`

...and then there was one. Sheffield Steelers start almost afresh with imports

Sheffield Arena, new home to 15 imports
Sheffield Arena, new home to 15 imports

Steelers now expect to retain just one import of the 16 that finished last season in Sheffield colours.

There was a mass cull of players after the Play Off final defeat, and that has been followed by others retiring or going elsewhere.

John Armstrong

John Armstrong

In the last few days, Finnish d-men Miika Franssila agreed to sign for Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák in Hungary.

Braehead Clan have an interest in Scott Aarssen, who may also have German options.

And John Armstrong - who coach Paul Thompson wants back - is likely to get a deal in Europe.

That leaves only Mark Matheson from last year’s import quota - although he probably the best of the bunch.

Thompson said: “I liked Miika but we are trying to put together a different style in the back end for next year and felt he perhaps wouldn’t fit in.”

That suggests more size and physicality - which brings us to Aarssen, fast and reliable, but under six feet tall. He is also a family man, which means Steelers will have to weigh up his on-ice value with the logistics of the housing budget.

On Armstrong, Thompson said: “His agent is shopping him around.

“We would have liked to have kept him but I think it is unlikely that will happen.

“The door remains open, but the clock is ticking, we have had conversations with Army and his agent but it seems mainland Europe is their favourite destination.”

Thompson said he was “quite excited” about the task of putting together a largely new team - it’s his biggest recruitment task since the early days of Coventry Blaze.

“It is going to be a hell of a pre-season - there is lots to do with a little over five weeks to go.

“We have still a few signings to make, but we’re happy with the position we are in.”

*Coventry Blaze are among EIHL teams that have had a look at former Steeler Andreas Valdix’s availability, recently.