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The Fort Wayne Komets would like captain Colin Chaulk to add more leadership responsibilities next year as assistant coach. They also know the priority is for the 35-year-old center to lead the team on the ice.
``It's vitally important that Colin be a full-time player this year moving into the ECHL,'' General Manager David Franke said. ``If we do the assistant coach with him, that's fine, but we're going to need his leadership and direction from the locker room going to the players leading us into the new league.'
Two years ago the Komets got off to a disastrous start during their first Central Hockey League season in part because Chaulk was playing in Italy. Franke confirmed Monday the Komets are negotiating with Chaulk about the assistant position that came available when Gary Graham left to become head coach of Pensacola in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Chaulk eventually wants to become a head coach, so it seems like a natural progression for him to get the chance to step up.
``I personally think he'll be a great coach when the time comes,'' Franke said. ``He'll command respect, but we want him to be our player-assistant coach this year if we can work it out and see what we can do down the line with him, too. We're in the beginning stages of talking with him.''
Chaulk has played nine seasons in Fort Wayne and ranks in the top 10 in most career categories. He'll meet again with Franke sometime this week. Komets coach Al Sims said last week that he'd look forward to working with Chaulk if he accepts the assistant coaching position.
After retuning from last week's ECHL meetings in Las Vegas, Franke said he's starting to move on re-signing players from last season's CHL championship team and could have some announcements next week.
One player who has signed elsewhere who the Komets have not given up on is forward Mike Vaskivuo, the playoff's Most Valuable Player, who signed to play in France. It's likely Vaskivuo wants a two-way contract with an American Hockey League team.
``We're seeing what we can do working with some AHL teams, but nothing has been finalized,'' Franke said. ``It's something I'm working on to see if we can get him hooked up in the AHL. He's still definitely in the picture.''
Defenseman Bryant Molle will not be as he signed with Reading of the ECHL. Because the Komets are an ECHL expansion team for the upcoming season, they do not have protected rights to any of their players from last season.
``It's a lot harder because we're working from scratch,'' Franke said. ``There was no dispersal draft, and we don't have any rights to any players. We're rebuilding from the bottom up, and it's going to be a long process. As I told our players in the locker room when we had our final meeting, it was almost a perfect storm for them. They all become free agents. That doesn't happen very often. About the only time it happens is when a team goes out of business.''
The ECHL announced Monday the Komets will compete in the North Division along with Kalamazoo, Cincinnati, Toledo and Evansville... The ECHL would like to cap expansion at 26 teams, hopefully adding three more teams in the Western Conference... The league will use a two-referee system in the last two rounds of the playoffs... As the result of a drawing, Evansville will get first pick on any waiver transaction followed by Fort Wayne, Orlando and San Francisco... Other than knowing it will be four rounds, the ECHL has not determined a final playoff format yet. The first round, which could be best-of-three, best-of-five or best-of-seven, will be established in September... Gwinnett's Steve Chapman was elected to a seventh term as chairman of the ECHL's Board of Governors.