The NWHL free agency period ends on July 31st and there are 26 roster spots open on the league’s four teams. The Riveters have just two contracts left to sign in addition to the six practice players (one goalie, five skaters) that will be announced sometime after the 31st.
The Riveters will be the least busy of the NWHL’s clubs this week. General manager Chad Wiseman only needs to sign a top-six center and a second-string goaltender. There is reason to believe the final contract given to a skater will go to Hannah Brandt from the Golden Gophers.
The Riveters traded for Brandt’s rights this offseason. She was Amanda Kessel’s center at Minnesota and would be the ideal final piece of the puzzle to the Riveters’ first line.
There is less certainty about who the Riveters’ backup goaltender will be. Jenny Scrivens retired, Nana Fujimoto is likely too expensive, and Chelsea Laden might be ruled out because of medical school. Former Riveter Shenae Lundberg has already re-signed with the Connecticut Whale.
The Riveters will likely find their second goaltender in draft pick Kimberly Newell or with an undrafted college free agent. Wiseman has already turned to this year’s NCAA graduating class several times to fill his 2016-17 roster. Depending on how much is spent on landing Brandt or another high profile forward, the most realistic option could be a yet another rookie.
The NWHL’s Olympians appear to be either holding out for big contracts or allowing their general managers more time to crunch the numbers. The NWHL’s free agency period has lacked fireworks since the record-setting Kessel contract.
What most NWHL fans will be keeping an eye on is when big names including Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack, Brianna Decker, Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer, and former Riveters draft pick Alex Carpenter sign.
No team will be as busy this week as the defending Isobel Cup Champion Boston Pride.
The Pride currently have the fewest players signed in the league. General manager Hayley Moore will have to work some magic to make all of the contracts of her star players in the league’s $270,000 salary cap.
Will Kessel’s contract influence the league’s other star players to ask for more? Will Brandt be reunited with Kessel? Will Meghan Fardelmann or other Riveters from last year’s roster sign elsewhere? Are Nana’s days in the NWHL really over?
We’re about to find out.