Night Ship Garcia to Badgers for Gladchuk

Amid the flurry of activity at the trading deadline, with contenders making both small and large moves to load up for a playoff push, one deal wasn’t like the others.  It was a trade between two non-contending teams that involved no big-name players.  Arguably, there was only one reason that the deal was made: to satisfy Diego Garcia’s trade demand.

Garcia, a 26-year-old winger, has had a productive season with the New York Night’s minor-league affiliate in Utah; his 41 points this season led the team.  But when it became clear that the Night had no intention of promoting him to the big club, Garcia grew disenchanted and demanded to be traded.

Diego Garcia

Three weeks later, New York accommodated Garcia’s demand, sending him to the Boston Badgers, an expansion club that is thirsty for offense.

“We took Diego’s demand seriously,” said Night coach Nick Foster.  “I’ve always been straight with my guys about my plans for them.”  After Garcia made his demand, Foster said that he called the disgruntled winger to talk about his place in the organization.  “I told him my thinking and how I saw our forward situation, and what I thought he’d need to do to crack the lineup here,” the coach told reporters.  “After we talked, Diego felt like he’d prefer to go somewhere that he would have an opportunity right away, and we looked for a chance to make that happen.”

In Garcia, Boston acquires an undeniably talented player, but one whose lackluster work habits and prickly personality have caused him to wear out his welcome in multiple cities.  He posted 9 goals and 22 assists over pieces of three SHL seasons with Dakota, Hamilton, and New York.  He has a reputation as a player who can contribute on offense, especially as a passer.  However, he is considered weak on defense, which makes him an odd fit for a Badgers team that is supposedly built around defense and hard work.

On the other hand, Boston’s need for offense is so acute – they are last in the league in goals scored by a considerable margin – that they may be willing to explore unorthodox choices.  Head coach Cam Prince was an assistant in New York during Garcia’s time there, and he likes what the winger brings to the table.  “Diego is a talented guy who has the explosiveness to make things happen,” said Prince.  “We could use a little extra pace and a spark on offense, and I think he can give us that.”

Shane Gladchuk

In exchange for Garcia and 19-year-old defenseman Horst Hasenkamp, the Badgers sent the Night a pair of players.  The prime return for New York is 29-year-old defenseman Shane Gladchuk, who put up 2 goals and 10 assists in 40 games with Boston.  Gladchuk, who is in his second tour of duty with New York, is expected to join Andy Ruger on the Night’s bottom defensive pairing.

In addition, the Night acquired Alvin Fawn, a 19-year-old prospect who scored 7 points over 36 games in the minors this season.

“Shane is one of those guys who doesn’t grab the headlines, but he does a good steady job,” said Foster.  “We’re looking to tighten up in our own end, and Shane’s just the guy we need to help with that.  If everything works out the way I think it will, I hope we’ll be able to lock him up long-term.”


Tigres, Galaxy Make Dueling Deals

The race for the SHL’s Eastern Division remains in flux.  While the Hamilton Pistols remain the favorite to win the division, they haven’t put it away.  Meanwhile, the Quebec Tigres and Washington Galaxy have been jostling for position all season long, knowing that there is likely only room for one of them in the postseason.

The Pistols made their move at the beginning of the week, shoring up their depth amid a run of injuries.  Meanwhile, the Tigres and Galaxy waited until the final minutes before Thursday’s deadline, but each made a move designed to address shore up key areas and position themselves to punch their ticket to playoffs.

“We knew they were going to make a move,” said Galaxy GM Ace Adams of his Quebec rivals.  “And if they were going to get better, we knew we needed to keep up, and hopefully get a step ahead.”

For the Tigres, the target areas for a trade were obvious.  They wanted a better third-line center; Florian Theroux remains a fan favorite, but his stats were lackluster.  And for a team that is built on defense, Quebec was relying heavily on a trio of rookies: Laurie Workman, Richard McKinley, and Geoff Moultrie.

Doug Wesson

They addressed both needs in one deal, acquiring C Phil Miller and D Doug Wesson from the Kansas City Smoke in exchange for Moultrie and minor-league winger Aaron Knorr.

“This was the perfect deal for us,” said Tigres GM Pete Gondret.  “Kansas City had what we wanted, and the price was right.”

