- On Monday, the Dakota Jackalopes activated C Tanner Brooks from the injured list. Shortly before the All-Star break, Brooks suffered an upper-body injury. Although the injury initially did not seem that serious, Brooks wound up missing over three weeks. As the Jackalopes had an available roster spot, they did not need to make a compensating move to activate Brooks.
- Also on Monday, the Hershey Bliss‘ CHL affiliate in Milwaukee placed LW Karl Gjovik on the injured list. Gjovik exited in the first period of Sunday’s 3-1 win over Cleveland after being upended on a devastating check, and did not return. He is expected to miss at least two weeks. To replace Gjovik, Milwaukee signed F Jerry Cazenovia to a short-term contract.
- On Wednesday, the Hamilton Pistols activated C Marco Venezio from the injured list. The veteran center missed 10 games with a lower=body injury suffered just before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Venezio, the Pistols reassigned C Hilliard Macy to their CHL affiliate in Oshawa, and released F Bobby Warner from Oshawa.
- Wednesday was the trading deadline. The following trades were consummated at the deadline:
- The Michigan Gray Wolves traded RW Gordon Lunsford to the Boston Badgers for RW Rory Socarra. (More details here.) After the trade, Boston demoted RW Felix Delorme to their CHL affiliate in Hartford, and recalled F Jacques Bacon from Hartford.
- The Gray Wolves traded LW Misha Petronov, F Cary Estabrook, and D Brandon Arrowood to the New York Night for LW Flynn Danner, F Henry Constantine, and D Anson Brank. (More details here.) After the trade, Michigan demoted LW Fendrick Scanlan to their CHL affiliate in Cleveland, and New York promoted RW Harris Wondolowski from their affiliate in Utah.
- The Dakota Jackalopes traded D Victor Addison to Boston in exchange for D Jackson Creed. After the trade, the Badgers demoted D Bjorn Tollefson to their minor-league affiliate in Hartford.
- Michigan traded C Warren Marlow to the Quebec Tigres in exchange for C Phil Miller, LW Carl Bleyer, and a 1st-round draft pick. (More details here.) After the trade, the Gray Wolves released F Caleb Moulton. The Tigres demoted C Dwight Flynn to their CHL affiliate in Halifax, and signed F Tim Daisey to a minor-league deal.
- On Saturday, the Anchorage Igloos recalled RW Jean Pierre Fleury from their CHL affiliate in Minnesota. The Igloos demoted Fleury to Minnesota during the All-Star break, and he played brilliantly there, recording 19 points in 12 games, including the CHL’s first-ever five-goal game. To make room for Fleury, the Igloos reassigned RW Lionel LaNeige to Minnesota.
The SHL selected Dakota Jackalopes C Riley McCrea as its Player of the Week. In a highly turbulent week for the Jackalopes, McCrea was able to tune out the distractions and put up an excellent week. The center produced 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) on the week. He now leads Dakota in points with 38, and he is second on the team in goals with 15.
On Sunday, McCrea scored twice – including the game-tying goal – and added an assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to Kansas City. On Tuesday, he had another three-point game – this time a goal and two assists – as the Jackalopes came from behind to stun Portland 5-4 at Wilamette River Arena. On Saturday, McCrea had both of Dakota’s goals in a 6-2 loss to Quebec.
“Riley is one of the league’s truly underrated players,” said Jackalopes coach Flim Dahlgren. “He is unknown to every SHL fan in every city other than this one. But he will become known. A player as talented as he is will not stay invisible forever.”
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.
Typically, at the trading deadline, the highlight is the big deals that have been made, as teams pick up the missing pieces for a playoff run. This season in the SHL, however, the story was the deals that weren’t made, as the league took the unprecedented step of vetoing a pair of trades by the Dakota Jackalopes, leading to a chaotic series of events that ended with the league taking control of the franchise.
The Jackalopes’ financial problems have been an open secret around the league for several years. They play in the smallest market in the league, and their attendance has dwindled considerably as the team’s record has declined; as a result, the team has traded away almost all of its high-salary players. Rumors have periodically swirled that Dakota cannot make payroll or is on the verge of folding. Jackalopes officials have consistently denied rumors false.
