Embarking on Season 20by Sean Gallagher | November 1, 2017, 12:33 AM ET
"Yeah, we caught a lot of heat after the second round of free agency," admitted Spartans GM Gallagher, "We'd been pretty public about not making a lot of changes and building with our core group. But after not placing even one bid in round one of free agency and then seeing the bids in round one and then a couple guys that we thought could really be impact players for us in round two, we altered the plan."
One gets a sense in talking to Gallagher that the combination of informal discussions he had with fellow GMs at the SICHL Summit this summer combined with the opportunity of the second round of free agency created a perfect storm. Talking about the "closed economy" of the SICHL and the opportunity to add players like Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara, game-changing players, may have changed Gallagher's policy of patience.
Adding solid two-way skater Michael Grabner and defensive anchor Roman Polak (both former Spartans and known commodities) later, allowed the team to significantly upgrade the roster without joining the upper echelon of expensive teams. At $81 million the Spartans are only $9 million over the SICHL average while their top nine forwards boast the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter and the aforementioned Grabner and Parise. Add Max Domi, Phillip Danault and Markus Granlund to the mix and the Spartans' depth is apparent.
Defensively, Chara will pair with Kevin Shattenkirk, allowing the offensive defenseman to run wild, while Polak will likely play the same role for youngster Noah Hanifin on the third pairing. Throw solid two-way guys Cody Ceci and Jacob Slavin on the second pairing and the Spartans seem to be pretty solid on the back line.
Gallagher also acquired Michael Leighton in free agency but was able to flip him for the cheaper, and arguably better, backup Kari Lehtonen. Hopefully nothing will happen to Frederik Andersen that will require Lehtonen to play much, but having a capable backup is a nice safety valve.
As game one looms on Wednesday, Spartan fans can only wonder what will happen with this team as the stacked American Division (six of seven teams ranked in the top 14 of the league by the SICHL Power Rankings, five in the top 11 of the league) looks to be tough, but Gallagher seems happy with the current make-up.
"The parts are there. Can they all work together like we hope they can?"
The Spartans' home opener is Wednesday night against the Boston Colonials and will feature the team playing in their retro first season Chicago Cardinals jerseys as part of the SICHL XX celebrations and recognition of the franchise as one of six 'original' SICHL teams.