The Lions de Trois-Rivières submitted eight qualifying offers on June 30, 2022, to unsigned players, the maximum allowable according to the rules set forth in the ECHL CBA. Those offers went to goaltender Louis-Philip Guindon, forwards Alexis D’Aoust and Tim Vanstone, defenceman Olivier Galipeau to retain his ECHL rights after he signed an AHL contract with the Laval Rocket, Anthony Nellis and Luke Orysiuk to retain their ECHL rights in case they decide to return to North America during the season, and retirees Julien Nantel and Jesse Lees in case they change their minds.
By submitting qualifying offers, the Lions guaranteed to retain the ECHL rights to these eight players for the remainder of the season. These qualifying offers have now expired as of noon July 15, but the Lions and the players are free to keep negotiating. Out of those eight players, realistically only two might return to the roster to start the season: Vanstone and Guindon. D’Aoust is looking for an AHL contract elsewhere, but his ECHL rights with the Lions are holding up progress, as the team that does sign him would want him to be able to play for their ECHL affiliate. A trade may be on the horizon there.
Two players who were noticeably not tendered qualifying offers were Mathieu Gagnon and Olivier Archambault, making them unrestricted free agents with no further attachment to the Lions.
For the majority of the 2021-22 season, Archambault was the team’s top scorer but injuries and conflict with the coaching staff distanced him from the team, and he chose to pursue his career in Europe. The team also made it clear that it was best for both parties to go their own way by not qualifying Archambault despite his offensive talent.
Gagnon struggled down the stretch for the Lions, with the coaching staff not sure whether he should play forward or defence. His net contribution was unfortunately negative due to his lack of discipline costing the Lions the momentum. It was not an easy situation for a player brought on to be a veteran leader to see himself marginalized by the end of the season. A new start was also needed for him, and so the decision to not qualify him was the right one.
The Lions opened up two of their four veteran slots, with only Mathieu Brodeur taking a veteran slot. With 12 players signed to ECHL contracts for next season, the team is starting to fill up, with the hope that the rest of the roster will be filled out by AHL-contracted players from the Rocket.
On that topic, the Lions won’t be able to count on Shawn St-Amant returning for next season as he has left for Europe, following the footsteps of Nellis and Archambault. The Rocket only has three players contracted on two-way AHL/ECHL deals so far: Galipeau, Santino Centorame, and Anthony Beauregard.
There is, of course, still lots of time to add players to the roster before the season starts. NHL free agency has just started, so roster spots and opportunities will trickle down to the ECHL level over the next few weeks. There are still plenty of players who are looking for work for next season, so those veteran spots might fill up yet.