But at Wednesday’s trading deadline, Dakota struck a pair of deals moving their highest-salary players remaining. One deal sent LW “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, the team’s longtime star, to the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for LW Veikko Sikanen and a 1st-round draft pick. The other sent RW Arkady Golynin to the Hershey Bliss in exchange for C Yegor Nestorov and a 1st-round pick.
Several teams, including the Jackalopes, have made salary-shedding trades in the past. But this pair of deals raised a red flag with the league office. Dakota’s total payroll is just $15.3 million – already the league’s lowest – and the combined salaries of Airston and Golynin are nearly half that total. In addition, both deals reported involved millions in cash being sent to the Jackalopes; this kind of direct cash transfer has never happened before in the SHL.
“As a rule, I’m very reluctant to get involved made between consenting teams,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “But when a team cuts its payroll to the point that it they can’t ice a competitive squad, that’s a problem. If a team essentially tells its fanbase that it’s not going to even try to compete, that’s a problem.”
The Jackalopes, as well as their trading partners, reacted to the vetoed deals with outrage.
“We don’t think the league has any business getting involved in our deals,” said Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard. “We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’re in a rebuilding phase, and for the league to step in and prevent us from acquiring assets, well, that’s hurting our ability to compete in the long term.”
“From our perspective, [the veto] really wrecked our shot at completing a deadline deal,” said Bliss GM Scott Lawrence. “We had a deal that both sides agreed to, that gave our team the upgrade we needed. Then suddenly, we find out the deal’s a no-go, and we don’t have time before the deadline to execute a Plan B. So that really kneecapped us.”
“Acquiring Ryan would have been a game-changer for us,” said Smoke GM Garth Melvin. “We were excited, our fans were excited, and we felt like we had the firepower to be competitive in the West. But the league ripped that away from us, and it really feels unfair.”
The players involved weren’t too happy either. “Honestly, I’ve got whiplash from the whole thing,” said Airston. “I’ve played my whole career here, and I signed an extension this off-season because I wanted to stay. Then with no warning, I’m gone. And then I’m not. And now I’m here, wondering if the team can afford to pay me for the rest of the season.”
Mindegaard and owner Roger Scott argued that the Jackalopes needed to make the deals for financial reasons. They argued that without the payroll savings and the cash payments, they would not be able to make payroll at month’s end. This led the league to take a closer look at the team’s financial situation, and by week’s end, they had taken control of the franchise from Scott.
“Obviously, this is not a situation we wanted to find ourselves in,” said Commissioner Mitchell. “But it was clear after examining the books that the Dakota franchise was at a very real risk of folding in midseason, so we had to act.”
The commissioner said that the league would plan to sell the team to another owner after the season. He added that the team would almost certainly be moved to another city, but that they will finish the season in Dakota.
The following transactions occurred during the All-Star break:
- The Anchorage Igloos demoted RW Jean Pierre Fleury and G Wendall Cantillon to their CHL affiliate in Minnesota and called up RW Lionel LaNeige and G Curt Freeze from Minnesota. Fleury has struggled badly this year, recording only 2 points in 20 games, and has been a healthy scratch in many recent games. Cantillon has posted a 2-4-2 record with a 4.04 GAA as the Igloos’ backup netminder this season. The 22-year-old LaNeige makes his SHL debut; he has recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 32 games with Minnesota this year. Freeze, a longtime Anchorage prospect, has gone 5-11-2 with a 2.59 GAA and a .905 save percentage so far this seaosn.
- The Boston Badgers sent F Jacques Bacon and D Jackson Creed to their affiliate in Hartford, and recalled RW Felix Delorme and D Brett Stolte from Hartford. Bacon, a veteran who signed as a free agent in the offseason, has appeared in only 7 games for Boston and has yet to record a point. The Badgers are hoping that Delorme, nephew of Quebec coach Martin Delorme, can provide a spark for their stagnant offense. Delorme was a starter in the CHL All-Star Game, and has recorded 10 goals and 17 assists so far this season. The Badgers called up Creed from Hartford two and a half weeks ago; he played in 6 games and recorded an assist. Stolte, another CHL All-Star, has produced 12 goals and 13 assists so far this year.
- The Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Geoff Moultrie and promoted D Brady Prussian. Moultrie recorded 2 goals and a -2 rating in 14 games for Dakota this season; the team hopes to get him more regular playing time with their affiliate in Idaho. Prussian has produced 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) and a +13 rating with Idaho on the year.
