The Boston Badgers are in a challenging position. They’re on the fringes of the playoff race in the crowded East. It was a seller’s market at this year’s deadline, and the Badgers had some pieces – like winger Jorma Seppa and defenseman Patrick Banks – that could have fetched a solid return. On the other hand, Boston already made one aggressive go-for-it move this season – acquiring LW Casey Thurman from Washington – and they’d clearly need more help if they were going to make the postseason.
GM Jody Melchiorre considered both paths nearly up to the deadline. He entertained deals for Seppa, Banks, and others. But in the end, he decided to double down and go for it.
“At some point, if you’ve got enough chips in the pot, it doesn’t make sense to fold,” said Melchiorre. “Our fans want to see a playoff team, and I want to give it to them.”
The Badgers needed an upgrade to their lackluster offense; adding Thurman was a much-needed boost, but their goal numbers are still in the league’s lower half. But they also needed to find players who fit the team’s rugged, grinding, hard-hitting style. In the end, Melchiorre found what he was looking for, landing RW Gordon Lunsford from the Michigan Gray Wolves and D Victor Addison from the Dakota Jackalopes.
Lunsford has been a quietly consistent cog in Michigan’s offense for years. He’s regularly put up 50-point seasons with little flair or drama. He’s capable of laying the kinds of heavy checks that Badgers fans love. And he’s been a steady, dependable clubhouse leader for the Wolves since the beginning. Although his numbers this year (8 goals, 20 assists, +10 rating) aren’t quite up to his career norms, he continues to be a solid performer.
“Gordon is exactly the kind of strong veteran presence I want here,” said Melchiorre. “He’ll fit in perfectly on the ice and off the ice. He’s got playoff experience, and he can help lead our team to great things.”
The Badgers didn’t give up a ton to get him, either: they acquired Lunsford in a one-for-one swap for RW Rory Socarra. The 21-year-old Socarra has shown dazzling flashes of athleticism, but has yet to fully harness his potential. He has yet to exceed 20 points in a season, and his current-season numbers (4 goals, 6 assists, -3) have once again disappointed.
All in all, it seems like a steal for Boston. There is, however, one risk factor: Lunsford’s age. He is currently 37 years old, the league’s oldest active player. He has shown clear signs of decline the last couple of seasons. And he’s signed through the 2021 season at a sizable hit of $2.5 million per season. Might that come back to bite Boston down the road?
For his part, Lunsford isn’t concerned. “I don’t think I’m near the end of the road,” he told reporters. “I’m in great shape, and I’ve been healthy as a horse my entire career. I’m ready to keep going and producing until I’m 40, or longer.”
In Addison, whom they acquired for minor-league blueliner Jackson Creed, the Badgers are hoping to find a defenseman who can provide some help in the offensive end as well. The Badgers have two blueliners with a solid scoring touch: Banks and Matt Cherner. They’ve also gotten help from Brody “Bruiser” McCallan, who has a good passing touch. The rest of their defensive corps, however, has contributed virtually nothing offensively. So Melchiorre picked up Addison, hoping that he can slot in on the second pairing beside McCallan and provide a bit of a spark.
The 24-year-old Addison has put up solid numbers in the minor-leagues, but has struggled to replicate those at the SHL level. In 19 games with Dakota this season, he recorded no goals and 7 assists with a -5 rating. But Melchiorre believes that Addiston can unlock the offensive side of his game with more consistent ice time.
“Victor’s been jerked around a lot in his career,” said Melchiorre. “He’s been moved up and down pairing, on the ice one day and not the next. No wonder he can’t find consistency. What we plan to do is give him a consistent role beside the same partner and consistent minutes, and not panic and bench him if he doesn’t light it up immediately. I’m confident that with some time and trust, he can thrive.”
That’s music to Addison’s ears. “All I’ve ever wanted is the chance to prove myself,” he told reporters. “In my last organization, I felt like I never got that chance. I’m glad to have a fresh start, away from the chaos.”
Will Lunsford and Addison prove to be the difference-makers that launch Boston into a playoff spot? Or will they prove to be too little, too late in a packed race? Melchiorre and the Badgers look forward to finding out.