Wesson certainly add toughness for the Tigres; he is regularly one of the SHL leaders in penalty minutes and has been involved in several heavyweight bouts.  He is an excellent fit with Quebec and coach Martin Delorme’s scrappy, hard-checking style.  With the Smoke, he contributed 1 goal and 15 assists, in addition to 63 penalty minutes.

“I’m a two-fisted blue-collar guy, and Quebec is a two-fisted blue-collar team,” said Wesson.  “Let’s go!”

Phil Miller

With the deal, Miller continues his tour around the SHL.  The Tigres are Miller’s fifth club in four seasons; he’d ben with Saskatchewan, Dakota, and New York before being claimed by the Smoke in the expansion draft.  He rotated between the second and third lines for Kansas City, compiling 7 goals and 6 assists.

“Story of my life,” said Miller.  “Good enough that teams want me, but not good enough to keep around.”

Moultrie was the least productive of Quebec’s trio of blueline rookies, putting up 6 points in 40 games.  But at age 21, he presents considerable upside for a KC team that’s building for the future.  Knorr was the leading scorer for the Tigres’ minor-league affiliate in Maine, with 19 goals, and he scored four goals in a game last season; however, he lacked the passing and defensive skills to make him a fit with Quebec.

Charlie Brooks

The Galaxy, meanwhile, have struggled to get production from their bottom two lines, and their third defensive pairing has been a revolving door.  To address those issues, Washington picked up RW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton from the Boston Badgers in exchange for D Graham Bellinger and minor-league RW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli.

“I think we got underrated value here,” said Adams.  “Charlie Brooks and Scott Hexton aren’t household names, but they’re both guys who can come in right away and help us get to the playoffs.  We’re thrilled with this pickup.”

Brooks was one of the few offensive bright spots for Boston, producing 17 goals and 19 assists on the top line across from rookie Lix Darnholm.  He’s known by the nickname “Sunny” for his cheerful disposition, which has made him a popular teammate throughout his career.

“Washington did well to land Sunny,” said Gondret; Brooks played for Quebec the last two seasons.  “He’s a great guy to have around.”

Scott Hexton

Hexton, meanwhile, is known as a solid defender who isn’t as active on offense; he posted 9 points this season with the Badgers.  It’s not clear whether he’ll replace Burt Hampton or Bruce Hogaboom on the bottom pairing, or whether the three will rotate.  Coach Rodney Reagle said that “we’ll figure that out as we go, but it’s nice to have a lot of good choices to pick from.”

Bellinger was a highly-regarded prospect when Washington drafted him last year, but he struggled to get established and fell out of favor with Reagle.  Twice in a row, he started the year with the Galaxy, only to be demoted to the minors in midseason.  The Smoke hope that more consistent playing time and a longer leash will allow him to live up to the hype.  Pescatelli is only 18 and showed some promise in the minors, scoring 5 goals and 18 assists in 41 games.

Will these deals put either team over the top?  Perhaps not; neither acquisition is a blockbuster.  But as Adams put it, “It really feels like we’ve got two teams that are about equal talent-wise.  Any little edge that we can find to come out on top, we’re gonna take it.”

Igloos Land Bellmore at Deadline

It’s been a strange season for the Anchorage Igloos.  The defending division champs have struggled to find all momentum all season; their record has hovered around the .500 mark, and they have won more than three games in a row only once this season.  Coach Sam Castor called out his team last month when they stood at 12-13-0 and were tied with Saskatchewan for second place; they’ve improved a bit since then, going 10-7-0, but not enough to lock down a playoff berth.

Harvey Bellmore

With the Seattle Sailors making major moves to take a run at the spot down the stretch, the Igloos made a significant deal of their own to solidify their position, acquiring C Harvey Bellmore from the Dakota Jackalopes in exchange for F Mason Kilborn and a second-round draft pick.

“We’ve been clear from the start that this is a playoff team,” said Igloos GM Will Thorndike.  “We know we’ve got the personnel here to go all the way, and we didn’t see the need for any major moves that might disrupt our chemistry.  But bringing Harvey on board gives us a little extra firepower on the bottom line, and that kind of depth always helps in the playoffs.”

Bellmore is the second Dakota center to be dealt today; the rebuilding Jackalopes sent Lars Karlsson to Seattle in the biggest deadline move.  Bellmore is in the middle of a strong season, putting up 11 goals and 18 assists, although he is arguably better known in Dakota for his practical jokes than for his on-ice performance.

