The biggest gun in the Alaska Aces' offensive arsenal will be firing elsewhere next season.
Winger Dan Kissel, who signed to return to the ECHL club in the upcoming season, has instead signed to play for the Stavanger Oilers in Norway's GET-Lignen.
Kissel's departure robs the Aces of their leading scorer and co-leading goal scorer from last season, when the left-shooting winger tied for second on the circuit with 35 goals and racked 35-33--68 totals in 70 games.
Losing prospective players to Europe is not unusual in the ECHL, but losing a player who had already signed an ECHL deal, and losing him this late in the offseason, is rare.
"We're disappointed to lose him,'' said Aces coach Rob Murray. "We expected him to be a main player on our team. At this time of the summer, it's tough.''
Kissel was one of five returning players the Aces had announced for the 2011-12 season. The others are goaltender Gerald Coleman, center Nick Mazzolini, defenseman Kane Lafranchise and winger Jordan Kremyr. At this point in the offseason, the Aces each week usually announce a player signing, or multiple player signings, and they are expected to do so later this week.
In most cases when North Americans with minor-league resumes like Kissel head abroad, they do so for higher pay.
The Aces still own Kissel's ECHL rights -- it is not unusual for North Americans to take the Europe option, find it lacking for whatever reason and return to a North American league during the season.
Kissel's departure comes at a difficult time for the Aces because most elite players have agreed to deals by August, which means he will be difficult to replace.
On the upside, although the Aces do not release salary figures, Kissel certainly would have ranked high on the team's salary list. With him out of the mix, the Aces will have more room available under the ECHL's salary cap.
The ECHL salary cap in 2012-13 is $12,400 per week. Rookies must be paid a minimum of $380 per week and returners a minimum of $425 per week, though elite players usually make much more than that.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News