Utah Hockey Club Making Splash in Draft/ Free Agency

Utah Hockey Club logo

If you are a fan of the new NHL Utah team, then do I have some good news for you. The Utah Hockey Club formerly known as the Arizona Coyotes made several moves just before, during, and now after the draft in free agency. Let’s start with things that happened just before the draft. Making a little note here that it is club’s policy not to disclose full terms of players’ contracts.

June 17-27, 2024

On June 17, Utah signed two of the draftees from last year, as Noel Nordh and Julian Lutz were both signed to entry-level contracts, which are three years in length. While it is likely they will end up in Tucson with the Roadrunners. Last season, Lutz played for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, where he played 50 games, racking up 68 points (24G,44A). Lutz was drafted in the second round of the 2022 NHL draft by the Coyotes. Nordh, who was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the third round in the 2023 NHL draft spent last season overseas in Sweden. He played 65 games last season, with 50 of them being in the HockeyAllsvenskan league, where he registered six goals and nine assists, as well as making the playoffs and winning the league championship. Nordh tallied just one goal during the championship run.

On June 19, Utah signed goaltender Matt Villalta to a two-year, two-way contract, where he will earn 1.55 million for the two years, getting $775,000 each of those years. It is also presumed that he will stay in Tucson, where he played most of last year. He had 51 games played as he earned three shutouts, a 31-17-3 record, giving up 2.54 goals against average, as well as having a .911 save percentage. He also started both games in the playoffs with a 2.56 GAA and a .914 save percentage.

A day later, Utah signed Patrick Koch to a one-year, two-way contract for $775,000. Last season, Koch played most of his season down in the AHL with the Roadrunners, notching one goal and 14 assists in 63 games. Koch also played for Slovakia in the 2024 World Championship where he got four points in eight games played.

On the 24th, Utah signed Ben McCartney also to a one-year, two-way contract worth $775,000. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. He has been on the Tucson Roadrunners since he was drafted with the exception for the 20-21 season, where he spent most of that season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Last season he wore the “A” in Tucson, playing 46 games, grabbing 22 points (6G, 16A), as well as having 67 penalty minutes. The next day on the 25th, Utah signed Vladislav Kolyachonok to a two-year contract worth 1.55 million, averaging $775,000 over two seasons. He played with both the Roadrunners and Coyotes last season. While in Arizona, he played five games, grabbing one goal and three assists, while having 11 points (8G,3A) in 34 games played with Tucson.

Also on the 25th, it was announced that Shea Weber will be inducted into the hockey hall of fame, while he is still on contract, he has not played a game since the 2021 playoffs. So by rule, Weber will be Utah’s first ever hall of fame player in franchise history despite not playing a game for them. Over the next couple of years, Weber will be paid $7,857,143 while being on the LTIR )Long-Term Injured Reserved.

On June 26th, Utah signed forward and new fan favorite Liam O’Brien, aka “Spicy Tuna”. He was given a three-year contract, worth $3 million, and $1 million average. GM Bill Armstrong said this to the press after signing him for three years “We are very pleased to sign Liam on a three-year contract. He adds energy, grit, and physical presence to the line-up every night that will greatly complement the excitement we expect from Utah hockey fans, especially in our inaugural season. We look forward to having Liam on our roster for the next several seasons.” Last season in Arizona, he registered career highs in goals, assists, points, and penalty minutes as he got 14 points (5G,9A) in 75 games, adding 153 penalty minutes. He also added 229 hits, most on the team.

June 28-Now

Before the NHL draft began, Utah signed Michael Kesselring to a two-year contract worth 2.8 million and 1.4 million each year. The defenseman played 65 games last year with Arizona, grabbing 21 points (5G,16A). “We are very pleased to have Michael as part of our club,” said Utah General Manager Bill Armstrong. “He skates well, moves the puck effectively, and has a strong shot that can provide offense from the blueline. We look forward to having Michael in Utah for years to come.” In seven games for Team USA at the World Championship, he registered two goals and an assist.

Draft time then came from Vegas, and Utah had the sixth overall pick on day one, they used that pick to pick 17-year-old Tij Iginla. Iginla is the son of former NHL superstar and hall of famer. Taj will follow in his father’s footsteps as he was seen wearing the #12 on his back during the teams first practice on Monday Morning at the Utah Olympic Oval. They also drafted Cole Beaudoin with the 24th pick in the first round which they acquired from the Colorado Avalanche.

Before day two got started, Utah made a massive move as they made a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, acquiring Mikhail Sergachev, trading away J.J. Moser and Conor Geekie, as well as two draft picks. “Mikhail Sergachev is a proven winner and point producer and has been one of the best shut-down defensemen in the NHL for a sustained period of time,” said Bill Armstrong, general manager of Utah Hockey Club. “Mikhail is a top two-way NHL defenseman, and you cannot win in this League without a star, elite defenseman. We are thrilled to welcome Mikhail to our organization and look forward to many years ahead with him leading our blueline.” Chris Armstrong, who is the president of hockey operations, added: “Bringing in one of the premier defensemen in the NHL — and a two-time Stanley Cup champion — demonstrates our commitment to our fans and to our team that we will take the necessary steps to drive this organization towards its potential.” In 34 games last year with Tampa, Sergachev had 19 points as well as 36 penalty minutes.

Another trade that Utah made was to the New Jersey Devils as they acquired John Marino and a 2025 second round draft pick. He is entering his sixth NHL season, as last year he got four goals and 21 assists in 75 games. On the 29th of June, Utah signed defenseman Juuso Valimaki to a two-year contract. The day before free agency, Utah signed Sean Durzi to a four-year contract.

At 12 pm Eastern Time on July 1, the NHL free agency period opened up, and Utah made some moves, however, not before announcing that their season opener for the 2024-2025 season will take place at home against the Chicago Blackhawks. They signed former Stanley Cup Champion Ian Cole to a one-year contract worth 3.1 million. Cole won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-2017 and 17-18. Utah added more championship experience to their roster, adding 2024 Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Stenlund to a two-year contract, who will get 2M each of the two years.

Fans have every reason to be excited for Utah’s first season as they continue to make big moves this off-season. Stay up to date as Inside the Rink will be able to cover everything this off-season. Salary Info taken from Capfriendly.com

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
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Elijah Webb

I am Elijah. Hockey is my biggest passion, however I have love for all sports. I got into hockey from day one of my life. I currently am the writer for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, and one day, I hope to become a broadcaster

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