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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Kyle Thomas, who developed into a star with the Komets, has been traded to the Utah Grizzlies but he couldn't have returned to the Komets anyway because of his new contract with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. 

  • Ralph Cuddemi

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 7:40 pm

K's deal Thomas for high-scoring forward

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Kyle Thomas’ ascension to an elite player at the Double-A level of minor-pro hockey landed him a contract this summer in the Anaheim Ducks’ minor-league system and left the Komets without one of their most productive and beloved players.

The question became: Would they get anything for him? That was answered today when they dealt Thomas to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies for the rights to forward Ralph Cuddemi, who was one of the league’s top rookies last season.

“We’ll be talking to his agent and the player very soon here and I think we’ll be able to get something done with (a contract for Cuddemi),” said Fort Wayne’s general manager, David Franke, who has 18 players on his roster for the season that opens Oct. 14 at Memorial Coliseum against the Toledo Walleye.

Thomas, a 27-year-old forward, totaled 79 goals and 132 points in 168 games with Fort Wayne, including 27 goals and 69 points in 58 games last regular season. Not expected to make the roster heading into the 2015-16 season, he developed into a top-line player who played 12 games last season in the higher-level American Hockey League with the Cleveland Monsters.

If Thomas doesn’t stick with the Ducks’ minor-league team, the San Diego Gulls, he will be with Utah. That’s where the trade for Cuddemi came in, because the Komets extended a qualifying offer to Thomas this summer they held his rights.

“At the end of the season, we were contacted by the Anaheim Ducks and they were very, very interested in signing Kyle to a two-way contract,” Franke said. “But he could not play for Utah unless we worked out a deal. … That’s why we protected his rights. We had developed him and we wanted to make sure we got something in return.”

Cuddemi, 24, had 27 goals and 52 points in 64 regular-season games with Utah, then added two assists in five playoff games. He also has 10 games of ECHL experience with the Florida Everblades after a four-year career at Canisius College, where he totaled 20 goals and 42 points in 39 games as a senior playing for coach Dave Smith, a former Komets center.

The Komets also added 23-year-old forward Stephen Pierog and 28-year-old defenseman Brad Bourke to the roster.

Pierog accrued 12 goals and 41 points in 53 games last season for Macon of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League, where he was coached by former Komet Kevin Kerr and his assistant, former Komet Leo Thomas.

Bourke, the brother of former Komets forward Troy Bourke, spent last season with Pensacola of the SPHL and totaled two goals and 13 points in 29 games.

The Komets, who open training camp Oct. 2, have also signed forwards Shawn Szydlowski, Jamie Schaafsma, Justin Hodgman, Garrett Thompson, Dennis Kravchenko, Gabriel Desjardins, Mason Baptista and Taylor Crunk, defensemen Bobby Shea, Jason Binkley, Curtis Leonard, Cody Sol and Ryan Lowney, and goaltenders Garrett Bartus and Alex Sakellaropoulos.

They finalized an affiliation with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes on July 31 and will get a handful of players, including a goalie, from them and their AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Franke said. “We’re still in the hunt for a few more players but we have a good roster assembled so far and I have a good idea of who will be coming to us from Arizona.”

The Komets will play three preseason games: Oct. 6 at Indianapolis, Oct. 7 at the Coliseum against the Indy Fuel and Oct. 9 at the Coliseum against the Kalamazoo Wings.