Fife Flyers are preparing for a busy July as the recruitment race heats up ahead of the new season.
That was the message from head coach Todd Dutiaume who spoke exclusively to the Press this week on the club’s summer so far.
He reflected on the disappointment of two key losses from the line-up – Shane Owen and Evan Bloodoff – to rival EIHL clubs, but also spoke of good progress made in building on the signings made thus far.
Dutiaume explained: “We had a few disappointing losses of players we certainly wanted back, but that’s the business of the game.
“To be fair, they were up front about it and communicated their decisions to us.
“That being said, we’ve made good progress in other areas.
“Our fans will know that July tends to be a very busy month for us, and there’s every indication that this year will be much the same.
“It’s been a funny old off-season with competition heating up between the top four, which is driving wages up, so there’s been stiff competition in the market.
“We’ve navigated quite well around it and we’re confident we’re close to making our next couple of signings.
“We look forward to getting information out on these players once everything is signed and official.”
Dutiaume admitted that the loss of both Owen and Bloodoff came down to money, with Fife blown out of the water by wages on offer at Belfast Giants and Coventry Blaze.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t even come close to competing financially,” he said.
“That’s obviously disappointing but shows there is an extremely wide variance in wage structure in the EIHL. I’ve always said that, and the gap is getting bigger.”
Eyebrows were particularly raised with Bloodoff’s move to Coventry, a team with similar gates, and who finished below Fife in each of the last four seasons.
“Coventry have always had a significantly higher pay grade than us – that’s the cold, hard facts,” Dutiaume stressed.
“But we’ve consistently managed to put together teams that bond well and perform to high levels.”
The hunt goes on for replacements, with continuing the Fife trend of signing quality netminders top of the priority list.
“A lot has been made of the fact we’ve always had excellent netminders, and people’s expectations are as high as ours,” Dutiaume said.
“It’d be remiss for me to say there isn’t some luck involved, and we’ve been very fortunate with all the goaltenders we’ve had over the years. We’re under pressure again to find another top quality goalie not only to back-stop our team, but to win over the fanbase like the predecessors have.
“I’m sure everyone will appreciate this is a position we’ll need to take our time with because it’s an important one for us. It has to be right.”
Dutiaume also hinted at more key returnees making their way back to Fife, stating: “I’m quite confident we’ll see the return of the rest of the guys we’ve identified.
“With a good portion of returnees and new players around them I’m sure we’ll be a competitive and exciting team next season.”