The second edition of the Maine Mariners is taking shape.

The local minor-league hockey franchise has extended qualifying offers to six players for the upcoming 2019-20 ECHL season, including three who already have signed American Hockey League contracts.

Goaltender Connor LaCouvee (Canadiens), forward Greg Chase (Rangers) and defenseman Scott Savage (Predators) expect to play for AHL affiliates in Laval, Hartford and Milwaukee, respectively. If they return to the ECHL at any point in the season, however, their rights will be with the Mariners, who are affiliated with the Rangers but also accepted players from the Montreal system who didn’t fit on Laval’s AHL roster.

Should Nashville prefer that Savage play for its new ECHL affiliate in Florida (the Everblades), Mariners General Manager Danny Briere said, “We could work something out in return.”

Sunday was the ECHL deadline for making qualifying offers, which include a pay raise and must be exercised by July 16. The other three players to receive them from Briere are forward Alex Kile, who scored 13 goals in 22 games with Maine but spent the majority of last season in the AHL; defenseman Johnny Coughlin, who joined the Mariners for 10 games last spring after completing his four-year collegiate career at Holy Cross; and forward Corey Kalk, who played a combined 50 ECHL games with Orlando and Wichita after wrapping up his four-year career in 2018 at Dartmouth College.

The Mariners acquired Kalk’s rights to complete a trade with Wichita.

“He’s not sure if he wants to go to Europe or quit hockey or play another year,” Briere said.

Each ECHL team could extend a qualifying offer to up to eight players, and thus retain their league rights to that player for the upcoming season. Among the former Mariners who received a qualifying offer from an opposing ECHL club was Riley Bourbonnais, who had been traded in December to the Allen Americans.

Last month the Mariners announced the signings of eight players: forwards Terrence Wallin, Michael McNicholas, Dillan Fox, Dwyer Tschantz and Nick Master and defensemen Derek Pratt, Josh Couturier and Rich Boyd.

Briere said the team also signed forwards Taylor Cammarata and Ryan Ferrill and defenseman Garrett Cecere.

“At this point, we would only be looking for high-end ECHL players because we’ve signed most of our guys already,” Briere said. “We’ve got to keep some roster spots open because we’re going to get some guys, most likely, from the Rangers.”

Veteran defenseman Zach Tolkinen, who served as captain when with the Mariners last season, is likely to sign a two-way deal with Hartford (the Rangers AHL affiliate), Briere said, “so he might be bouncing back and forth” between Connecticut and Maine.

A handful of Mariners have remained in the Portland area to train together. Training camp is likely to begin in early October, but is dependent on the Rangers and the Hartford Wolfpack and which players don’t make NHL or AHL rosters.

Hartford will have a new coaching staff. Riley Armstrong and assistant Anthony Bohn are both returning to the Mariners bench.

“The nice part is we have a lot of returning players, which is a big advantage compared to last year,” Briere said. “The first 10 or 12 games were tough. We had new players who had never played together before and a new coach with a new system. At least now, we’ll have a base of guys returning, so it should be a little easier for Riley.”


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