Belfast Giants send out a statement of intent as trio sign new deals
Adam Keefe has made the first moves in assembling his first Belfast Giants squad by handing new deals to three members of the forward core that he himself was part of last season.
The return of Canadian forward Blair Riley is the biggest statement of intent among the returnees and with Colin Shields and Matt Towe also signing new contracts, head coach Keefe is well on his way to securing the home-grown quality he needs to go with the best import talent he can attract as he seeks to end a three-season trophy famine.
Securing Riley's services for another season was a priority for Keefe after an impressive first season in Belfast. He scored 30 goals and assisted on 31 others, which led to him being named the team's Most Valuable Player and Players' Player of the Year.
Already the club's all-time record goalscorer, Shields will now close in on the Giants' appearance record after agreeing to extend his stay in Belfast, which started 12 years ago.
He has played in America, France and elsewhere in the UK during that time, but has clocked up 208 goals in 517 games.
Despite turning 37 in January there is no sign of the years catching up on the Scottish-born forward, who was named as the Elite League's Best British Player before he went on to shine for the Great Britain national team as they won gold in the Division 1 Group B series in Belfast, breaking the post-war goalscoring record along the way.
Towe didn't make the GB squad, but Keefe was in no doubt that he wanted him in his team.
Keefe, who was named as Derrick Walser's successor just over two weeks ago, will have Steve Saviano and Alex Foster back next season, but he has lost the goalscoring prowess of Mike Forney and James Desmarais.
Desmarais left Belfast yesterday and before departing he tweeted: "Thanks to everyone who made our time here in Belfast so memorable... we will miss it."