- On Wednesday, the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ CHL affiliate in Cleveland placed D Gil Calvert on the injured list. The 21-year-old Calvert showed a surprising scoring upside this season, with 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in 38 games. To fill Calvert’s spot on the roster, Cleveland signed free-agent D Davis McNeely. The blueliner is the younger brother of Washington Galaxy star Jefferson McNeely.
- On Friday, the Quebec Tigres activated D Kevin Buchanan from the injured list. Buchanan has struggled to stay healthy this time around, he missed over a month with an upper-body injury. Injuries have limited the veteran blueliner to just 14 games so far this season. To acccommodate Buchanan’s return to the roster, the Tigres sent D Boris Zhzhynov to their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Zhzhynov appeared in just 5 games for Quebec this season, and did not record a point. In order to make room on Halifax’s roster, the team released D Igor Shovshenkov.
- On Saturday, the Wolves’ Cleveland affiliate activated RW Boris Badenov from the injured list. The winger went down with a lower-body injury before the All-Star break. In order to make room for Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler, who briefly un-retired to fill Badenov’s roster spot, returned to his bench duties. The 35-year-old Reichler appeared in 8 games for Cleveland, recording two assists.
- Also on Saturday, the Dakota Jackalopes demoted D Victor Addison to their farm team in Idaho. This move was not made due to dissatisfaction with Addison’s performance, but rather due to a blueline shortage on the farm. Idaho is currently missing Ds Rusty Sienna and Clark Blanchard, both day-to-day with injuries. Rather than sign a player to a short-term deal to fill the spot, the cost-conscious Jackalopes sent Addison down to fill the gap. Addison has appeared in 19 games for Dakota so far this season, recording 7 assists.
- On Monday, the Kansas City Smoke recalled F David Facinelli from their CHL affiliate in Omaha and returned C Edz Zalmanis to Omaha. The Smoke had a need for a center when Mike Rivera and Nile Bernard suffered injuries, so they promoted Zalmanis just over two weeks ago. He appeared in 9 games during his stint with Kansas City, scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists.
- Also on Monday, the Michigan Gray Wolves placed RW Boris Badenov on the injured list. Badenov, who was playing for their minor-league affiliate in Cleveland, suffered a lower-body injury in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Omaha, and is expected to be out of action for 4 to 6 weeks. To replace Badenov on the roster, assistant coach Glenn Reichler was activated and added to the roster. (Story here.)
- On Wednesday, the Quebec Tigres activated LW Stellan Fisker from the injured list. Fisker missed 10 games with an upper-body injury suffered two and a half weeks earlier. In order to make room for Fisker’s return to the roster, the Tigres returned LW Carl Bleyer to their affiliate in Halifax. Bleyer appeared in 4 games for the Tigres, recording a goal.
- On Friday, the Hershey Bliss placed minor-league D Seth Dowd on the injured list. The 34-year-old Dowd, who was playing for their affiliate in Milwaukee, was taken off the ice on a stretcher after ramming head-first into the boards. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. To replace Dowd on the Milwaukee roster, the Bliss signed D Knute Skoeglin, who appeared in 10 games for Milwaukee last season.
- On Saturday, the Washington Galaxy activated D Grant Warriner from the injured list. Warriner, the Galaxy’s top young blueliner, missed two and a half weeks with an upper-body injury. In order to accommodate Warriner’s return to the active roster, the Galaxy demoted D Serkan Mratic to their CHL affiliate in Baltimore and released D Nate Cimino. Mratic recorded 2 assists and a -18 rating in 22 games with Washington; the 19-year-old Cimino notched a goal and 2 assists over 13 games with Baltimore.
Glenn Reichler is not a name that many SHL fans will remember. The journeyman reserve forward played 79 games over four seasons in the league with four different teams. When the contract offers dried up after the 2018 season, the then-33-year-old Reichler retired without fanfare and accepted a job as an assistant coach for the Michigan Gray Wolves’ minor-league affiliate, the Cleveland Centurions.
“I love the game enough that I wasn’t ready to go get a real job,” said Reichler, “even though I wasn’t good enough to play anymore.”
Just when Reichler was getting used to his playing days being over, however, a key injury and a thin market in free-agent forwards combined to offer the now-35-year-old a second chance of sorts.
