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Komets make contract offer for new head coach

After interviewing six candidates, and receiving about 20 applications, the Komets believe they have found their next head coach.

They have made a contract offer, are in what general manager David Franke called “the negotiation phase,” and hope to have him hired early next week.

But who is this mystery candidate? The Komets continue to keep it under wraps.

“I really have no comment at this time,” said Fort Wayne-native Gary Graham, the only person the Komets have confirmed had an interview.

Graham won the Southern Professional Hockey League’s championship this season with Pensacola, after serving as an assistant coach with the Komets for four seasons with the Komets.

He started with the Komets in an unpaid role and helped them to three championships in the IHL and CHL.

Graham’s playing experience is modest – he made it to juniors – and he coached at the junior and high school levels before getting his break with the Komets under Al Sims, who retired after Fort Wayne missed the playoffs this year.

“We have made an offer to one of the candidates and they are reviewing it,” said Franke, who hasn’t made a hire since 2007, when Sims replaced Pat Bingham after his resignation.

“Once we get the deal done, then we’ll make sure it’s announced to everybody but we won’t be doing anything this week. We will probably get the announcement rolling very early next week.”

Franke said the person who has been offered the job has head-coaching experience.

Asked if it is Graham, Franke said: “I don’t know. I’m not going to talk about who it’s going to be, or who has the inside edge and that sort of thing. We’re in the negotiating stages right now and I’m not saying anything about anybody.”

The Komets have no players under contract for next season, and they are unable to sign anyone until June 16, per ECHL rules. Captain Colin Chaulk and longtime goalie Nick Boucher retired already this offseason.

The process of putting together the roster begins Saturday, when the Komets submit their initial list of protected players, about 18 of them, to the ECHL. That list cannot include players who were contracted to higher-level clubs last season, such as Kenny Reiter or Jeff Deslauriers.

By July 1, teams must submit their list of eight qualifying offers. Any player signed between June 16 and July 1 does not need to be qualified.

jcohn@jg.net

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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