Edinburgh Capitals co-owner Scott Neil today insisted that cash problems were not behind the recent departures of three key players.
Questions were raised again this week as experienced forward Paul Zanette was allowed to join Italian club Asiago on loan until the end of the season. This follows the decision to allow key players Ryan Hayes and David Rutherford to walk away from their contracts.
Fans are wondering if this exodus is similar to that of season 2010-11 when players were encouraged to leave following a cash shortfall.
Edinburgh came within a whisker of going to the wall that summer but Neil is adamant money issues are not behind three of the club’s top earners – as well as rookie Canadian defenceman Nate Fleming – leaving the club within the last month.
Asked whether money has played a part in any player’s decision to leave Murrayfield this season, Neil said: “No, not at all. This has come down to team performance and after a very poor run (of results) we found ourselves with some senior players who wanted some longevity to their season.
“After a run of fifteen games without a win, you would have to find someone with pretty deep pockets to bet on us making a play-off place.”
Neil continued: “It’s a situation where we’re just as disappointed with as the fans, especially after having seen the way this team played in the early part of the season. To see the slump we had through December and January was very frustrating. From a position in the top half of the table in November to effectively being out of the play-off race by mid-January was astonishing.
“We had something to build on and, within a very short period of time we didn’t even find ourselves in a position to compete for a play-off place. We need to find the reasons behind this collapse and the remedies for it.
“We were very close to making a big impression this year. We put in major investment compared to previous seasons, in terms of North American players, accommodation, flights, cars. There has been a major drive forward off the ice but unfortunately our league position is pretty much the same as last year, but I’m hopeful we’ll be in a position to do the same this summer (in terms of recruitment).
“With the likes of Zanette confirmed as coming back I think there will be three or four others from this year that we’re keen to hold onto and, the way they’re talking, our key assets are interested in coming back which is great.”
Edinburgh have used the space in their roster – decimated by most likely season-ending injuries to Jacob Johnston, Brandon Coccimiglio, who returned to Canada this week, and player-coach Riley Emmerson – to run the rule over some young foreign players, such as recent signing Brandon Thompson, who scored his first professional goal in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Carduff Devils.
The latest new face is Canadian forward Garrett Milan, who Edinburgh have signed for the remainder of the season. After four years playing in the NCAA with St Cloud State University, Milan had been playing this season in the Hungarian MOL Liga where he has scored 12 goals and 17 assists in 39 games.
Neil continued: “Riley knows a fair bit about this guy and thinks he will be a great fit for us. He’s a small, dynamic, fast forward who should do well on the big ice at Murrayfield.”
Edinburgh play Fife Flyers in Kirkcaldy tonight before entertaining Manchester Storm at Murrayfield tomorrow (face-off 5.30pm).