Ice Hockey: The pieces that remain of the Sheffield Steelers' 2019/20 roster jigsaw puzzle

Only a couple of pieces remain to be added to the giant jigsaw puzzle that is Sheffield Steelers' roster for 2019-20.

Monday, 29th July 2019, 4:04 pm
Updated Monday, 29th July 2019, 5:56 pm
Evan McGrath

Behind closed doors, the club has now signed an import-replacement goalie for Nottingham Panthers-bound Jackson Whistle.

They want another import goalie to compete for their netminder spot, and are also currently trialling British back-ups… four of which have been on the ice in Sheffield recently.

Coach Aaron Fox believes he will find a Brit 'keeper who is "serviceable and one we could develop."The only other uncertain factor is that of Jackson's brother Brandon - it is still not clear whether he will follow his sibling on to pastures new.

Fox said he is excited by the potential of the new team he has put together over the close-season.But he also admits that he had to make some difficult decisions - ones coaches don't like doing, but have to, for the greater good.

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Referring to Jackson Whistle, Fox told The Star: "I clearly put him in a tough spot and a little later than I would have liked to.

"We were trying to form a team across the board and I did not know how much money we would have available until several key pieces were signed up.

"Some cost more than I'd hoped and it was only after that was settled that I knew what I had left."

The goalie had a contract for the coming season at Sheffield, but Fox made it clear to the player's agent that for him to stay the deal would have to be renegotiated.

"I have no hard feelings about him going to Nottingham; he's going there because of the situation I put him in.

"Decisions like that are not always popular, for sure. Sometimes hockey as a business isn't easy. But the gap between last year's league position and the top has to be closed."

Centreman Evan McGrath has also left the club after management bought him out.

McGrath has publicly made it clear he felt he had been left 'dangling' by the club. He'd wanted to return.

Fox said: "Evan was on what I'd call first line money and I made it pretty clear to him from the day I was announced (as new coach) that I was looking for upgrades across the line-up and there were no guarantees.

"I knew he had a wife and kids so I was trying to appease that by allowing him to look for other clubs, if he wanted to.

"The information I gave him was clean but things like that are not something players like to hear. Hard decisions on money value have to be taken."

Fox said he expected Whistle to be feel "sour."

He added: "I would be surprised if he felt amicable about it all. That is normal. He has decided to go 30 minutes down the road and I have no hard feelings about that."