The Washington D.C. Current has announced that six players have re-signed their contracts for the 2017 season: Andrew Ferraro, Kyle Khalifa, Freddie Tsai, Eric ‘Astro’ Miner, Cam Barnhardt, and Mikey Moses.
Five players agreed to one-year deals, while Ferraro came to terms on a two-year deal extending into the 2018 season.
These six players bring a variety of experience and talent to the field. Two players, Tsai and Miner will be entering their fourth and fifth seasons respectively; Ferraro, Khalifa, Barnhardt, and Moses are all coming off their rookie campaigns last year. These players accounted for two O-line starters and two D-line starters.
“We are looking to bring guys back that have shown they can play at this level, still grow and develop as players, and have bought into what we are trying to do as a team. All of these players have done that,” head coach Will Smolinski said.
Of all signings, the most notable is Ferraro’s two-year contract. This makes him the first player that has completely committed to the ‘three-year plan,’ which ideally has the team competing for the MLU Championship in the final year of his deal. As an O-line starter in 2016, Ferraro started on the third most offensive points, not surprising for a handler, but as a rookie that was a considerable amount. For most of the season he was either the secondary handler behind Lloyd Blake, or the dump handler behind Blake and Zach Norrbom. In only two of his eight starts, he has thrown for under 90% on the field and has a career average of 93.4 percent, in addition to 11 assists and two goals.
“Last year was some of the most fun I have had playing ultimate! To be given the opportunity to do that for two more years, it was a no brainer signing the longer deal,” Ferraro said. “Last year, we talked a lot about the 3 year plan for the organization. To have the chance to be a part of all three years is something I am very excited about and an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
Ferraro is one of three players from James Madison University (Miner and Barnhardt being the other two). Their ultimate program, JMU Hellfish, has always been one of the larger schools that the Current has pulled talent from. Blake and former player, Ben Fleming also hail from James Madison.
Joining Ferraro on the O-line, is 2016 Rookie of the Year finalist Khalifa. Finishing third in the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year voting, Khalifa was second on the team in scoring last season. He had a strong start to the season but broke through in Week 4 where he scored nine goals in a two game doubleheader. For the remainder of the season, the Mary Washington grad tallied up 19 goals and six blocks.
Miner and Tsai have valuable experience for a team full of young talent. Miner is one of five players that has been with the team since the inaugural season in 2013; Tsai has been with the team since 2014. Both players have spent time as starters on the D-line and have been lock-down defenders, Miner on cutters and Tsai on handlers.
“[Miner] had a breakout year with Truck [Stop] and his performance has given us flexibility with his position. He can play offense or defense this year,” Smolinski said. ” Freddie is emblematic of what we want to do as a team. He is a player that could easily be over looked, but he can play at this level and is an integral part of our D-Line strategy.”
The final group of these players is 24-year-old Barnhardt and 29-year-old Moses. Both of these players are coming off of their rookie seasons, where Barnhardt played in six games and Moses played in nine.
The upside on both of these players is high. Coach Smolinski remarked that Barnhardt “could be a franchise player” and will be seeing more playing time in 2017 that may include being on the offensive line. Moses showed the coaches the leadership he possesses last season, in addition to his play on the field. As a primarily defensive player, Moses scored or assisted on 13 percent of the points he was on last season.
In total these six players accounted for 38 goals, 28 assists, and 17 blocks in 2016.
Bringing back a core of players from 2016 early into the off-season solidifies the organization’s commitment to the “three-year-plan.” This is a rapid contrast to last off-season. The team had five players signed before December. The Current is the first team in the league with nine rostered players for 2017.
“We all formed a great relationship last season, and are hungry to show what we’re capable of,” Khalifa said. “The only way to build on any success is to continue to work hard.”