Like Karlsson, his contract expires at the end of the season.  Unlike Karlsson, he was publicly unhappy with the team’s direction and made it clear that he wanted out.  He created a stir in Dakota earlier this season when he crashed the team’s “Faith Day” celebration and gave a sermon on the virtues of alcohol.  He denied at the time that the stunt was intended to force a trade, but several of his teammates read it that way.

“As a player, it’s always more fun when you’re on a contending team,” said Bellmore after the deal was announced.  “So this is exciting for me.  Let me say to the fans of Dakota: So long, and thanks for all the wheat.  I’m packing up my joy buzzers and my dribble glasses and headed north to Alaska!  Hope I don’t get eaten by a grizzly.”

Bellmore should give Anchorage’s third line a significant offensive boost; he displaces veteran Broni Zhlotkin, who is slow and not a great shot creator.  Bellmore is considered a careless defender, however.  It’s also not clear whether his goofy nature will fit in with the more serious-minded Anchorage clubhouse.

Mason Kilborn

Bellmore was a considerably cheaper rental than Karlsson, who cost Seattle a pair of top prospects in addition to a draft pick.  The 22-year-old Kilborn made his debut this season; he showed promise in limited action, posting a goal and 4 assists in 10 games with the Igloos.

“We’re glad to add a promising youngster like Mason Kilborn to the fold,” said Jackalopes GM Paul Mindegaard.  “He’s an energetic and athletic player who can make an impact on both ends.  We’re excited to get him.”

With Bellmore on board and the playoffs the expectation, the heat may be on Castor if the Igloos wind up missing the postseason.  But the coach says he welcomes the pressure: “This is our chance to show what we can do.  The spotlight’s on me and on all of us.  Let’s get it done.”


Sailors Go All In at Deadline

The Seattle Sailors are in a tenuous position in the Western playoff race.  The Anchorage Igloos, widely expected to be a slam-dunk playoff team, have struggled to get much above the .500 mark.  In theory, the second Western playoff spot should be up for grabs.  However, hampered by a dreadful defense, the Sailors have been unable to take advantage, and have been hovering 5 to 7 points behind Anchorage for the last month.

Jay McKay

Given the situation, Seattle essentially had two options: concede the race, or go all in.  “The race has been static for a while now,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “If we stuck with the roster we had, we were going to die fast and quiet.”

Instead, McKay elected to go all in.  The Sailors made a pair of major deals to acquire a couple of big names, at a significant cost in prospects.   “We’re pushing our chips to the middle of the table,” said McKay.  “We think we’ve got the chance to do something special here.”

Lars Karlsson

Seattle’s largest acquisition was the deadline’s top prize.  C Lars Karlsson was the biggest name rumored to be on the block.  The 30-year-old center is a proven star and is having a fantastic year, having scored 19 goals and 25 assists.  But his previous team, the Dakota Jackalopes, are in the midst of a payroll purge, and Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season.

The Sailors had a clear need at the center position, and they targeted Karlsson from the start.  But they’d already dealt their first-round pick to Dakota before the season.  In order to rent Karlsson for the stretch run, Seattle had to part with a pair of top prospects – C Dale Wilcox and D Duncan DeShantz – as well as their second-round pick.

“Lars definitely didn’t come cheap,” said McKay.  “But he’s the kind of talent that can really move the needle.  He plugs right into our top line – which was already doing great – and the effect ripples through our entire offense.  He’s a game-changer.”

Hans Mortensen

Of course, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been the issue; it’s their leaky defense that has doomed them.  To address that, the Sailors picked up veteran D Hans Mortensen, 30, from the Kansas City Smoke.  The defender has provided airtight defense in KC and put up 17 assists in 40 games.  To land him, Seattle surrendered another prospect blueliner, T.K. O’Neill.  The 20-year-old O’Neill struggled in his SHL debut, failing to record a point in 22 games before being sent down, but he is regarded as an elite defensive prospect.

“Hans is one of those lockdown D-men that you love to have,” said McKay. “He’s a solid veteran with championship experience, and he can contribute on both ends.  He’s going to really help our playoff push.”

These two moves make Seattle a more formidable opponent, but will it be enough?  And if the Sailors miss the playoffs and Karlsson walks at the end of the season, will they regret their deadline splurge?

