Although there have been a few signings so far in this off-season, preparations for the start of the 2019/20 officially began today with five out of the 10 Elite League clubs with big news.
The day started with the announcement from Glasgow Clan that forward Guillaume Doucet was leaving them to take on an opportunity off the ice, later revealed to be Nottingham Panthers’ new Director of Hockey.
The 32-year-old has retired from the playing side, but insists he’ll take his time to help the club find a new coach to work with assistant Rick Strachan, who returns to his previous role after taking over from Rich Chernomaz during the previous campaign.
He said: “I’m very much looking forward to it. It was such a great opportunity for me to come back to Nottingham and try to bring this club back to where it belongs.
“I’m very fortunate with this opportunity and looking to get things back where they should be.
“I have the big task of finding the new head coach and I’m looking forward to the challenge. If I’m careful and take my time we can find the right guy to set the right tone for the coming season.
“The second biggest task is finding the right players to build our team. I was in the dressing room not long ago so I know what kind of team I want to build.”
Play-off champions Cardiff Devils got their preparations underway for the next campaign by signing Joey Martin for what will be a sixth season.
The two-time EIHL Player of the Year has consistently been among the top scorers in each of his previous five years and coach Andrew Lord says he has improved during his time in South Wales.
“There isn’t a player on any team in this league I would take over Joey Martin, he is the complete player and a proven winner,” he said.
“He has consistently been one of the best players in the EIHL every year and he continues to get better.
“The EIHL has improved every year over the last five seasons but ‘Marty’ has improved with it. He doesn’t take days off, he works on his game relentlessly all season long and constantly wants to get better.
“We are pleased to have him back and he is the first piece of the puzzle in place for us to start building another championship team.”
In Coventry, the Blaze had already added five names to their team and announced returns for Dillon Lawrence and Justin Haché as coach Danny Stewart puts his side together.
Both players arrived last year, Lawrence from Edinburgh Capitals and Haché from Danish side SønderjyskE and each played their part as Coventry reached the play-offs.
Stewart was pleased to have them on board again: “There are many things I like about Dillon. For his size he skates very well and has a good skill level.
He’s responsible in all three zones and is dependable in the circle. He is still young, and I think he has a lot more to offer, and hopefully next season he will progress even further.
“Getting Justin back is a big signing for us. He’s a top pairing guy that excels at both ends of the ice. He plays in all situations and eats up big minutes on the back-end.
“An injury disrupted him this past season, but he came back and was healthy at the end. Guys that can produce at both ends of the ice are vital in today’s game and he does that for us in a big way.”
Another player returning for a second campaign in the Elite League is Glasgow Clan defenceman Matt Stanisz, making it three signings this week for Pete Russell’s men, adding to the arrivals of Scott Pitt and Craig Moore.
Stanisz joined from Manchester Storm last summer and after a successful year in Scotland, the 28-year-old says a second year was the choice he wanted.
“Staying here was always my preferred option,” he said. “It was an enjoyable year with a great group of guys and we’ve made some good signings already so regardless of that, I always wanted to stay here and I’m glad we got it done.
“Having that core is vital because you’re already building off what’s gone before. You’re already comfortable with the group, not that it’s not, but you’ve got that security knowing how those players play.
“It can be hard keeping a core group because of what’s gone on before or opportunities that guys might have elsewhere. But so far, we’ve got a handful of guys and I hope that can keep growing. We know if we put the work in, we’ll get results.”
Dundee Stars began their summer with the return of Drydn Dow, another player coming back to the Elite League for a second year.
Dow was a popular figure with the Stars fans, despite the team failing to reach the play-offs and he found a fan in coach Omar Pacha, who is tipping big things for him.
Pacha said: “Signing Drydn back was one of my main objectives over the course of the summer. He was a defenceman that I think started the year really strong for us and throughout the season he was one of our key guys.
“As a first-year guy, I think he shows a lot of potential for next season and he was obviously a key guy who logged a lot of minutes and he was very reliable.
“I really rate Drydn and I think he can be one of the better defenceman in the league next year.”
One player who won’t be staying at his team from last season is Manchester Storm forward Ciaran Long, with his destination yet to be revealed.
Storm coach Ryan Finnerty insists they tried all they could to keep the highest scoring British player in the Elite League at the club for a third season, but their efforts were in vain.
“The club were informed this week that Ciaran had decided to move on to another team,” Finnerty said. “We tried hard to retain him, but unfortunately could not match the other offer.
“We want to thank him for two great seasons and wish him all the best in the future. Losing a player like him is tough but it’s even harder to lose the person he is from our room.
“He’s a great guy, comes from a great family and we will miss him next season.”