Contracted players will be paid off if better candidates come along at Sheffield Steelers – new coach opens up
Players on multi-year deals with Steelers should not take for granted that there will be a place for them in Sheffield, next season.
New coach Aaron Fox says contracts can be terminated if it is deemed in the best interests of the club and better players are available.
While that has been an unwritten and sometimes unspoken truth at ice hockey clubs, Fox is transparent in his desire to improve on last year's stock.
Which means players like top scorer Evan McGrath and brothers Jackson and Brandon Whistle will have to be on their guard.
Anthony DeLuca is the only import to have been re-signed on a new deal so far. Others like Josh Pitt and Josh McFadden are on the market.
Asked if the players with contracts for next year were certain to be on the 2019-20 roster, Fox replied: "No definitely not. That is something I mentioned to Mark (Matheson; last year player assistant coach.)
"If somebody becomes available - a can't-miss guy - then it might mean somebody is not going to return because of that.
"I will always do what is best for the organisation. There is a buy-out for any of the players (on contract.)"
Asked for specifics, Fox said: "I don't really want to name-drop. But, for instance, Brandon Whistle has to turn into a professional - period. He needs to take care of his body - in the summer he needs to be working out and looking like a pro. Evan is one of the guys who led the team in scoring last year. But if you look at he first line centre pay scale if maybe there is someone out there who can compete for that spot. I am not saying we have anybody lined up for that - but we'll see.
"As for all the guys we have not re-signed at this point, they will be aware we have a process going on and if during that time they find somewhere else then that's fine."
Pitt is not returning, he said, Eric Neiley was linked with an ECHL move and Jordan Owens was rumoured to be retiring,
"Pitt had a hot start at Sheffield but wasn't great towards the end."
Tanner Eberle had been a winger Steelers made overtures to at the end of last season.
But Fox said: “It may be his salary expectations are different from what we may see him. He would have to come in as a bottom-six guy and get his scoring going to move up the line-up. He was one of the guys who played really hard and with passion I just wish he'd been able to finish more than he did. But there is still a possibility there."