Leafs organization loses 20 players to free agency today in freak situation

Whoa... I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like this before.

HockeyFeed
HockeyFeed
Published 9 days ago
Leafs organization loses 20 players to free agency today in freak situation
Zuma Press

The ECHL has announced that the Newfoundland Growlers, affiliate of the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, has folded and will cease operations immediately.


Officially, the team has been folded due to "failure to meet league obligations", which insiders say is in reference to the team missing several payment dates to the league. The team's owners were in negotiations to sell the team, but failed to meet today's deadline as put forth by the ECHL.

“We are saddened to lose ECHL hockey in the Newfoundland market,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin in a prepared statement. “We’d like to thank the Growlers fans and partners for their support of the team throughout their existence, and are hopeful that hockey can return to the region for their dedicated and passionate fanbase.

So... what happens next? Where do these players go?

From the ECHL:

The ECHL and Professional Hockey Players’ Association have agreed that as per the ECHL/PHPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, all ECHL Contracted Players on the Newfoundland roster are Unrestricted Free Agents, however no ECHL Member may sign more than two (2) Players from the free agent pool of Newfoundland Players. Any Player from this pool who signs and finishes the Season with a new ECHL Member for the balance of the 2023-24 Season shall be ineligible for that Member's Protected List and shall become an Unrestricted Free Agent at the conclusion of the 2023-24 Season. The only exception to this rule applies to Serron Noel, whose ECHL rights will revert to the Allen Americans at the end of the Season as part of the completion of a Future Consideration trade owed by Newfoundland.


Essentially any players with AHL or NHL ties will be moved to the Leafs' AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. Any players with ECHL contracts solely, around 20 or so players, will become unrestricted free agents. In effect, the Leafs will lose these players for nothing.

While the Growlers are affiliate with the Leafs and have been since 2018, the Leafs do not have any ownership stake in the team. 

A statement from the Growlers:

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Despite the efforts of our front-office, Deacon Sports and Entertainment regrets to announce that the sale of the Newfoundland Growlers could not be finalized prior to the league-mandated April 2, 2024 deadline. Due to unforeseen challenges, and while a discussion was put forth to salvage the future of both teams, only the continuation of the Trois-Rivières Lions was approved by the ECHL, and as a result, the ECHL Board of Governors has voted to terminate the league membership of the Newfoundland Growlers.


RIP to the Newfoundland Growlers... one of the best logos in minor professional sports.