The Alaska Aces are all but set in net after Thursday's announcement that goaltender James Reid will return to the club, presumably to be Gerald Coleman's backup once Coleman is ready to roll after offseason hip surgery.
Reid as a rookie late last ECHL season furnished the Aces some sterling stability when Coleman was on an extended promotion to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League -- Lake Erie eventually sent Reid to Alaska -- and Adam Courchaine was summoned to AHL Providence after making 20 straight starts.
A strong case can be made that Reid's emergence for the Aces -- he went 6-2-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .910 save percentage -- allowed them to seize their second straight Brabham Cup as regular-season champions.
Given Reid's performance last season, Aces coach Rob Murray was eager to regain the 21-year-old's services for the 2012-13 season.
"He never wavered,'' Murray said. "He was good from start to finish for us, and that's why I was confident I wanted him back. He really played well and deserved to come back.''
Reid was one of two signings the Aces announced Thursday. The other was center Bobby Hughes, a former Ontario Hockey League star and fourth-round NHL draft pick who has endured an up-and-down pro career.
The Aces almost certainly will announce the signing of another goaltender -- Coleman earlier this offseason said he is targeting Thanksgiving as his return date for games. The Aces play 16 of their 72 regular-season games prior to Thanksgiving.
Arriving in Anchorage in late February, Reid finally found a home in his first pro campaign. He previously played three games with Allen of the Central Hockey League and five with Lake Erie, where he was the odd-man out among three goaltenders.
It only helped Reid's cause with the Aces that he was well-liked by teammates and staff because he genuinely seemed in a great mood every day.
The team also was charmed by his unorthodox style. Neither a butterfly goalie nor a stand-up goalie, Reid is a hybrid of sorts who sometimes doesn't stop the puck so much as battle it into submission.
Hughes, 24, is an intriguing case heading into his sixth pro season. A 40-goal scorer his last season with Kingston in the OHL, his pro career has been full of stops and starts. Injuries and a legal issue have limited him to just 147 regular-season pro games.
Last season, he played 10 games, with 6-9--15 totals, in a low-level German league. Two seasons ago with CHL Wichita, where Hughes played with winger Matt Robinson, who is returning to the Aces for the upcoming season, he earned 13-28--41 totals.
Hughes' first pro season, in the AHL, was cut short by a season-ending neck injury. In 2009, while with the AHL's Albany River Rats, he was aboard a team bus that crashed on the Massachusetts Turnpike, injuring several players.
Hughes was charged later in 2009 with sexual assault for an alleged incident a year prior. An Albany jury in the summer of 2010 acquitted him in 42 minutes.
In Hughes' final major- junior season (2006-07) with the Kingston Fontenacs, a .500 team, he led the club in goals and points with 40-56--96 totals in 59 games and finished 10th in the league in points. Eight of the nine players who delivered more points than Hughes have played in the NHL.
Murray said he was approached by Hughes' agent and was intrigued enough to offer the center a deal.
"He wants to recapture his ability to play a high level,'' Murray said. "By all reports, he's worked hard all summer and wants to prove he can still play.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.