- The Hamilton Pistols demoted D Torrey Ashmont and promoted D Russ Klemmer. Ashmont is a rookie who has struggled for ice time with the Pistols, appearing in only 9 games. He figures to start regularly with the team’s Oshawa affiliate. Klemmer, meanwhile, was a CHL All-Star; his 22 assists placed him in the league’s top ten.
- The Hershey Bliss demoted F Anton Lapointe and promoted RW James Clay. Lapointe, a capable defensive forward, has struggled to produce offensively at the SHL level; so far this year, he has produced two assists in 9 games. Clay, another CHL All-Star, led Hershey’s Milwaukee affiliate with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists).
- The Kansas City Smoke demoted G Dennis Wampler and promoted G Eric Middleton. Kansas City’s 3.79 GAA is second-worst in the SHL, and Wampler (3-8-1, 4.06 GAA, .882 save percentage) has contributed to those woes. Middleton, an 18-year-old rookie, has thrived with the Smoke’s affiliate in Omaha, going 8-6-3 with a 2.06 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
- The Michigan Gray Wolves demoted RW Kelvin Starkey and F Cary Estabrook and promoted LW Fendrick Scanlan and RW Steve Brandon. The offensively-challenged Wolves shook up their forward depth, swapping out Starkey (1 goal in 24 games) and Estabrook (no points in 10 games) for the top two scorers (and All-Stars) with their Cleveland affiliate, Scanlan (13 goals, 10 assists) and Brandon (12 games, 10 assists).
- The New York Night demoted G Corey Franklin-Lee and recalled G Sherman Carter. This is the reverse of the transaction New York made two weeks earlier, when they sent Carter to their affiliate in Utah in order to regain his form and confidence. Carter went 4-2-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .926 save percentage in Utah, while Franklin-Lee went 1-2-0 with a 3.00 GAA and a .925 save percentage in the Big Apple.
- The Quebec Tigres demoted C Phil Miller and promoted C Dwight Flynn. The veteran Miller has failed to produce in Quebec this season, with a mere two assists and a -10 rating in 27 games. Flynn, meanwhile, has produced at an All-Star level with Halifax this year, including 16 goals, 21 assists, and a +3 rating.
- The Saskatchewan Shockers signed D Kjell Hanson to a minor-league contract. The Shockers found themselves with a short minor-league roster after calling up D Pierre Chappelle and C Trent Harlow as injury replacements just before the All-Star break, and Hanson will help fill the void. The 24-year-Hanson started the year in the Kansas City organization, but the Smoke released him the week before the break.
- The Washington Galaxy demoted D Shane Gladchuk and promoted D Morris Starling. The rebuilding Galaxy wanted to give Starling, a CHL All-Star with Baltimore, some ice time at the SHL level. He led the with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists). Gladchuk appeared in 12 games with Washington, notching 3 assists and a -8 rating.
- On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke‘s CHL affiliate in Omaha activated D Lowell Sharkey from the injured list. Sharkey, who is a highly-regarded prospect in the Kansas City organization, missed five weeks with a lower-body injury. In order to make room for Sharkey on the roster, the team released D Kjell Hanson. The 24-year-old Hanson appeared in 15 games for Omaha, recording 2 assists and a -4 rating.
- On Friday, the Dakota Jackalopes placed C Tanner Brooks on the injured list. The 23-year-old Brooks suffered an upper-body injury during Thursday’s 4-1 win over Quebec, and is expected to miss at least three weeks. To fill in during Brooks’ absence, the Jackalopes promoted C Jacob Cunniff from their CHL affiliate in Idaho. Cunniff is Idaho’s leading scorer, with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) so far on the season.
- Also on Friday, the Hershey Bliss activated LW Russell Nahorniak from the injured list. Nahorniak missed five weeks with a lower-body injury. In order to accommodate Nahorniak’s return, the Bliss sent LW Sergei Tarisov back to their affiliate in Milwaukee. Tarisov appeared in 13 games during Nahorniak’s absence, recording 3 goals and a +3 rating. To make room for Tarisov on Milwaukee’s roster, the team released F Jerry Casenovia.
