Utica Comets lose Greer as free agency opens
There will be some change to the Utica Comets’ roster for the upcoming season.
That’s usually the case for any American Hockey League team from season-to-season, but the first big change happened Wednesday when the NHL’s free agency period opened at noon.
Fan favorite A.J. Greer, the fiesty talented forward who became a fan favorite during Utica’s first season as the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, signed a two-year deal with the Boston Bruins organization. That was first reported by Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, who said the deal with worth $750,000 for the 2022-23 season and $775,000 for the 2023-24 season.
The move wasn’t a complete surprise after Greer’s agent told the Daily Sentinel on Monday that Greer would be testing free agency after two seasons in the New Jersey organization. Greer had said in the middle of the 2021-22 season that he enjoyed his time with the New Jersey organization.
Later Wednesday, Greer confirmed the news via post on his official social media accounts. Greer, who was born in Canada, has previous connections to Boston.
“From the Jr. Bruins to playing for Boston University, where I am currently completing my degree, this city has been a special place for my family an I,” he said in the post. “Being part of the Boston Bruins is a dream come true and a full-circle moment. Thank you to everyone who has pushed me to become the player and person I am today.”
Notably, Greer is set to participate in a four-day youth hockey camp with Joe Gambardella — who is signed with New Jersey for the 2022-23 season — beginning Monday in Utica.
The 25-year-old Greer is coming off the best statistical season of his career, when he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player by coach Kevin Dineen and the coaching staff.
While playing largely a top-six forward role, Greer finished with 22 goals and 30 assists in 53 games with Utica. He was named AHL Player of the Week in April.
He was also one of the team’s best players during a playoff series against Rochester when he a team-best six goals and led with eight points.
“It is nice to see him play well and as smart as he is now and putting points up as well,” said Dineen in April. “All he’s done is gone out and played. He is a dynamic, hard-working guy that I believe is going to have a solid NHL career based on what I’ve seen this year.”
He appeared in nine games with New Jersey last season, totaling a goal and assist. He’s played in 47 total NHL games.
A waiver claim could be possible if Boston makes that decision when the season begins. It is possible that Greer sees time with Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. Utica and Providence have a few times in recent seasons.
The other notable free agents from last season’s Comets team are forwards Chase De Leo, Frederik Gauthier (injured April 1 and didn’t return) and veteran Brian Flynn. There was no indication if they had signed with other teams as of Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier Wednesday, New Jersey acquired center Erik Haula for Pavel Zacha — the sixth overall pick in 2015 — in a trade with Boston.
The Devils also announced Wednesday afternoon they veteran defenseman Brendan Smith to a two-year deal. The 33-year-old has played in 571 NHL games with Carolina, Detroit and the New York Rangers.
The two afternoon moves from the parent club didn’t directly affect the Comets, who have a total of nine players signed to AHL contracts for next season.
Smith’s addition will be added competition on the blue line for players who spent time with Utica last season including Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk and Reilly Walsh.
Utica has announced five guaranteed game dates for the 22-23 season: Monday, Oct. 17 (Home opener), Friday, Oct. 21, Saturday, Oct. 29 (Celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Utica Devils), Friday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) and Saturday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s).
The full schedule is usually released in July.
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