Cody Sol is coming off, probably, the best season of his professional career. Garrett Bartus was perhaps the biggest surprise of the Komets' season.
Both will be back this fall.
The Komets re-signed both Sol and Bartus on Wednesday to give them 11 players under contract. All but one – forward Dennis Kravchenko – was with Fort Wayne last season, when it had the fourth-best record in the ECHL and lost to the Toledo Walleye in the second round of the postseason.
“Cody Sol represents totally what it means to be a Komet,” general manager David Franke said of the 6-foot-6, 242-pound Sol. “His passion, work ethic and physical game are in the true Komet way. Even his offensive side of the game has improved every season. This is an important signing for the Komets.”
In three seasons with the Komets, Sol has totaled 16 goals, 63 points and 575 penalty minutes, bringing his ECHL totals to 27 goals, 87 points and 805 penalty minutes in 283 games. After ranking second in the ECHL in penalty minutes with 259 in 2015-16, he amassed career highs in goals (seven) and points (24) with 162 penalty minutes in 56 games, his season shortened by injures to his knee and cheekbone. In the postseason, he had one goal and four points in 10 games.
Sol, 26, won the Komets' community service award in 2016 and was selected Defenseman of the Year last season. Also retained for the Fort Wayne defense have been Jason Binkley, Curtis Leonard and Ryan Lowney.
But when the Komets opted not to extend a qualifying offer to goaltender Pat Nagle on July 3, it became clear they would make Bartus, 27, one of their goalies.
Coming off a season in which he was MVP of the lower-level Southern Professional Hockey League with Macon, Bartus filled in admirably while Nagle missed two months with a high ankle sprain and became one of the Komets' most valuable players. In 33 games, he was 21-7-0 with a 2.68 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and four shutouts. He played once in the postseason, stopping 29 of 32 shots in a loss to Toledo.
“Last season, Garrett stepped in and really gave solid goaltending. I'm hoping for more of the same this season,” Franke said.
The Komets have also re-signed captain Jamie Schaafsma and fellow forwards Gabriel Desjardins, Garrett Thompson, Taylor Crunk and Mason Baptista. They also signed a full-time assistant coach, Ben Boudreau, to help Gary Graham.
The players who have received qualifying offers but haven't signed are Shawn Szydlowski, Kyle Thomas, Bobby Shea, Trevor Cheek and Mike Cazzola, last season's team MVP who has signed to play in the U.K.
The Komets open the regular season Oct. 14 at Memorial Coliseum against Toledo.
Notes: The Kalamazoo Wings, one of the Komets' biggest rivals, have affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks, whose American Hockey League team is the Utica Comets. The Komets remain independent but could still affiliate for this season. The available NHL teams are Columbus, St. Louis, Florida, Ottawa and New Jersey.