Big loss for Rats
The River Rats have suffered a big loss on defense, literally and figuratively.
Joey Mormina, the team's best defenseman for much of last season, has signed a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton beat writer Jonathan Bombulie had the news on his blog after a conversation with GM Cliff Fletcher.
I'm not sure how this one happened. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Mormina, who recently turned 26, was a huge part of Albany's success last season. He played in all but three of 87 regular-season and playoff games, setting a pro career high with four goals and matching another with 13 points.
More important, he was rock solid on the blue line, particularly when the team was ravaged by injury and recall, and logged incredible minutes in the top pairing throughout the first-round series with Philadelphia. He was easy-going, well-liked and respected in the room, even serving as one of Albany's rotating captains toward the end.
He signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes after playing two seasons for the Manchester Monarchs. Mormina also made his NHL debut last season for Carolina, ironically against Pittsburgh on Feb. 14, where he broke the nose of Pens forward Jeff Taffe on his first major-league hit.
This one is going to hurt not only because the Rats lose a very good player, but lose him to one of their biggest division rivals. WBS acquired forward David Gove in late January and Gove wound up being a major reason why the team reached the Calder Cup finals.
It will be interesting to see how Carolina decides to re-stock a Rats roster that will be missing some significant names from the past two years, at nearly every position.