I talked with Komets General Manager David Franke a little the other day about his immediate plans. There are some significant deadlines coming up such as the trade deadline at 3 p.m. March 14, the college amateur signing date of March 21 and the playoff roster deadline at noon April 16.
The main question I had was how a United Hockey League team could possibly go into the playoffs with a 19-man roster and survive. Last year the Komets used 22 players during their run to the finals, and it's very unlikely any team could get by with only 19 players. Franke explained that as of March 21, teams can sign two college players and they will not count against the 19-man active roster. That's the league's answer to no longer holding the North American Amateur Draft.
Teams can also put four players on injured reserve, and it's possible to put even more on team suspension. The only way those players would be eligible in the playoffs would be if they replaced someone who was going on IR or team suspension.
I also asked Franke about the likelihood of trades when there are still 10 and possibly 12 of the 14 teams still in playoff contention. Doesn't that limit the trade possibilities?
"If people want to make a move, they'll make a move, but I'm not sure how active it's going to be out there,'' Franke said. "Everybody has a full roster and is probably right to the limit as far as the salary cap. I expect teams that are out of the running to maybe make some moves.''
Franke said the Komets would like to increase their defensive depth and would like to add another scoring forward -- the same as every other team in minor league hockey.
"To be honest, I think what we have right now can get the job done,'' he said. "We're keeping our ears open, though.''
After a 5-11-2 start, the Komets have gone 24-9-2 and have climbed back into title contention. Franke also has to be careful not to disrupt the growing chemistry in the locker room that has allowed that kind of run. Scoring has always been this team's biggest nead, but the Komets have scored 4.1 goals over their last 20 games and 5.0 over their last 10.
This is what Muskegon coach Todd Nelson had to say about the Komets in the Muskegon Chronicle on Sunday: "Fort Wayne is a much improved team right now. They come real hard and have always been a hard-working team. That team has a lot of heart over there.''