Fife Flyers supporters can expect an influx of new arrivals ahead of the start of the new ice hockey season.
Despite just 11 confirmed signings thus far – little more than half a roster – head coach Todd Dutiaume insists recruitment is going well ahead of the opening exhibition match against Manitoba Bison in two weeks time.
Following this week’s marquee signing of former NHL forward Brett Bulmer, Dutes expects further signings to be announced in the coming days as the club finalises the paperwork on its remaining targets.
“I know it’s been a frustrating summer, but I hope everyone recognises how busy Jeff (Hutchins) and I have been on the recruitment front,” he told the Press.
“We learned a lesson the year before last to take our time and it really paid off – and we’ve done the same again this year.
“We’ve talked to some incredible people and had great success, so the team is shaping up nicely.”
Speaking on Tuesday, before the Bulmer announcement, Dutiaume added: “We’re close to announcing another two – maybe more – in the next couple of days.
“These aren’t players we just spoke to yesterday. This has been a long process and we’re guiding guys through it.
“We’re not sitting behind the eight-ball. Things will start falling into place in the upcoming days and once we get the announcements out I think people will be pretty pleased.
“In a climate where the league is ever-improving and teams are once again pushing the boat out I think we’re putting together a very competitive team.”
After a campaign that resulted in Fife clinching its first EIHL silverware in the shape of the Gardiner Conference title, as well as reaching the final four in Nottingham, the coaching staff had hoped to retain a sizeable core of last season’s squad.
However, with a number of players either retiring or moving on, only five returnees have been confirmed from last season’s import quota of 14.
Defenceman Jim Jorgensen became the latest to hang up his skates this week, while Mirror of Merit winner Charlie Mosey is also believed to be pursuing employment away from hockey.
Russ Moyer, the veteran defenceman and team leader of the past two seasons, is also weighing up a new career path, but has not yet closed the door on a possible comeback and talks are ongoing.
“We would’ve liked a few more back, but with guys retiring or moving on, we’ve ended up with five,” Dutiaume said.
“It’s another year of big turnover, but that’s today’s hockey player. They don’t stick around as much as they did in my early days of playing.
“We get mostly college guys now who come in with a life plan and we’re a small slice of that.
“We’re certainly thankful for players we get. They want to come visit Europe and play a bit of pro hockey, which we can provide for them.”
With the club’s 80th anniversary season fast approaching, Dutiaume is confident that the team will be more than a match for last season’s conference champions.
“We’re recruiting a similar type of player that people are getting accustomed to from Fife – guys who skate well, interesting characters that people can relate to and ultimately excellent hockey players.”
It remains to be seen what British contingent will make up Flyers’ roster next season, with local defenceman Chris Wands so far the only non-import signing.
Dutiaume hinted there could be some changes in this department.
“That’s been a tough one,” he said. “I’ve spoken to all of our Brits and a lot of them expressed a frustration with the amount of ice time last season, although they were absolutely thrilled for all of our success.
“It gets back into the debate about the amount of imports the league needs, but with 14 that’s the way it worked out.
“It’s different when you’re a young player coming through and you’re happy to sit on the bench and bide your time, but when you’re in your late 20s and got a full-time job it’s a big commitment to make when you’re not getting a full shift.
“We’re still talking to them and to some we’ve had to say that we don’t see their ice time significantly changing within the current league structure, so we’ll see where that takes us.
“Guys have tough decisions to make – as do I.”
On the prospect of recruiting Brits from outwith Fife, the coach added: “We will go with the best option available but that’s no disrespect to any of our local guys.
“When I think back to year one, without these local guys stepping up from the SNL to the EIHL we wouldn’t have been able to ice a team.
“We went through it all together, and without them doing everything we asked of them we wouldn’t be where we are today. I don’t think they get the credit they deserve.”