Well, it is now official. If you hadn't heard the rumors or were just in denial here it is in a nutshell. Due to his European import status, Walker was unable to be signed by the NHL Washington Capitals. The NHL CBA only considers Canadian major junior hockey with regards to tryouts and assignments so he is AHL eligible. Today's press release confirmed it.

I'm dure Phantoms fans will greet the news with mixed feelings. Here is my take on it. The purpose of the USHL and all junior hockey is to develop players for higher leagues. The USHL likes to send players through the NCAA but that's not usually how it happens for European players. The fact that Walker was considered by an NHL team and then signed by their affiliate is a testament to both Walker's skills and the success of the Phantoms organization. Nathan also retains 2014 NHL draft eligibility. Should he play well on the Bears squad then I'm sure he'll get more exposure than on a USHL roster, no matter how dominate he is in the league. Plus, he'll get paid a decent salary.

Notice I say should. There is a hitch to this. Being eligible for the AHL also means they can send him down to the ECHL. By no means am I saying that the ECHL isn't a respectable route for player development but you also lose a lot of the incentive over playing another year of juniors. The ECHL is a much rougher road. The travel and scheduling is a lot more grueling than the USHL and if he's buried on a third line he may not be quite as visible to scouts as he would on a top USHL line. Couple in the fact that he won't be making quite the money he would with an AHL team. At least in juniors he should get some, if not most, of his room and board provided. Last time I heard statistics, ECHL players made an average of a bit under $600 a week. Though at this point I'm certainly optimistic, to say the least, that he'll do quite well in the AHL and the Bears just got very lucky.





Multiple sources are reporting that Washington Capitals GM George McPhee announced yesterday that Nathan Walker signed a one year contract to play with the Caps AHL affiliate. According to reports they weren't able to sign him to a NHL contract due to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, but were able to sign him to a minor league deal, which won't prevent him from being eligible for the next NHL draft. I always thought it was quite the opposite with junior hockey players, they could be sign a NHL contract but not be sent to the minor affiliate, but he's technically a European import who did play in the Czech majors and most of my CBA understanding is based on Canadian major junior.

Since I don't fully understand the move for several reasons, particularly the Capitals motivation other than to get him some work in the system. They stand to lose him in the draft if he gathers any more attention. Is the move in Walkers best interest? My gut always suspects the motivation to move a guy to the pros, even the minors, this early. But I do think Stormy can use the exposure and experience to get a nod in his final chance at the draft, so long as he gets the ice time. If he get paid, that's always a bonus and with him playing abroad, mostly as an unpaid amateur, since he was 12 years old, that's got to be a bonus.

Just for references sake, here is an article from a great Caps blog that breaks down what is known, really just a Tweet at this point, and a look at how it works under the CBA. Also I'll point out as of 9/20 he was off the protected list, which only listed 22 players for the Phantoms.

A somewhat suprising move came out today via Vindy.com. The Phantoms have picked up Indiana Ice/Musgegon Lumberjacks veteran Alex Smith. The 6'0" 180 pound defenseman played 12 games with the Ice last season tallying 2 points, a goal and an assist and a +/- of -1, along with 19 penalty minutes. In 2011-2012 he played 42 games with the Jacks recording 15 points on 2 goals and 13 assists in 47 games, finishing a -13 with 49 PIMs. The Ice get a conditional draft pick in next seasons draft in exchange.