When LW Casey Thurman publicly lamented the direction of the Washington Galaxy franchise in a postgame interview a couple weeks back, it seemed like the star winger’s days with the only SHL team he’d ever played for were numbered. Thurman’s time in the nation’s capital came to an end on Friday, as the Boston Badgers – desperate to spark their flailing offense and climb into contention in the East – acquired him in exchange for a pair of prospects and their first-round pick in the draft.
“I don’t really have words for it, to be honest,” said Thurman. “And you know how much I love talking, so that’s saying something. I thought I was going to be here for my whole career. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Once word got out about Thurman’s dissatisfaction with the Galaxy, GM Wilson Shuster found himself flooded with offers from other teams. But Boston was one of the only teams that could fit Thurman’s $4 million salary under the cap without sending salary in return, which reportedly appealed to Galaxy owner Perry Dodge.
In Thurman, the Badgers acquire one of the league’s biggest stars and biggest characters. The 31-year-old went to the SHL Finals twice with Washington, in 2015 and 2016. He’s often among the league’s top scorers, and he holds his own on the defensive end as well. Although he was not producing at his usual offensive pace this season, Thurman was second on the Galaxy in points with 21 (7 goals, 14 assists) at the time of the trade.
“It’s rare to find a player of Casey’s caliber available in midseason,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre. “And when he became available, we went after him aggressively, because he fits the perfect mold of the player we look for. He’s a star who can generate a ton of offense, but he thinks like a grinder. He plays hard the whole 200 feet, and he’s going to be a great leader and mentor for our younger guys.”
To acquire Thurman, the Badgers had to let go of a pair of prized young players. One of them, LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, returns to the team that first drafted him. Pescatelli was an 18-year-old rookie when the Galaxy shipped him up to Boston in a deal for LW Charlie Brooks and D Scott Hexton. He blossomed in the Badgers’ system, and was named to the CHL All-Star Game last season. The 20-year-old has struggled to stay healthy this season, but he’s produced when he’s played, with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists) in 13 games.
“We’re really excited to get Fish back in our organization,” said Shuster. “He’s quick-wristed with a cannon for a shot, and we think that he can grow into the kind of brilliant two-way scorer that Thurm has been for us.”
In addition to Pescatelli, the Galaxy also acquired 22-year-old defenseman Kermit Kaufman. Kaufman is a rugged stay-home defenseman who knows how to sacrifice his body to disrupt opponents’ offensive flow. In 23 games with Boston this season, he recorded no goals and 2 assists, but he had 38 blocks, the third-highest total on the team.
“Kermit has really grown into an elite defenseman,” said Shuster. “He’s got a body like a battering ram; some of our guys have found that out the hard way, when he’s thrown some rough checks at us. We’re building a hard-hitting young defensive corps, and Kermit’s going to fit right in there.”
There’s no question that adding Thurman will boost Boston’s lackluster attack. But will that be enough? At the time of the deal, Boston was tied with Washington for the league’s worst record at 7-14-2, and they were last in the league in goals scored with 54. If Thurman can recover his traditional scoring touch in Badgers green, he should provide a boost. But other players will need to step up as well, most notably goalie Roger Orion and the team’s league-worst penalty-killing unit.
Of course, Melchiorre might not be done dealing. “We’ve still got plenty of cap room to play with, and if we see a chance to improve, I’m not going to hesitate,” the Badgers GM said. “We’re not waiting around.”