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Lions de Trois-Rivières take first steps toward 2022-23 ECHL season

The first player signing announcements are expected later this week.

Lions de Trois-Rivieres

The Florida Everblades won the ultimate prize in the ECHL on Saturday night, defeating the Toledo Walleyes in five games to win the Kelly Cup. It seems like ages ago that the Lions de Trois-Rivières pushed the heavily favoured Newfoundland Growlers to a winner-takes-all seventh game before ultimately running out of steam and being eliminated.

Since then, there has been little news to talk about for the Lions. We do know that the team’s MVP and top scorer, Anthony Nellis, has signed to play in Slovakia next season. Obviously this is a massive loss for the team, one that cannot be officially addressed until several season-ending milestones are achieved. Rookie defenceman Luke Orysiuk signed to play in France, and forward Julien Nantel decided to retire during the Lions’ playoff run.

On June 1, ECHL teams released their Protected Lists, which is a mere formality to begin shaping teams for next season. The Lions’ list had no real surprises on it, as the entire playoff roster made the list, plus injured players Francis Thibault and William Leblanc and suspended players Guillaume Beaudoin and Jesse Lees.

Future Consideration Trade Deadline and season-ending roster

The next milestone is on Monday at 3:00 PM, by which time all outstanding future consideration trades must be completed. Those trades cannot carry over into the next season.

The Lions had three such trades, receiving Nellis from the Fort Wayne Komets on August 30, trading Anthony DeLuca to Kansas City on January 29, and trading the ECHL rights of Cédric Desruisseaux to the Wheeling Nailers on March 25.

There was some discussion earlier this week that the Komets had traded their future consideration to Kansas City, which would nullify a debt to the Lions, but it was uncertain whether or not Kansas City traded that pick again to Indy.

Speculation is that the Lions will receive forward Perrick Dubé from Wheeling to complete their trade. Dubé was a player that the Nailers plucked off waivers from the Lions to begin with.

On Wednesday, June 15, the Lions will submit their 20-man season-ending roster, which is a list of all the players whose rights they wish to keep.

Building the 2022-23 Lions

The first day to sign players to a contract for next season is Thursday, June 16. General manager Marc-André Bergeron mentioned in his season-ending press conference that offers have already been made to certain players, so we may get our first announcements as soon as this week.

For players who are signed within two weeks, there are no further steps but to wait for training camp. For players who remain unsigned as of June 30, the Lions can submit up to eight qualifying offers, which are valid for two weeks. Non-veteran players don’t have much leverage, as the team retains their playing rights should they not sign the offer. Veteran players can reject the offer and become restricted free agents, at which point they can shop around, but the Lions will have a right to match any offer the player receives.

Veterans on the team include Mathieu Brodeur (636 pro games played), Olivier Archambault (333), and Mathieu Gagnon (326). Brodeur was the only player on the Lions to play in all 76 games, and was a pillar on defence. Archambault was polarizing, as he did lead the team in scoring, but his poor decision-making oftentimes offered up turnovers. Gagnon was brought in as team muscle, but did struggle on the hockey front. Teams are allowed to carry four veteran players.

Key pieces of the team are entering their final seasons as non-veterans. Alexis D’Aoust (237), Olivier Galipeau (230), and Cedric Montminy (216) will certainly be important to bring back, although it is well known that D’Aoust is looking for an AHL contract somewhere.

With the Laval Rocket still competing in the AHL playoffs, there has been no word on whether key AHL-contracted players are coming back next season to lend the Lions a hand, with Peter Abbandonato and Kevin Poulin at the head of the discussion, along with Shawn St-Amant.

After a successful inaugural season, the Lions will be looking to build on their performance, and the first decisions toward determining what the team will look like are being made right now.