Morgan Fritz-Ward and Madison Packer are the first players to sign contracts with the New York Riveters for the 2016-17 NWHL season, General Manager Chad Wiseman announced Wednesday. Fritz-Ward and Packer, whose leadership earned them assistant captain roles last year, each signed one-year contracts worth $15,000. Their new salary is just below the new league average of $15,882 and a very good price for two of the offensive powerhouses on the team.
The Riveters have $240,000 left to sign an additional 15 players, per the newest roster size regulations.
Wiseman hinted at major changes coming to the team roster during the offseason in an interview with Today’s Slapshot’s Riveters beat reporter, Mike Murphy, but an interest in rebuilding around several core players.
“Fritz-Ward’s speed, relentless work ethic and ability to play in any game situation make her a huge asset to our team,” said Wiseman. “She’s a leader both on and off the ice, and having her back in a Riveters jersey is an important first step for our club’s success next season.”
Fritz-Ward came to the Riveters out of Quinnipiac University, which graduated other dynamic players such as Kelly Babstock, Shiann Darkangelo and Chelsea Laden, all of whom played for the Connecticut Whale or New York clubs.
Fritz-Ward recorded 6 points (4g, 2a) in 17 games for the Riveters last season, but didn’t appear in either of the two playoffs games against the Boston Pride due to an upper body injury.
“I’m very honored and excited to be welcomed back by the Riveters and can’t wait to get the season started,” said Fritz-Ward. “ I hope to bring back a strong work ethic and high energy to the line-up next season.”
Packer, a player out of the Wisconsin program who Wiseman took care to acknowledge as a player he wanted to build around, appeared in 16 regular season games for the Riveters, tallying 7 points (3g, 4a). In the Isobel Cup Playoffs, the Detroit native tallied another goal for a season total of four.
“Packer is a natural leader and a proven winner at the college level,” said Wiseman. “She’s someone we will rely on to help the young players make the transition from college to professional hockey.”
“I’m so excited and humbled to return to the Riveters next season,” said Packer. “I am extremely grateful to my friends and especially my family for all the love, support and encouragement they have shown me.
“I think I learned a lot last year on and off the ice. I’m hoping to take those lessons, both positive and negative, and use them to propel the Riveters through a highly successful second season.”
The Riveters finished their inaugural season in last place place with a 4-12-2 record. In the Isobel Cup semifinals, they faced the top-seeded Boston Pride and dropped the three-games series in two games.
Restricted free agency began Apr. 1 and lasts until Apr. 30. Free agency begins May 1 and lasts until July 31. The 2016 Draft is June 18.