The Daily Skate: Why aren't NHL teams signing college goalies this offseason?

Hunter Shepard (32) of Minnesota Duluth makes a save against UMass Lowell during Saturday's game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Forum News Service
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The rush of NHL signings has come and gone in the college hockey world.

There will still be more signings that trickle out the rest of the summer. But the main rush is over.

So, where are all the goalie signings?

Only two college hockey goalies have inked NHL deals. Both were draft picks. Mike Richter Award winner Jeremy Swayman of Maine signed with the Boston Bruins and senior Tyler Wall of UMass Lowell signed with the New York Rangers.

That means no NCAA free agent goalies have signed NHL deals yet.


And it's not like there aren't big names sitting out there -- even among seniors.

Senior Cale Morris, who posted a .931 career save percentage at Notre Dame, is still unsigned. So is senior Hunter Shepard, who led Minnesota Duluth to back-to-back NCAA national titles. And Michigan State senior John Lethemon, who many scouts believe could be the best of the bunch, also is unsigned.

There are a few possible explanations for the lack of goalie signings.

No. 1: There was a big surge of college goalie signings last summer. Ten of college hockey's 60 starting goalies signed NHL contracts (seven drafted, three free agent). Over half of them will still be on their entry-level contracts in 2020-21. So, perhaps, there just aren't a lot of spots open. We saw this cycle happen in 2016-17 and 2017-18, too. After the 2016-17 season, seven NCAA goalies signed NHL free-agent deals (all seven free agents). The following summer, only three signed (one free agent).

No. 2: There are questions about the feasibility of minor-league hockey next season. There's more hope for the NHL to be played, because if fans aren't allowed in the seats, the NHL can still make money on its media rights deals. Minor league teams are dependent on gate revenue. Some NHL teams may be reluctant to sign deals for players who are expected to be in the minors.

No. 3: It's not a great goalie class, scouts say. Those in pro hockey think if teams were extremely eager to get one of these guys, they'd find a way to do it. But they're not right now.

Unless one of the remaining players is signed, this will go down as the smallest NHL signing class for college goalies since College Hockey Inc., began tracking signings in 2011-12.

Titans are home during UND-Penn State

Progress against the coronavirus will tell the story of whether UND vs. Penn State in Nashville will happen in October.


If it does, there's another event to put on the calendar.

The day after the UND-Penn State game, the Tennessee Titans are hosting the Houston Texans in a noon game. So, if this thing does actually happen -- we're a long way from having fans at sporting events right now -- this could add to that weekend.

Andy Murray taking big pay cut

Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray is taking a 25 or 26 percent pay cut to help the school address budget problems, according to the Western Herald .

Western Michigan is cutting $6 million from its budget -- a third of which was coming before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Broncos athletic director Kathy Beauregard and head football coach Tim Lester also will be taking similar pay cuts, according to the article.

There will be quite a bit of fallout from the coronavirus to college athletics as a whole. This is only the beginning.

The MAC, the league Western Michigan and Miami play in for its non-hockey sports, is expected to wipe out some of its conference championships completely and scale down others. The Big Sky announced a similar move Monday .

More West representation on Rules Committee

The last few years, the NCAA Rules Committee has had zero representation from the three Western-based college hockey conferences -- the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and the Big Ten.


That will change this fall.

As previously reported, UND associate athletic director Erik Martinson is joining the group. He won't be the only one. Alaska Anchorage announced that its head coach, Matt Curley, also will be joining in the fall.

"I am excited to serve on the rules committee and represent the teams in the West," said Curley. "This will be a great personal experience for me and will be a good opportunity to represent UAA on a national stage."

Martinson and Curley, who will remain on the Rules Committee until 2024, will not be part of this summer's rules discussions, though .

Motzko comments on potential changes

Minnesota coach Bob Motzko joined a Zoom call with media members Monday afternoon.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but Motzko did touch on a few looming rules changes.

Most notably, he said that he and the Big Ten will back the NCHC's proposal to alter overtime protocol . Perhaps that's not a huge shock. It is believed that the ECAC will be most difficult to get on board with the overtime change.

Motzko also said that he's adamantly against the idea of calling penalties if you lose a coach's challenge. Motzko said that video review quality changes so much from rink to rink in college hockey that calling penalties would be too harsh.

LIU coaching search is on

Long Island University is searching for a head coach for the D-I program it's planning to launch this fall. According to a tweet from New England Hockey Journal's Jeff Cox, it's not an easy one for the startup program.

Cox tweeted that at least four people have turned down LIU because of a lack of resources.

Landing a big-named coach would go a long way to building some credibility for LIU, but with one of the lowest coaching salary pools in college hockey, it might be a challenge.

Nation's leading scorer turns pro

Providence forward Jack Dugan, the only player to tally more points in the country than UND's Jordan Kawaguchi last season, has turned pro, signing with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Dugan had 52 points in 34 games and was named one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists but did not make the top three.

Dugan, a sophomore, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Golden Knights in 2017.

Huglen to have surgery

The Buffalo News reported that Roseau's Aaron Huglen, a Minnesota commit, will have back surgery this week.

Huglen, a member of the Fargo Force in the USHL, missed the entire 2019-20 season with the injury he sustained while lifting weights. Huglen was a fourth-round pick of the Sabres last summer.

AHL calls off the season

The American Hockey League finally confirmed the inevitable Monday that its 2019-20 season is over.

WDAY's Taylor Budge caught up two local players -- Moorhead's Will Borgen and Grand Forks' Jon Lizotte -- about the development. Read that piece here .


  • One-time UND commit Ashton Bell has been named captain at Minnesota Duluth next season. Bell, who was recruited as a forward, has been moved to defense, where she has become a prolific scorer. Bell had 11 goals and 32 points in 36 games for the Bulldogs, whose leading scorer, Gabbie Hughes (20 goals, 51 points), also was a UND commit.
  • Hockey East named former NHL referee Brian Murphy as its new director of officials. Murphy worked as a Hockey East official from 1986-88 and is one of two Americans to have officiated more than 2,000 NHL regular-season games.
  • Motzko said he thinks the pandemic will lead to a lot more regionalized scheduling: "We have some pretty good teams in our back yard. I think it makes a lot of sense."
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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