- In one more Friday move, the Saskatchewan Shockers placed D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng on the injured list. Oflyng had to be helped off the ice after being slammed head-first into the boards on Thursday, and is expected to miss up to six weeks. The loss is devastating to the surging Shockers, as Oflyng led the team in points with 30 (8 goals, 22 assists). To fill Oflyng’s roster spot, Saskatchewan called up D Pierre Chappelle from their CHL affiliate in Virginia. The 31-year-old Chappelle was tied for the Virginia team lead in goals (with 15) and points (with 29).
- On Saturday, the Hamilton Pistols placed C Marco Venezio on the injured list. Venezio suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against Saskatchewan, and is expected to miss three to four weeks. Venezio has been a stalwart on Hamilton’s second line, putting up 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) on the season. To fill Venezio’s spot on the roster, Hamilton called up C Hilliard Macy from their affiliate in Oshawa. It’s the second SHL stint for the 20-year-old Macy, who appeared in 5 games for Hamilton earlier in the season. The Pistols also signed F Bobby Warner to a minor-league contract.
- Also on Saturday, the Shockers placed C Cyril Perignon on the injured list. Perignon suffered a lower-body injury against Hamilton on Saturday; he is expected to miss at least a month. Perignon has recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) and a +1 rating on the season for Saskatchewan. To replace Perignon, the Shockers called up C Trent Harlow from Virginia. At the time of his callup, Harlow led the Rhinos with 30 points.
This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes coach Flim Dahlgren.
SHL Digest: We’re here today with Flim Dahlgren, who is in his third season as coach of the Dakota Jackalopes. Coach Dahlgren, thanks for speaking with us.
Flim Dahlgren: It feels at times as though interviews are my primary job duty. But I’m pleased to speak with you.
SHLD: You’ve earned a reputation as a coach with a philosophical streak, the kind of person who can turn a routine season-in-review question into a musing on the meaning of winning and losing. Do you think that reputation helps you in working with a young team?
FD: I find this reputation somewhat hilarious, since it is largely based on an interview in which I was in a rather odd mood.
SHLD: Fair enough. But your postgame press conferences are generally considered more eloquent and interesting than most.
FD: I also find it hilarious that any player or coach whose comments deviate from Standard Athlete Cliches #1 through 100 is promptly termed a “deep thinker.” I don’t consider myself a particularly deep thinker, but I do find the Standard Athlete Cliches fairly tiresome. If I repeated them after every game, I would bore myself to sleep.
SHLD: Let’s talk about the Jackalopes, and the ever-present rumors of financial trouble.
FD: A subject I find even more tiresome than Standard Athlete Cliches. But I suppose there is no avoiding it.
SHLD: The Jackalopes have the smallest payroll and the worst attendance in the SHL. In spite of that, the team has been competitive. What’s been the secret to your success?
FD: “Success” seems a bit generous, but thank you. I’ve found that being the underdog is a powerful motivating factor. If there is a secret, I suppose that it has been in getting the players to tune out the off-ice distractions, and focus on the game.
SHLD: But that’s no small task. Every week, it seems there are new whispers that the team may not make payroll or will have to move. Do those rumors make your job more challenging?
FD: Certainly they do; this is not something other SHL coaches have to deal with. Our players read the same news stories you do, and they can look up in the stands and see the empty seats. If every day, someone was telling you that the Digest was about to fold, would you be able to pay attention to this interview?
SHLD: Probably not.
FD: Exactly. I don’t attempt to pretend the stories don’t exist; that would be ridiculous. But I’ve also told them these facts: None of my paychecks have bounced. Neither have theirs. The hot rumor from last year was that the team couldn’t afford to re-sign Ryan Airston; they did.
SHLD: The lesson being: don’t believe everything you read.
FD: Precisely. I’ve urged my players to focus on what they can control, which is our play on the ice. But I’ve also told them to come talk to me if they do read something that concerns them, and I’ve promised them honesty if I hear any news they should know.
SHLD: Speaking of rumors, there’s one we should address: the claims that you were contemplating resignation at the end of last season. Care to comment on those?
FD: How much value is there in reliving the past? Obviously, I remain the coach. I made a commitment to this team and these players, and I intend to honor it. This is a unique job with a unique set of challenges, but I embrace that in full.
SHLD: If the team does wind up moving, would you remain the coach then?
FD: That is tomorrow’s question. My focus remains on today.
SHLD: Understand. Well, thank you for your time and a very interesting interview.
FD: Certainly. I hope this interview hasn’t ruined my deep-thinker reputation.