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.
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.
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.
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.”