Former Connecticut Whale player Kaleigh Fratkin announced via her agent Thursday that she would be testing the waters of free agency instead of re-signing with the Connecticut Whale, taking many by surprise.
Fratkin was considered a core part of Connecticut’s team, even sporting an A last season. When the dust cleared, Today’s Slapshot chatted with Fratkin, in advance of Sunday’s announcement that she would head to the New York Riveters, bringing some offensive firepower to the back end for a total of $19,500.
Kate Cimini for Today’s Slapshot: So, you’re signing with the New York Riveters. What did they do to entice you?
Kaleigh Fratkin, New York Riveter: Well, they’re an awesome organization. They have been from the get-go. In the first season they’ve had great fan support, and of course, they’re in New York, so that’s kind of a nice pull for me.
I’m a city kid. I’ve been in Boston for the past five years and having to head out to Connecticut was a little bit of a different scene for me. Now, to be fortunate enough to be so close to New York City is definitely enticing. And it was an offer from a team that I thought would be a great fit for me. Something that I really couldn’t turn down.
And the pay cut?
It’s about maybe $5 a game decrease. That’s the thing, you’re coming into the second year and you’re having really good, highly-touted players from college coming into the league. As you can see, now with people signing for restricted free agency, some are taking pretty big hits on the pay cut.
Was part of the reason for the move your position with the Islanders? [Fratkin had been working the Islanders organization doing video analysis of away games.]
I finished with them when we headed to playoffs. They were kind of heading on to a road swing so I would have had to get through 10-15 games in a week on top of my playoffs. I mean, each game takes a couple hours to get through and analyze so I just told them I couldn’t do it anymore. They were understanding about that for sure but that was a great experience. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would.
When did you make up your mind you weren’t returning to Connecticut?
Probably about a month ago. The season ended, I was waiting, I was kind of just starting to get back into the swing of grad school and took a nice break from not having to do the Islanders stuff. I took a nice break just from hockey in general.
I was coaching, playing, and the video analysis…watching frame by frame…it was a lot of hockey. I watched a little bit of the Isobel Cup and then when that ended I waited about a week, I guess, after that and then I just kind of started to figure out what I personally wanted to do next year and what I thought would be a really good fit for me.
It’s hard to let go of being a part of Connecticut. The Whale was awesome; it was a great organization. I had a great time. My teammates were awesome and I think that’s the biggest thing that will be hard, is to leave the organization that you started with the inaugural season of a professional hockey league. You just have a lot of bonds with people. So it’s not an easy thing to leave Connecticut and the start of your career in professional hockey but, you know, everyone has different paths that they need to take for whatever reasons.
People are making moves because they have career obligations and such and I thought this would fit best across the spectrum. I have family in that area as well so it’ll just be really nice to be close to them, too. I’m far away from home, so any opportunity that I have to be close to family members…
Being a part of another organization that has a lot to offer is another factor. It kind of just played into the best of both worlds that I’m looking for. To not stay put just for one year but for the next few years or so.
What was the one thing that Connecticut could have done to keep you?
I don’t know if there really was anything. I don’t really have an answer to that, I guess. I don’t think there was anything in particular that was one reason why I would go back. I would just say that it was more just a thing I just stepped back from. I don’t think there was one thing. It just seemed New York was going to be a better fit for me.
What were your priorities when you were looking at the offseason and what other teams had to offer you?
I in particular was looking into the need for a defenseman. New York is a team that had mentioned that they needed an offensive defenseman, or at least someone who could help produce on offense and I thought that was definitely a good fit. Obviously, they have a great coaching staff as well.
Chad [Wiseman, head coach] works with the New York Islanders skill development, which I thought, you know, for myself as a player, trying to develop my game in the next few years, having someone like him who obviously has tremendous experience on the male side, you know, playing in the A[HL], playing in the NHL, playing in Europe, he definitely has a resume that enticed me a lot. He can help me grow and help me develop as a player.
And then the other thing was just the area. The whole aspect of being in New York, closer to New York. I know being in Connecticut, in Stamford we are still, you know, you hop on the train and it’s about a 45 minute train ride. So that’s close but hopefully here I would have only a 20-minute subway. Which seems more convenient.
There’ve been a lot of player rights trades recently, including Alex Carpenter for Miye D’Oench. How do you think your team is looking after that?
It’s interesting to see the rights being traded. I was following along the past few days. It’s interesting.
A lot of what’s good about New York is there’s going to be a lot of girls coming straight out of college, a good group of girls. And I don’t know what the rules are in terms of what the draft picks are going to be able to do but, I mean, D’Oench is a great player. Brandt is a great player. Who else did we pick up? Oh, Picard is a great defenseman.
Picard is an Olympian and you have Brandt who had a phenomenal college career. She’s a powerhouse and she can put up points. And then you have D’Oench, who’s a really feisty player. I played against here a few times when we played Harvard. There’s also a lot of players that I know Wiseman’s been working hard to get other than his draft picks. A lot of good, polished players coming out [of college]. I don’t know specifically who those players are but I’m pretty confident in the club that we have. And it’s going to be a new group, probably a little different from what New York had last year. But from the outside looking in, I’m pretty excited.
It just makes for tough competition.