Although the Dakota Rapids made one deal with an eye on the future, trading away their starting goaltender, they made another minor deal designed to make the team stronger now. A few minutes before the deadline, the Rapids acquired center Phil Miller from the Saskatchewan Shockers in exchange for rookie forward Dwight Flynn and a second-round pick.
The deal plugs an ongoing hole for Dakota at the third-line center position. The Rapids picked up Florian Theroux from Hamilton at the deadline last year to play the position, but Theroux was claimed by Quebec in the expansion draft. Dakota has struggled to replace him all season. Vonnie McLearen had gotten the bulk of the work centering the third line; while he has had a good season overall, he is a natural winger and has had a hard time adjusting. Rapids fans had taken to calling the third line the “Donut Line,” because it had a hole in the middle.
In the 27-year-old Miller, the Rapids add a capable passer and defender (8 goals, 13 points on the season) who should fit well with Dakota’s uptempo style of play. “This is a move that helps us now and later,” said GM Paul Mindegaard. “Phil’s been on our radar for a while as a guy who could help us. Saskatchewan hadn’t wanted to part with him, but finally we got to a point where the price was right.”
For his part, Winnipeg native Miller took the deal in stride. “I’m a good loyal Canadian, so it feels wrong to be traded south of the border,” said Miller. “But on the other hand, I’m probably closer to home now, and I’m going from one small Midwestern city to another. Dakota is sort of an honorary Canadian state anyway.”
For the Shockers, who are much improved over last year’s dismal performance but are still building, this deal was all about stockpiling assets. The 23-year-old Flynn, a Syracuse native who was drafted out of SUNY-Rochester this season, didn’t appear much for Dakota, recording 3 assists in 9 games. Scouts consider him a rangy, promising prospect with excellent speed, although they feel that he will need to bulk up some in order to compete physically at the professional level.
“We’re at a stage where we can afford to let guys grow with us,” said Shockers GM Cooper Matthews. “We know what Phil Miller can do. We don’t know what Dwight Flynn can do yet, but I’m looking forward to find out.”