The beginning of free agency came with a bang when Connecticut Whale defender and starting goaltender Kaleigh Fratkin and Jaimie Leonoff left the confines of Connecticut to represent the Riveters (of New York).
With the salary maximum a non-worry (per the league there is no cap to player salaries, only a league minimum of $10,000 per player) the Whale can bid big for a few key players who might be up to changing teams and extending their commute by a bit for another $5,000 and the chance to win the Isobel Cup with a strong franchise.
So who should Connecticut set its sights on?
Defense was a problem area for Connecticut over the past season and start of free agency saw the Whale’s top defensive point producer, Kaleigh Fratkin, sign with the Riveters. With Fratkin gone, Whale GM Lisa Giovanelli needs to find a defender capable of putting up points from the blue line, and might find just that in Buffalo Beauts defender and Olympian, Megan Bozek.
Bozek posted 13 points in 16 games, coming in at 0.81 points per game, a none-too-shabby number. Bozek, however, turned it on for the postseason, showing her true colors. Over five games Bozek netted three goals and three assists, earning the most points out of anyone on her team and posting a points-per-game average of 1.20.
The strength of Bozek’s shot from the point, as well as her ability to clear the puck well outside of her defensive zone would be welcome on Connecticut’s blue line.
Even though the biggest issue for the Whale last season was the defense, Connecticut particularly suffered on its clears, struggling to break out of its zone. And the obvious answer to this dilemma is Blake Bolden. There are few in the NWHL who were better than Blake Bolden at clearing the puck out of their zone when they were on the ice and given her offensive upside, it becomes a no-brainer.
Bolden scored nine points over the course of 18 games during the regular season, adding three more points to that total in the postseason, registering one goal against Buffalo and two assists and was one of two players to score during the Outdoor Women’s Classic, finding the back of the net on a wrister off a cross-crease pass.
Although she is regularly stacked behind national team players Kacey Bellamy and Gigi Marvin, Bolden shines when given the spotlight. She spent the Isobel Cup Finals finding new and exciting ways to shut down Beauts star forward Kelley Steadman to great effect while managing to evade similar treatment.
Monique and Jocelyn Lamoureux
The likelihood of the Lamoureux twins moving from their homes in North Dakota, where they have a charitable foundation set up and two roster spots on the Minnesota Whitecaps only hours away is slim to none, particularly while the Whale cannot offer a full-time position or salary.
Despite that, Giovanelli should make a concerted effort to snag the Lamoureuxs, one of whom is an offensive defenseman and the other of whom is a strong scoring forward. The two routinely combine for jaw-dropping goals and bring a strong, physical presence to the ice, neither afraid to battle for possession in the corners or to go up against large power forwards.
The video below was taken when the Minnesota Whitecaps played the New York Riveters in the preseason. Monique Lamoureux, no. 7, carried the puck into the zone, lost it in the corner and battled to get it back. Once she got her stick on it she fanned it over to Jocelyne, no. 17, who one-times it straight into the back of the net, going five-hole on Nana Fujimoto.
It’s evident from the video below that the Lamoureuxs would provide an offensive jump to any team that signs them. Not only are they capable of bringing points to their team, but they know each other well and can anticipate where the other’s going to be. That’s the kind of chemistry that money can’t buy, and would certainly help boost Connecticut, which looks like it might be going into a full rebuild.