“I won’t regret it a bit,” said McKay.  “If you’re not going for it, really going for it, what’s the point?  Maybe this all blows up in my face and I get fired.  That’s okay.  We’d rather take a chance and miss than muddle along and do nothing.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, who used to coach Dakota, agrees with that assessment: “It’s really nice to be with an organization that goes all out to win, that’s not afraid to spend money and take a shot.  I’m not used to it, but I love it.”


Pistols Add Soforenko, Dyomin for Stretch Run

It was an active trading deadline this season, with almost all contending teams making moves to strengthen their position.  The first-place team in the East, the Hamilton Pistols, made the first move several days before the deadline, acquiring LW Piotr Soforenko and D Vitaly Dyomin from the Kansas City Smoke on Sunday to bolster their depth.

Piotr Soforenko

The Pistols have been leaning heavily on rookies on their third line (LW Jamie Campbell and RW Michael Jennings) and bottom defensive pairing (Albie Glasco and Buster Kratz).  GM Marcel LaClaire had already been contemplating a move to add a couple of veterans, but when Glasco went down with an injury on Friday and Campbell was hurt on Saturday, the matter became a priority.

“We’re getting to a critical point in the season, where we cannot afford to lose our ground,” LaClaire told reporters.  “With Piotr and Vitaly, we have a pair of proven, reliable players who can give us some additional grit and solidity, and they can fill holes that we have right away.”

The 32-year-old Soforenko has been one of Kansas City’s leading scorers this season, with 12 goals and 20 assists.  He is a graceful skater and smooth passer, and he has worked well with the Smoke’s rookies; he has helped linemates C Darien Picard and RW Zachary Merula compile strong debut seasons.  On the other hand, he is not a rugged player and is considered below average on defense.

Vitaly Dyomin

The 29-year-old Dyomin is a stay-home defenseman who has a reputation as a grinder.  He has put up respectable offensive numbers with KC (3 goals, 11 assists), but his primary contributions are through checking and wall work.  He is not particularly fast, but he makes up for it with hard hits.  Unlike Soforenko, who is a pure rental, Dyomin is signed through next season; this made him an appealing pickup for Hamilton.

In the short term, Soforenko and Dyomin will fill in for the injured Campbell and Glasco; once the latter two return to health, it is expected that the new players will take over for Jennings and Kratz.

Last week, LaClaire publicly agonized over whether to part with some of the team’s top prospects to take a shot at winning now.  In this deal, they dealt a pair of youngsters with promise, but held onto their most highly-regarded players.

Gary Hermine
Owen Griffin

C Owen Griffin was one of the last cuts in training camp, and he has put up solid numbers with their minor-league affiliate in Oshawa (13 goals, 16 assists).  The 21-year-old reported to the Smoke’s affiliate in Omaha in the immediate aftermath of the trade, but he is likely to see time with the big club before season’s end.

D Gary Hermine is well-regarded as an offensive-minded defenseman; the 20-year-old has thrived with Oshawa, putting up 12 goals and 35 assists in 38 games this season.  He reported directly to Kansas City, where he joined their bottom pairing and is expected to see time on the power play.

“I’m excited to have Owen and Gary join our team,” said Smoke GM Garth Melvin.  “As an expansion club, our eyes are firmly fixed on the future, and we’ve got a couple of young guys who we believe can be a key part of our club for years to come.”

LaClaire stated that he does not expect the Pistols to make any more deals before the deadline.  “We have the players we want,” he told reporters.  “And we believe we have struck the balance, taking our shot now and still being strong for the future.”


Galaxy Trade for Sailors D Gallagher

The Washington Galaxy are in a great position as they look to capture their third straight division title.  They’ve gone undefeated since the All-Star break, and they just passed Hershey to take the lead in the East.  It would have been easy to imagine them making no moves at the deadline, not wanting to mess with a good thing.  Instead, though, the Galaxy made a small but smart move, bolstering their defensive corps by grabbing D Stan “Animal” Gallagher from the Seattle Sailors in exchange for minor-league D Woody Fairwood.

Stan Gallagher

The pickup of Gallagher should stabilize Washington’s third defensive pairing, which has been a season-long conundrum.  The position opposite Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom has a revolving door, as the Galaxy have rotated between veteran Bill Corbett, young banger Jurgen Braun, and rookie Graham Bellinger.  All three have done credibly, but none of them has played well enough to seize the job full-time.

The 27-year-old Gallagher should provide Hogaboom with a strong running partner.  He scored 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) with Seattle, playing largely on their top pairing.  He earned his “Animal” nickname for the fierce enthusiasm he puts into his skating and checking, which will make him a good fit beside the pugnacious Hogaboom.

