ECHL: Trois-Rivieres Lions Announces 2024 Qualifying Offers

Rich LeBlanc/InsideTheRink

The Trois-Rivieres Lions have announced that they have given qualifying offers to a league maximum of eight players, including seven forwards and one defenseman. It’s been a rather busy off-season for the Lions, as they’ve already announced eight signings for the 2024-25 season. However, of the eight players protected by the Lions, half of them have decided to take the overseas route for next season; players who have already signed didn’t need to be given qualifying offers. Here’s the rules of Qualifying offers per the ECHL:

Each team was entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight qualified players. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four could be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the upcoming 2024-25 season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded.

The qualifying offer must remain open for acceptance until July 22, at which time the qualifying offer becomes null and void, and the team may sign the qualified player to any salary or may elect to take no further action. Teams that extend a valid qualifying offer to a non-veteran player shall retain the rights to that qualified player for one playing season.

A team that extends a valid qualifying offer to a veteran player, or to a goaltender who has played more than 180 regular-season games, will retain the rights to that player until July 22. After July 22, if the veteran player or goaltender is not signed to a contract by the team, the player shall be deemed a restricted free agent and shall be entitled to seek and secure offers of employment from other ECHL teams. Restricted free agents may not be traded. When a restricted free agent receives a contract offer from a team other than the team with the player’s rights and the restricted free agent wishes to accept the contract offer, the restricted free agent and the offering member must, within 24 hours, notify the ECHL, the team with the player’s rights and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. The member with the player’s rights shall have seven days after the date it is notified to exercise its right to match the contract offer.

If a restricted free agent is not signed to either an offer sheet or a contract by an ECHL team by August 8, the player shall be deemed an unrestricted free agent.

Who Could Be Staying

Ty Smilanic- The 22-year-old center is coming off a rough rookie year in the ECHL as he played in only 31 games, putting up one goal and six assists for seven points before leaving the team in mid-January due to mental health reasons. Prior to making the jump to the ECHL, Smilanic spent three seasons at the NCAA level, where he put up 28 goals and 18 assists for 46 points in 84 games with Quinnipiac University and the University of Wisconsin. Smilanic was originally a third-round pick by the Florida Panthers in 2020 but was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in a deal that sent Ben Chariot to the Panthers.

Matthew Boucher—The 26-year-old forward had an injury-shortened season in 2023-24, which saw him play in only 34 games as he split his time between the Trois-Rivieres Lions and Belleville Senators before being ruled out for the year on March 15th. In 17 games with TR, he put up 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points, and he added two goals and six assists for eight points in 17 games with the Senators. If the Lions sign Boucher, it would fill a huge hole for them after losing a lot of key pieces to Europe this off-season, as the California native has spent four years in the ECHL, putting up 56 goals and 54 assists for 110 points in 104 games as he’s spent time with the Utah Grizzlies, Iowa Heartlanders, and Trois-Rivieres Lions. He would win Rookie of the Year in 2021, where he would put up 25 goals and 27 assists for 52 points in 59 games.

Who’s Not Returning

Rich LeBlac/InsideTheRink

Nicolas Lariviere- The 27-year-old center recently announced that he won’t be returning to Lions for next season, and it has yet to be known if he is stepping away from hockey or if he has intentions to place elsewhere for the 2024-25 season. Lariviere has been a physical force for the Lions over the past three years, playing in 141 games while putting up 27 goals and 27 assists for 54 points and 263 minutes in penalties. There’s no question that the Lions will be on the hunt for a big body to help fill the hole left by the Quebec Native.

Eric Hjorth- The 23-year-old defenseman has spent the majority of his career overseas after being selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Hjorth would begin the 2023-24 season in North America and would play 43 games with the Lions, putting up three goals and six assists for nine points before heading over to Italy in February. The 6’5 Swedish defenseman has spent time in Sweden, Finland, and Italy over the past four years.

Justin Ducharme—The 24-year-old native spent three seasons in the ECHL, two of them with Trois-Rivieres, where he scored 42 goals and 60 assists for 102 points in 146 games. Ducharme was a solid player for the Lions during the 2023-24 season, scoring 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points in 68 games and finishing tied for second on the team in points (44). There’s no doubt that with Ducharme deciding to take the overseas route for next season, he will be one of the bigger losses for the Lions.

Nicolas Guay—The Quebec Native spent two seasons in the ECHL, both with the Lions, where he scored 23 goals and 47 assists for 70 points in 108 games, including 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in his injury-shortened 2023-24 season. Guay will be joining the same team as Justin Ducharme in Slovakia for the 2023-24 season.

Maxime Trepanier—The 25-year-old forward joined the Lions to begin the 2023-24 season after he played two seasons at Concordia University, where he scored 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points in 33 games. Trepanier spent the first two months with the Lions, scoring five goals and five assists for 10 points in 17 games before deciding to go overseas and head to Norway.

William Lemay- The 25-year-old forward is another player who didn’t spend much time with the Lions, as he played in just 14 games with the Lions at the end of the 2022-23 season and would play 14 games with the team in the 2023-24 season and would put up five goals and five assists for 10 points before taking the overseas route to Italy. Lemay has signed in France for the 2024-25 season.

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Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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