The Abbotsford Heat lacked experience and scoring punch in 2010-11, but after the first four days of the unrestricted free agent signing period, it doesn’t look like those factors will be as much of an issue next season.
The Heat figure to benefit greatly from a series of moves made by the Calgary Flames to address their organizational depth.
The Flames inked a trio of productive AHL veterans to two-way (NHL/AHL) contracts – centre Ben Walter, right winger Guillaume Desbiens, and defenceman Clay Wilson.
The NHL parent club also retained a quartet of the Heat’s key players, re-signing forwards Carter Bancks, Quintin Laing and Jon Rheault, and defenceman Joe Piskula.
Bancks and Piskula earned two-year, two-way deals, while Laing and Rheault inked AHL-only contracts.
The trio of newcomers will compete for roster spots with Calgary, but their signings also signal the Flames’ commitment to building a winner at the AHL level in Abbotsford.
Walter, son of former NHLer Ryan, has eclipsed the 50-point plateau each of the past five AHL seasons. In 2010-11, the 27-year-old centre finished ninth in AHL scoring with 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in 77 games with the Lake Erie Monsters. Walter also has 24 NHL games under his belt with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
Desbiens is a former Vancouver Canucks prospect who spent the bulk of the last three seasons with the Manitoba Moose. The burly forward notched 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 67 AHL games in 2010-11, and also suited up for 12 games with the Canucks.
Wilson was second among AHL blueliners in scoring in 2009-10 with 60 points in 75 games for the Rochester Americans. Last season he posted 48 points in 66 games with the Amerks, while also playing 15 NHL games with the Florida Panthers.