Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Vigilante signs NHL deal, Merlini arrives

In two separate-but-related deals Tuesday, the Plymouth Whalers announced captain John Vigilante has signed with the Nashville Predators and defenseman Derek Merlini was acquired from the Erie Otters.

Vigilante is on a ten-game tryout and was assigned to Nashville's AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. With an overage spot now open, Plymouth sent a conditional 11th-round draft pick to to the Otters for Merlini (pictured), a towering 6-foot-7, 248-pounder from Clinton Township.

Vigilante will leave for Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“We’re very happy for John,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s been an excellent Whaler for a long time and has worked very hard for this opportunity.”

According to Vellucci, Vigilante (right) will return to the Plymouth lineup December 28 when the Whalers host the Windsor Spitfires.

Vigilante is Plymouth’s leading scorer this season with 14 goals and 34 assists for 48 points in 28 games. Originally selected in the 11th round (209th overall) in the 2001 OHL Draft, Vigilante is currently 10th on the Whalers’ all-time career scoring list with 83 goals and 134 assists for 217 points. He’s 11th on the team’s career games played list with 227 and is the Whalers’ all-time leader with 23 game-winning goals in his career to date.

Merlini, originally selected by Erie in the 14th round (266th overall) in the 2001 OHL Priority Selection by Erie, spent two full seasons with the Otters, playing in 132 games and scoring 12 goals with 36 assists and 48 points and 192 penalty minutes. This season, Merlini was scoreless with five assists and 48 PIMs in 20 games.

Once Vigilante returns, Plymouth will have until Jan. 10 to decide on their three overagers. Their other two are goalie Ryan Nie and defenseman Mike Letizia.

Merlini is expected to join the team in time for practice Wednesday and will play Thursday night when the Whalers play in Sarnia.

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