“Did we need to make this deal?  Probably not,” admitted Galaxy GM Garnet “Ace” Adams.  “But does this deal make us a stronger team than we were yesterday?  Oh yeah.  The Animal’s got a well-earned reputation around this league, and putting him and Boomer on the ice together should unleash some havoc.  Graham will have the opportunity to go down to the minors and play every day, which should help him develop.  And Corbs and Brauny will get opportunities to contribute off the bench, where we know we can count on them.”

In the run-up to the deadline, it was rumored that Washington was pursuing a bigger deal.  The Saskatchewan Shockers were reportedly dangling D Chris “Lightning” Oflyng, and Hershey was said to be in hot pursuit of them.  It was speculated that the Galaxy were also after Oflyng, if only to block the Bliss from getting him.  But Adams said that Washington wasn’t making a serious attempt to land the Shockers blueliner.

“You never say never in this job,” said Adams.  “But we figured Oflyng was going to be too rich for our blood, and frankly, we didn’t need an upgrade like that.  We just wanted a solid vet for the third pairing, and we got him.”  As it turned out, Hershey wasn’t able to meet Saskatchewan’s demands for Oflyng either; they might have turned to Gallagher as a fallback option, but Washington beat them to it.

Woody Fairwood

For Seattle, the 21-year-old Fairwood may not match Gallagher in the character department, but he should provide similar production.  Fairwood had been playing with Washington’s minor-league club in Baltimore, where he notched 50 points (9 goals, 41 assists) and a +7 rating.  He was tied for the team lead in both categories

“I knew I was probably going to have a hard time making my way up to DC,” said Fairwood.  “It was a good organization and I’ll miss my friends there, but to get a shot at some real minutes at the major-league level, that’s exciting for me.”


Igloos Nab Winger Miranda from Seattle

This week, the Anchorage Igloos nosed into first place in the West for the first time all season.  The previous division leaders, the defending champion Michigan Gray Wolves, have been beset by injuries, and the Igloos have taken advantage.  Hoping to make their advantage stick, Anchorage made a trade at the deadline to bolster their depth at forward, picking up LW Waldo Miranda from the Seattle Sailors in exchange for F Rodney McElvern.

“We’re confident that we have a team strong enough to win the championship,” said Igloos GM Will Thorndike.  “But when we see a low-cost opportunity to improve, we’re going to pounce on it.  We saw an opportunity here, and we took it.”

Waldo Miranda

Miranda was in his second season with Seattle; they originally selected him from Hamilton in the expansion draft.  The 25-year-old winger bounced between the second and third line for the Sailors, putting up 11 goals and 8 assists in 38 games this season.  With the Igloos, he projects as a reserve, but one who’s ready to step in should an Anchorage winger get injured or need a rest.

“When you’re making a push for the postseason, you need depth,” said Thorndike.  “You never know when somebody’s going to go down or go into the slump, or you’re going to need to sub a guy in or out to take advantage of a matchup.  Waldo’s a guy who’s perfectly capable of starting, and probably would for most teams in the league.  To have someone like that coming off the bench, that’s a real luxury.  But it’s the kind of luxury that can make the difference between winning and losing the division, or winning or losing a playoff series.”

The Wolves are currently learning that lesson the hard the way.  Earlier this month, they lost top-line C Hunter Bailes to a major upper-body injury; he is due to return next week after missing almost a month.  Then on Tuesday they lost another center, Warren Marlow, to a lower-body injury.  Although his injury is far less severe than Bailes’, he is expected to be out for a week.  In the absence of two of their top scorers, Michigan’s offense has crumbled.  The Wolves declined to make any trades to fill the gap, believing that they’ll get back on track when Bailes and Marlow return.

Rodney McElvern

In exchange for Miranda, the Sailors received McElvern, a 22-year-old rookie who was Anchorage’s second-round draft pick out of Lake Ontario State.  McElvern was a 20-goal scorer in college; with the Igloos, he appeared in only 3 games, scoring no points and recording a -1 rating.

“We’re really excited to see what Rodney can do for us,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “He’ll have plenty of ice time with us to show us what he’s got.  We’re not going to make the playoffs, so we’re looking to give our young guys more playing time down the stretch, and Rodney’s definitely going to get a real good look.”