
Keller - Bergeron - Neal
Domi - Johansen - Niederreiter
Coleman - Beagle - Granlund
Chara - Subban
Sbisa - Ceci
Hjalmarsson/Polak - Shattenkirk
With three more rounds of Free Agent Frenzy still to come, Sparta looks to try to add to their GHA depth, but even on the sidelines, the management is excited for what is still to come.
"There are a few signature events in the SICHL season," said Gallagher, "And the craziness of free agency is one of my favorites to watch and participate in. The next three rounds are guaranteed to be fun."