Moving Out: Reaney Adds to List
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
As if it wasn't enough that Kyle Okposo and Brock Trotter made unprecedented mid-season moves from college teams to NHL contracts, a player from Niagara of all places added to that list.
Last week, Les Reaney, the CHA Freshman of the Year two seasons ago, up and left to sign a pro deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
In Okposo's case, he was courted, controversially, by the team that once drafted him highly in the first round, the New York Islanders. In Trotter's case, he was actually dismissed from the university, forcing his hand.
But Les Reaney? After being a healthy scratch in two games leading up to his departure, he just decided to shop himself around and leave.
According to Niagara coach Dave Burkholder, there was no discipline issues involved leading up to it. He just felt that Reaney wasn't performing up to his standards.
"I was trying to motivate him," Burkholder said.
Burkholder believes Reaney simply wasn't happy about sitting out. When he was playing, he was often on the fourth line, and on the second power-play unit. He was leading the team with 52 penalty minutes.
When Reaney came to speak to Burkholder, Burkholder was afraid something was seriously wrong. He was shocked when he found out the actual news.
"I shook his hand, I brought him in the room, made an announcement to the team, he spoke, had some great things to say," Burkholder said. "He said, 'It feels like a championship team in here, but it's something I felt I needed to jump on today.'
"He was excited. I don't know what the contract was, but it's two years and it's guaranteed."
Adding insult to injury — probably moreso to Reaney himself than to his former team — Reaney will not even be in the American Hockey League; he was assigned yesterday to Stockton of the East Coast Hockey League.
"I figured I didn't know if the chance would be there in a month, so I had to take it," Reaney told the Niagara Gazette. "The guys were pretty happy for me. With six games left, though, it was tough to leave when you think you're leaving a championship."
Suddenly, Niagara's name is being mentioned in the same breath as Minnesota and Denver, but not in the way Burkholder would like it to be.
"We found a diamond in the rough, if you will, in Les. For us to have to replace him, it's not like we're going to replace him with an NHL pick," Burkholder said.
"In the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and really the new world with family advisers, I don't know where this is going to go. But it's something we'll definitely need to discuss."
On another, but related, note, Niagara is gunning for a CHA championship, in what could be its last opportunity, at least for a while, of making the NCAA tournament. That's because the CHA — if it exists at all — is not lined up to receive an automatic bid next season, because it will have only four teams.
Burkholder said he doesn't know what's going to happen next season, only that he's got his schedule in place, with 14 non-league games, and 20 spots held for the league.
But will the league exist?
"I don't even know what to say to that," Burkholder said. "I've been asked, and I just say, look, we're in the middle of a war CHA wise and we need to get this team back to the tournament. ... I'm deferring to all the ADs in the league that they're going to do what's right for the teams involved."