On Sunday, the Centurions faced off against the Omaha Ashcats. Cleveland lost 1-0, and to add injury to insult, RW Boris Badenov was helped off the ice in the third period after being crunched into the boards, and he did not return. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, and could miss as much as six weeks. The offense-starved Centurions suddenly found themselves with a hole on their second line and no good options for filling it.
There are a handful of available free-agent forwards out there, but they all have reputations as very poor defenders, which makes them unpalatable to a defense-minded Cleveland club. The coaching staff gathered to review the possible options. Reichler was so unimpressed with the available options that he blurted, “Hell, I’d be better than most of these guys!”
It was a careless remark born of frustration, but Cleveland’s other coaches took it seriously. Reichler has reportedly remained in good shape during his transition to the bench, and he’s looked sharp while running drills with the team. After some persuasion from the front office and after passing a medical exam, Reichler signed a short-term contract with the team.
“I’m not deluding myself here,” the coach-turned-player noted. “I don’t think this is my ticket back to the big leagues or anything. But if I can help the team weather a temporary problem by getting back on the ice, I’m not going to pass that up.”
Wisely, the 35-year-old didn’t rush back to the ice; he gave himself a few days to get into game shape. He made his debut on Saturday, skating on the third line and recording a +2 rating in a 5-4 overtime upset of first-place Hartford.
“It felt good to be out there, moving at game speed again,” Reichler noted after his re-debut. “It’s a real rush.”
He acknowledged again, however, that he doesn’t expect the rush to last forever. “Ask me again tomorrow, when the muscles start to stiffen up,” Reichler said with a smile. “I’m happy to relive my playing days for a few weeks, but I know that’s as far as it goes. Making it through a game is one thing; making it through a season at 35 is something else.”
Does Reichler anticipate a wave of recently-retired players deciding to lace up their skates again? “Definitely not,” he said. “If anything, I’ll probably prove why us old goats are better off staying retired.”
The other deadline deal – completed about an hour after the Hamilton-Dakota trade – involved, oddly, two teams competing against one another. The New York Night and Hershey Bliss are both struggling to catch up with the Washington Galaxy in the East, but they have complementary weaknesses: New York’s defense is virtually non-existent, while Hershey has struggled to light the lamp. Therefore, the Bliss and Night rolled the dice on a deal that improved themselves as well as their strongest rival.
“When we’d finally worked out the terms of the deal, I think we both took a deep breath,” said New York GM Royce McCormick. “Sort of like, ‘Yeah, this makes me better, but is it gonna help them beat us out?’ I said, ‘Okay, this is the trade. Sure you want to do this?’ There was a beat at the other end, then, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’” Hershey shipped D Vitaly Dyomin and F Glenn Reichler to New York in exchange for winger Lee Fleming and D Alvin Catlett.
In Dyomin, the Night pick up a rugged stay-home defender who instantly becomes the hardest hitter in their blue-line corps. “Everyone knows we like high-flying firewagon hockey, but we’ve had to be honest with ourselves,” said McCormick. “We realized that we need a little more grit if we’re going to make a run at this. Vitaly’s a grinder, but he’s also a capable puck-handler (3 assists in 37 games) who will fit well into our offense.”
Meanwhile, in Fleming, the Bliss add a scoring winger (7 goals, 3 assists in 35 games) who can slot in on the second or third line, hopefully providing some badly-needed offense on those line. “Lee’s a veteran guy with a polished game,” said Hershey GM Scott Lawrence. “He can create his own shot, or he can facilitate for our other guys.”
For New York, the hope is that Dyomin’s added defense can help sustain the Night’s recent winning streak and allow them to take out Washington. For Hershey, about to get a huge offensive upgrade in the return of LW Lance Sweet from a lengthy injury, coach “Chocolate Chip” Barber is betting that the Bliss will develop a newfound scoring surge that will help the team shoot up the standings.
The primary question is whether the deal comes too late for both clubs. New York has spent much of the season floundering at the bottom of the East; even with their recent winning run, they remain below .500 and trail Washington by 11 points. As for Hershey, they have plummeted in the standings in Sweet’s absence, and even a late streak might not be enough to catch the Galaxy.
“We’ve got to get everyone back healthy and take our best shot,” said Barber. “The rest will sort itself out.”