Colin Shields has told Belfast Giants coach Doug Christiansen that he won’t be returning for a fifth season at the Odyssey.
And the captain’s decision to quit has dealt an early blow to the Giants hopes of mounting another challenge for the Elite League title next season.
League officials have decided to cut the import limit next season from 11 to 10, meaning that teams have to sign an extra UK-born player on their rosters and with homegrown talent even more in demand Shields’ exit will be keenly felt.
Instead of leading the Giants once again the Glasgow-born 31-year-old is heading to France, where he will play for Morzine-Avoriaz — who have also signed Scott Matska from the Cardiff Devils.
“Colin Shields had until May 1st to confirm if he wished to extend his contract for a further year with the Giants, but felt the opportunity to play in France next season was one he wanted to pursue at this stage in his career,” said Giants general manager Todd Kelman.
“Colin Shields has been a top performer for the Giants. Our core of British players is crucial to our success and Colin will be tough to replace.
“We are already actively recruiting our team for next season and will have some news on this front for our fans soon.”
Coach Christiansen is promising to add firepower to his team over the summer in an attempt to bring silverware back to the Odyssey Arena.
Last Saturday’s Play-off semi-final defeat to the Cardiff Devils meant the Giants finished the season empty handed after chasing a trophy treble in the last month of the season.
With no Giants player making the top 20 in the scoring charts, Christiansen already knows what areas of his team need to be improved if a second barren season is to be avoided.
“To lose out on all three championships is disappointing. Let’s hope we can learn from the pain,” said Christiansen.
“We didn’t have enough scoring in the last few weeks of the season.
“We need key players, but we don’t need to blow everything apart and start again. We need grit and offence in the team.”