Sheffield Steelers wait to pick up a top bargain

NHL ace: Craig Weller was a Steelers target.     Picture: Richard Murray
NHL ace: Craig Weller was a Steelers target. Picture: Richard Murray
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RYAN Finnerty is waiting for hockey’s equivalent of the January sales.

But the Sheffield Steelers’ coach has been forced to strike off his list one of the top buys on the European market.

Finnerty is biding his time until club trials in Europe reject some of the north American players auditioning their talent.

“Leagues in places like Germany and Austria have 30-day try-outs this time of year and, inevitably, guys will fall out of the camps without a job,” said Finnerty.

“Craig Weller (95-game NHL player, played at Cardiff Devils two seasons ago before going to Austria) went for a trial over there. We were interested; most teams would be and I thought we had a chance at one point, but we’d always have been very, very fortunate to get him (Weller is now with German DEL side Ingolstadt.)

“But we are in a strong position with the defence we have signed and can afford to sit things out for a while to see what becomes available.”

Meanwhile, new British d-man Danny Meyers believes fans are in for a treat next season.

“Every day a team in our conference makes another signing and the product on the ice for the fans gets better, that means we players get more excited” he said. “The standard of import signings this summer has been unbelievable.

“Every game will be a war as all five teams have upgraded immensely.

“I think we set the tone for the summer in Sheffield, what with the early signings of Shields, Jorgensen and Pecker.

“Nottingham responded with some big signings and then we all looked to Belfast. The thing was whilst they were holding back Cardiff and Coventry joined the party with some incredible signings like Mike Danton, the ex NHLer. Belfast have now come to play as well.

“The standard of the guys playing next year will take our league back to Superleague days. Teams have over 1,000 AHL games on their roster, that’s incredible. For us British players its a huge challenge. I can’t wait to pit my wits against these NHL guys, these 400 game American league forwards.

“It’s what drives all of us on. In Sheffield we will be ready for whatever is thrown at us.

“Just look at the conference games, Cardiff, Coventry, Belfast and Nottingham are stacked but I still wouldn’t swap our line-up for any other teams. I think we are deeper and also have the experience to push on.

“We will be ready for all comers. The one thing that the league can say with confidence is that this season’s Elite league will be the best and the most competitive in history. It will be the toughest competition I have ever played in and I can’t wait.”