Sheffield Steelers unlikely to sign new D-man before Cardiff Devils’ trip

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Steelers’ search for a replacement for Finnish d-man Joonas Ronnberg is focusing on three north Americans, but none of them will be wearing the Sheffield shirt this weekend.

On Saturday, Steelers take a depleted defence to Cardiff Devils and transfer business will not be completed in time for that. Paul Thompson normally ices 13 imports and has two ‘scratches’ in the stands.

But that overall number has been reduced by the Ronnberg slot and the fact that Colton Fretter’s spot cannot be filled during his suspension.

“It is a tough time to find and sign quality players” said Thompson.

“We are speaking to three north Americans but there is nothing concrete.”

The club’s owner accepts the need to have a large import squad, even if it means overseas skaters must sit out. Tony Smith said there was no stretch on resources to maintain existing levels.

“It’s about having players as and when you need them” he said. “We have had injuries and it makes sense to keep players that are already over here with visas so we can keep four lines going.

“It’s not money that’s the challenge it’s keeping the players happy and that’s Thommo’s job. In football you expect to run with a big squad, where players play for their place.

“In hockey, it’s all about stats and the last thing anybody wants is to be a healthy scratch.

“Questions are asked (why they missed certain games.)

“The coach has to keep them happy, understanding that we have to have a big squad and we will need them.

“Hockey is a lot more physical this year.

“There is always going to be players down. And a couple of extras is not hurting us, in fact it is making the business stable.”

Smith said his message to players like Brady Ramsay, who has had to sit out games, was: “There are always going to be kids on the borderline, that are in or out in any given moment. My message would be to stick it out.”

He said: “We have had no discussions about releasing anybody, although one or two of them might have thought that.”

He added that with players like Mathieu Roy and Levi Nelson, who have had injuries: “There is always going to be players that are hurt.

“That is a fact of life - big game players or scorers who get a little more attention from the other side. Valdix broke his hand and his wrist last year and that affected us.”

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