The Contract Statuses for the Utica Comets Heading Into 2022-23.

The 2021-22 season is over for the Utica Comets, which players might not be back next season?

Roster changes are a part of life in the American Hockey League, and the Utica Comets are no exception. Callups to NHL clubs and injuries are the usual culprits when it comes to roster instability during the regular season, but what about when the season is over? The short answer is it is even more volatile than the regular season.


Roster construction in the AHL can be a very tricky proposition. Since it is the top development league for the National Hockey League, AHL teams are comprised of a lot of their parent club’s prospects. Besides the prospects, teams also have veterans on “AHL only” contracts, and to further complicate things, there is a number of game restrictions on those players. Here is the exact rule courtesy of

“In the AHL, player development is a top priority. The American Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association have the following development rule in place:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season.

If you were wondering, here is what qualifies a player as a rookie in the American Hockey League.

To be considered a rookie, a player must not have played in a total of twenty-five (25) or more AHL and/or NHL regular-season games in any preceding seasons, nor in six (6) or more AHL and/or NHL regular-season games in each of any two preceding seasons, nor in one hundred (100) regular-season games in any European Elite League. A player who has met these qualifications but did so while playing on an amateur try-out agreement or as a signed junior will not have those games count towards his rookie status. Any player at least twenty-six (26) years of age (by Sept. 15 of that season) is not considered a rookie.
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Another thing to keep in mind is that a vast majority of AHL-only veteran contracts are for one year only. Now that the season is over in Utica, which Comets are under contract for next season, and who is not?

Note: and provide contract information.


PlayerContract Status
Chase DeLeoUnrestricted Free Agent – Group 6
Alexander HoltzSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Brian Flynn Unrestricted Free Agent
Joe GambardellaSigned through 2022-23
Patrick McGrathUnrestricted Free Agent
AJ GreerUnrestricted Free Agent
Fabian ZetterlundRestricted Free Agent
Nolan FooteSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Ryan SchmelzerUnrestricted Free Agent
Frederik GauthierUnrestricted Free Agent
Samuel LabergeFree Agent
Aarne TalvitieSigned through 2022-23
Graeme ClarkeSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Tyce ThompsonRestricted Free Agent
Notes: A Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agent is the same as an Unrestricted Free Agent. ELC = Entry-Level Contract.


PlayerContract Status
Michael VukojevicSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Robbie RussoSigned through 2022-23
Reilly WalshSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)
Tyler WotherspoonUnrestricted Free Agent
Jeremy GroleauSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)
Nikita OkhotiukSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Kevin BahlSigned through 2022-23 (ELC)


PlayerContract Status
Nico DawsSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Akira SchmidSigned through 2023-24 (ELC)
Mareks MitensFree Agent

The franchise(s) history of the Utica Comets

All the players listed above played at least half of the season with the Comets. Forwards Brian Halonen, Chase Stillman, and Garrett Van Wyhe along with defensemen Shakir Mukhamdullin and Topias Vilen are under contract for at least next season as well but did not meet the half season threshold. Any combination of those players should see time in Utica next season.

For these players to crack the lineup, roster spots will have to open up – and they will. Player movement happens before the start of every new season, whether in the form of trades, free agency, promotion to the NHL or releases. As much as the fans in Utica and the Mohawk Valley love this Comets team, some players won’t be back – that’s life in professional hockey. The question is, who exactly won’t be back. Time will tell.

In this episode of Marty’s Illegal Stick Hockey Podcast, it’s our Utica Comets Awards Show! Who was the most improved? Who is the heart and soul player for the team? Tune in to find out who wins these and several other categories! Then Barry Shelley from the Rink of Dreams joins us to talk about his experience at the NY State Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony!

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