We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Former UND defenseman Troy Stecher leads UND's class of NHL free agents

Grand Forks natives Luke Johnson and Paul LaDue are among those looking for a deal for next season.

Feb 18, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher (51) awaits the start of play against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher (51) awaits the start of play against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Feb. 18, 2017. The Vancouver Canucks won 2-1 in overtime.
Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA TODAY Sports
We are part of The Trust Project.

GRAND FORKS — A decade ago, Troy Stecher was passed over in the NHL Draft 211 times.

Nobody picked him the next two years, either. During his three years of draft eligibility, he was skipped 632 times in all.

But the former UND defenseman has gone on to play more NHL games than the No. 1 overall pick from a decade ago, Nail Yakupov, and more than 35 of the 61 players taken in the top two rounds that year.

Stecher, who has played 359 regular-season NHL games for the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings, will become an unrestricted free agent at 11 a.m. Wednesday, heading up a group of UND players who are seeking new deals.

In all, 12 former UND players are NHL unrestricted free agents. Two more are restricted free agents likely to sign new deals with their teams.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stecher is the most prominent.

The Richmond, B.C., product, who led UND to an NCAA national championship in 2016, signed a two-year deal with the Red Wings in 2020 worth $3.4 million. He was dealt to the Kings before the trading deadline last season and scored a pair of goals in the playoffs for Los Angeles.

Three other former UND players who have 200-plus NHL regular-season games under their belts are free agents, too — Drake Caggiula, Carter Rowney and Rocco Grimaldi.

Caggiula is coming off of a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres, but was limited to 18 games last season due to injury.

Rowney, who won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017, is coming off of a one-year deal with the Red Wings. Rowney has been limited to 45 games over the past two seasons due to injury.

Grimaldi, who found success with the Nashville Predators the last four seasons, is at the end of a two-year deal. Grimaldi was sent down to the American Hockey League at the end of last season and scored 26 goals and 52 points in 44 games for Milwaukee.

Two former UND goalies also are unrestricted free agents — Aaron Dell and Cam Johnson.

Dell, 33, has been a fixture in the NHL since 2016, playing for the San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and Sabres. Dell has played 126 NHL games, which is the third-most of any UND goalie behind Ed Belfour and Jon Casey.

ADVERTISEMENT

Johnson, under contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, split time between AHL Cleveland and ECHL Florida. He was sent to the ECHL for the playoffs and led Florida to the Kelly Cup. Johnson was named playoff MVP.

A pair of former Grand Forks prep players also are unrestricted free agents — forward Luke Johnson and defenseman Paul LaDue. Johnson was with the Winnipeg Jets organization last season but missed most of it due to a pair of injuries. LaDue was with the New York Islanders organization.

UND's other unrestricted free agents include Shane Gersich (previously with Washington Capitals), Jordan Kawaguchi (Dallas Stars), Austin Poganski (Winnipeg) and Christian Wolanin (Los Angeles).

Former UND classmates Colton Poolman and Cole Smith are restricted free agents, which makes them likely to stay with their current organizations. Poolman is with the Calgary Flames. Smith is with Nashville.

So far, 20 former UND players are under NHL contract for next season. They are Collin Adams (Islanders), Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa Senators), Brock Boeser (Canucks), Derek Forbort (Boston Bruins), Rhett Gardner (Stars), Tyson Jost (Wild), Matt Kiersted (Florida Panthers), Brad Malone (Edmonton Oilers), Zane McIntyre (Wild), Grant Mismash (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brock Nelson (Islanders), T.J. Oshie (Capitals), Zach Parise (Islanders), Shane Pinto (Senators), Tucker Poolman (Canucks), Jake Sanderson (Senators), Adam Scheel (Stars), Nick Schmaltz (Arizona Coyotes), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) and Jasper Weatherby (Sharks).

Connor Ford (Henderson Silver Knights) and Dillon Simpson (Cleveland Monsters) are under AHL contracts.

Fourteen former UND players have signed in Europe — Gabe Bast, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Mike Cichy, Oswiecim (Poland), Zach Driscoll, Glasgow (Scotland), Harrison Feeney, Bollnas (Sweden), Matt Frattin, Bolzano (Italy), Chay Genoway, Salzburg (Austria), Ludvig Hoff, Stavanger (Norway), Joel Janatuinen, Hameenlinna (Finland), Corban Knight, Omsk (Russia), Danny Kristo, Michalovce (Slovakia), Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, Villach (Austria), Brendan O’Donnell, Dusseldorf (Germany), Clarke Saunders, Anglet (France) and Adam Tambellini, Angelholm (Sweden).

UND pro contracts 2022-23

NHL
Collin Adams, New York Islanders
Jacob Bernard-Docker, Ottawa Senators
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Derek Forbort, Boston Bruins
Rhett Gardner, Dallas Stars
Tyson Jost, Minnesota Wild
Matt Kiersted, Florida Panthers
Brad Malone, Edmonton Oilers
Zane McIntyre, Minnesota Wild
Grant Mismash, Tampa Bay Lightning
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
Zach Parise, New York Islanders
Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators
Tucker Poolman, Vancouver Canucks
Jake Sanderson, Ottawa Senators
Adam Scheel, Dallas Stars
Nick Schmaltz, Arizona Coyotes
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Jasper Weatherby, San Jose Sharks

ADVERTISEMENT

AHL
Connor Ford, Henderson Silver Knights
Dillon Simpson, Cleveland Monsters

Europe
Gabe Bast, Belfast (Northern Ireland)
Mike Cichy, Oswiecim (Poland)
Zach Driscoll, Glasgow (Scotland)
Harrison Feeney, Bollnas (Sweden)
Matt Frattin, Bolzano (Italy)
Chay Genoway, Salzburg (Austria)
Ludvig Hoff, Stavanger (Norway)
Joel Janatuinen, Hameenlinna (Finland)
Corban Knight, Omsk (Russia)
Danny Kristo, Michalovce (Slovakia)
Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, Villach (Austria)
Brendan O’Donnell, Dusseldorf (Germany)
Clarke Saunders, Anglet (France)
Adam Tambellini, Angelholm (Sweden)

Free agents

NHL restricted
Colton Poolman
Cole Smith (9 NHL games played)

NHL unrestricted
Drake Caggiula (278 NHL games played)
Aaron Dell (126)
Shane Gersich (3)
Rocco Grimaldi (203)
Cam Johnson
Luke Johnson (32)
Jordan Kawaguchi
Paul LaDue (70)
Austin Poganski (22)
Carter Rowney (249)
Troy Stecher (359)
Christian Wolanin (70)

Others
Ben Blood
Brady Ferner
Casey Johnson
Nick Jones
Jackson Keane
Andrew MacWilliam
Westin Michaud
Wade Murphy
Andrew Peski
Jordan Schmaltz
Hayden Shaw
Rastislav Spirko
Keaton Thompson

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 bschlossman@gfherald.com.
What to read next
The expected opponents are Wisconsin and Army. UND has not played Army since 1966.
The Fighting Hawks junior forward made a convincing case to stay in the lineup during Saturday's exhibition game against Manitoba.
The Fighting Hawks will face a run-heavy opponent in Youngstown State, a program entering the matchup with questions at quarterback.
Week 5 provided some surprise in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.