Guillaume Desbiens is among a group of Heat players who are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Guillaume Desbiens is among a group of Heat players who are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Free agency primer: Heat may seek snipers, Irving eager to re-sign

As the Abbotsford Heat head into the off-season, head coach Troy Ward believes the roster just needs a tune-up, rather than an overhaul.

As the Abbotsford Heat head into the off-season, head coach Troy Ward believes the roster just needs a tune-up, rather than a complete overhaul.

But if he were submitting a shopping list on behalf of the AHL club to Calgary Flames management, who handle the Heat’s personnel matters, he’d ask them to target goal-scorers when the free agent market opens on July 1.

The Heat mustered 200 goals in 76 games last season, which left them 24th out of 30 teams in the AHL. And they needed a late scoring surge to finish that high – as recently as Game 67 of the regular season, they were last in the league in terms of goals per game.

Abbotsford had an elite sniper in Krys Kolanos, but Ward believes having more finishers in place would help promote the development of younger players.

“If you’re going to be a team of some substance and hopefully play a while (in the playoffs) at this level, I would say you have to have goal-scoring at this level,” he noted.

“I think there are some players that have played a lot of games for us this season that would have said, ‘It would be nice to have a little more finish around me.’ We might go out and look to purchase more finishing.

“(But) our needs are just to fine-tune some things around here. It isn’t like we need to change the footprint of how we do our business or how we built this hockey team this year.”


Among the Heat’s free-agents-to-be, both goalies are without contracts for next year. Leland Irving is a restricted free agent, while Danny Taylor is unrestricted.

Irving’s 2011-12 season was quite a ride. He was stellar in the first half, backstopping the Heat to one of the best records in the AHL. Then in early December, a knee injury to Flames backup Henrik Karlsson opened the door for Irving to make his NHL debut. He performed well enough in limited action behind Miikka Kiprusoff that the Flames recalled him on several occasions to make spot starts even after Karlsson returned to health.

But Irving hit a rough patch in March, as the travel grind of bouncing between Calgary and Abbotsford took its toll.

On April 5, he experienced another major highlight, as he and his wife Ashley welcomed their first child – daughter Halle Annie – into the world. But during that time, Irving was away from the team for three games, and Taylor got on a hot streak and ended up starting seven of the Heat’s eight playoff games.

“It was a real exciting season, with a few ups and downs along the way,” Irving said. “But it felt like I accomplished a lot.”

Irving conceded that watching from the bench during the playoffs was “tough,” but he took no issue with Ward’s decision.

“Like any athlete, I wanted to be in there,” noted Irving, whose lone post-season start was a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies in Game 3 of the second round. “But Danny played great. He got on a hot streak at the right time, and he played really well. You can’t fault the coaches for wanting to play him.

“The only person I can blame is myself. I could have went in there and played better – obviously I would have liked to. But it was just an adjustment, coming back from Calgary to readjust to the speed, and it took me a little while to find my game. I eventually did get it back together, but we were too far into playoffs by that point. You just had to keep rolling with Danny.”

Last summer, after the Flames signed Karlsson to a two-year, one-way contract, Irving considered playing in Europe since it seemed his path to NHL playing time was blocked.

The situation is far different, if murkier, heading into 2012-13. It’s hard to know what Calgary plans to do with Karlsson after using Irving as the de facto No. 2 goalie in the organization during the second half. Taylor also performed well enough in Abbotsford to earn a new contract.

Irving noted his fate is in the hands of the Flames at this point, contract-wise, but said he loves playing in the organization.

“I love Abbotsford, love Calgary, and obviously this is where I want to be,” he said.


The Heat have a core of potential returnees under contract for 2012-13, including the likes of Kolanos, Ben Walter, Quintin Laing, Greg Nemisz and Clay Wilson.

But there are decisions to be made on a number of key veterans who will be free agents. Forwards Jon Rheault, Dustin Sylvester, Guillaume Desbiens, Hugh Jessiman and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond are among the regulars set to hit the unrestricted free agent market, along with high-scoring blueliner Brian Connelly.

The following is a list of the contract statuses of Heat players.

Under contract for next season

• Two-way deals (NHL/AHL)

Krys Kolanos

Ben Walter

Greg Nemisz

Ryan Howse

Roman Horak

Carter Bancks

Max Reinhart

Gaelan Patterson

Mitch Wahl

David Eddy

Michael Ferland

Turner Elson

Bryan Cameron

Joe Piskula

Chris Breen

James Martin

Brady Lamb

Joni Ortio (will play in Finland next season for IFK Helsinki)

• AHL contract

Quintin Laing

• One-way NHL contracts

Clay Wilson

Brett Carson

Restricted free agents

Akim Aliu

Paul Byron

Logan MacMillan

Ryley Grantham

Leland Irving

Unrestricted free agents

Jon Rheault (pictured right)

Dustin Sylvester

Guillaume Desbiens

Hugh Jessiman

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond

Raitis Ivanans

Adam Estoclet

Stefan Meyer

Tyler Ruegsegger

Brian Connelly

Jordan Henry

Nick Tuzzolino

J.P. Testwuide (had been on loan from Chicago Wolves)

Danny Taylor

Just Posted

Tourism Abbotsford has launched the ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign to encourage visitors to check out all Abbotsford has to offer. (Tourism Abbotsford photo)
Tourism Abbotsford launches ‘Let’s Go Do Something’ campaign

Visitors encouraged to check out all Abbotsford has to offer this summer

A GoFundMe campaign has been started for Heather Jensen of Abbotsford, who is battling an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Online fundraiser started for Abbotsford woman fighting aggressive breast cancer

Heather Jensen is unable to work during her health battle

Temperature records were broken for June 21, 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
Record-breaking heat shimmered across Fraser Valley for second day

Tuesday should be a bit cooler says forecast from Environment Canada

Emil Anderson Maintenance is mowing the shoulder along Lougheed Highway in Agassiz, asking motorists to use extra caution around slow-moving vehicles on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Graphic/Emil Anderson Maintenance)
TRAFFIC: Slow-moving mowers working on Highway 7 shoulders in Agassiz on Tuesday, Wednesday

Mowing takes place Tues., Weds. between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Artists featured in the BLM Social Justice Art Project at UFV are (clockwise from top left): Michelle Msami, Dona Park, Rain Neeposh and Faria Firoz.
Black Lives Matter art exhibit opens at UFV in Abbotsford

Show features the work of four artists and runs until Sept. 15

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read