( Photo Credit: ECHL Maine Mariners )

By: Tom LaPlante | Follow me on Twitter @tlaplante7

The ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, the Maine Mariners, continue to make moves to shape the third iteration of the roster here in Portland where it has been a busy few days for Riley Armstrong and the rest of the Mariners front office. The moves kicked off July 26th when the league released the list of players who received qualifying offers from clubs and continued today when the Mariners announced they were bringing back another familiar face in Greg Chase. Chase is a fast, hard-nosed forward who can also chip in on the score sheet. Injuries limited him to 42 games in ’19-’20, where he had 10 goals and 18 assists.

The qualifying offer announcement is the second step of a three-part process in finalizing rosters for the upcoming season, and teams can extend these offers to up to eight players. The Mariners used four of their eight allowed qualifying offers on Scott Savage, Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin, Ted Hart, and Mikael Robidoux. The offer is an important step as a team moves forward with forming the roster because if a player does not meet the criteria to be a veteran (260 regular-season games across any of the recognized professional leagues: NHL, AHL, ECHL, Czech Extraliga, Liiga, DEL, KHL, Slovak Extraliga, SHL, National League) the team issuing the offer retains the rights to the player for a season.

None meet the veteran status, but all four played in Portland during the 2019-2020 season and were set to come back in 2020-2021 before the North Division opted out of the season. All four have name recognition around the Cross Insurance Arena and were, to varying degrees, important players, so from a fan perspective, it is nice to have them back.

The ECHL is unique in that it is considered a “developmental league” but there is a salary cap. The AHL does not have a cap as the teams are all stocked by the parent NHL club. Although teams in the ECHL are affiliated with NHL and AHL clubs, there is a weekly salary floor and cap in the league that keeps things a little more competitive. The floor for 2021-22 is $10,600 per week, and the cap is $14,400 for the first 30 days and $13,900 for the rest of the season.

An active roster consists of 20 players and two “reserve” spots for players that aren’t on injured reserves or the active roster. Think of it as the “healthy scratch” list. The salary for those two players does not count toward the weekly cap, and players can be moved off and on that list at any time. The league puts a big emphasis on veteran status, limiting the number of veterans a team can carry on its active roster to four.

The salary a player and the club agree to is not disclosed, but there are limits the league sets: the minimum salary for an ECHL’er with more than 25 regular season professional games is $545 per week, compared to the maximum rookie contract (under 25 pro games) of $585 per week. The ECHL does require that the teams provide housing to the players, so there is at least some security for a player who could probably not afford rent in a lot of the towns they play in. There are no multi-year deals allowed in the ECHL, so this is where the qualifying offer and season-ending roster announcements come into play, as it allows teams to try and maintain at least some of their core talent from past years.

The puck drops for the third season of Maine Mariners hockey on October 22, and look at those promotional nights! Wild Blueberries was a wildly popular choice when the name choice was put to the fans. So much so that in the inaugural season, they designed a logo and uniforms for a special “What If” night. I, for one, am looking forward to what they do with it this season. Historically, New Year’s Eve has been a “can’t miss” game in Portland, considering you can attend an early afternoon hockey game and then walk out into the famous ‘Old Port’ to eat and drink the rest of the year away.

Back in the AHL days, the Pirates would put on an indoor fireworks display for fans before they headed to their celebrations, and there are rumors it may return. This will be the first year for the affiliation between the Mariners and Bruins, and there is already a buzz in the air as we creep closer to October; check out the team’s website, schedule (and promotions), and merchandise here. As always, follow me here on the blog and on Twitter for all things Mariners.