- On Sunday, the New York Night announced that D Ed Francis, who had been playing for their minor-league affiliate in Utah, will miss the rest of the season. The 30-year-old Francis suffered a severely broken leg during last Saturday’s game against Minnesota, an injury so severe that it required surgery to reconstruct the leg. In the wake of the injury, Francis announced that he would retire from hockey. (Story here.) To replace Francis on the roster, the Night signed D Gustaf Bergstrom for the rest of the season. Bergstrom recently played a 10-game stint in Halifax, where he recorded a goal and six assists.
- On Friday, the Washington Galaxy traded LW Casey Thurman to the Boston Badgers in exchange for LW Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, D Kermit Kaufman, and a first-round draft pick. (Story here.) In related moves, Boston demoted LW Norris Young to their CHL affiliate in Hartford and promoted D Jackson Creed from Hartford. They also signed D Gerry Michaud to a minor-league deal.
- On Friday, the Night demoted G Sherman Carter to their CHL affiliate in Utah and promoted G Corey Franklin-Lee from Utah. Carter, expected to be New York’s top starter in the next, has been atrocious so far this season. Despite compiling a 5-5-1 record, he has put up a 5.75 GAA and an .861 save percentage. The 20-year-old Franklin-Lee makes his first appearance on an SHL roster; with Utah this season, he has gone 9-4-2 with a 2.82 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
- On Saturday, the Quebec Tigres placed D Kevin Buchanan on the injured list. The veteran blueliner has been plagued by injuries this season; he missed 10 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season. It is unknown whether this latest setback, suffered in the second period of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Hershey, is an aggravation of his prior injury or a new one. To replace Buchanan on the roster, Quebec recalled D Hampus Olsson from their CHL affiliate in Halifax. Olsson was sent down two weeks ago when Buchanan returned from his prior IL stint; he spent 9 games in the minors, recording 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). To fill Olsson’s roster spot in Halifax, the Tigres signed veteran D Igor Shovshenkov.
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.”
The day after the SHL’s All-Star Game, their minor league will be holding its second annual All-Star contest. The game will take place at Wasatch Arena, home of the Utah Owls. The rosters for the game, along with each player’s current stats, are below.
Coach: Patrick Chillingham (Minnesota)
LW: Veikko Sikanen, Omaha (16 G, 19 A, 35 Pts, 42 PIM, +16)
D: Rodney Black, Idaho (19 G, 10 A, 29 Pts, 10 PIM, +6)
C: Dale Wilcox, Idaho (13 G, 25 A, 38 Pts, 16 PIM, +16)
D: Brady Prussian, Idaho (15 G, 13 A, 28 Pts, 16 PIM, +6)
RW: Adriaen van der Veen, Omaha (16 G, 23 A, 39 Pts, 6 PIM, +16)
LW: Terry Cresson, Idaho (11 G, 22 A, 33 Pts, 16 PIM, +16)
D: Laszlo Cierny, Minnesota (6 G, 19 A, 25 Pts, 46 PIM, +2)
C: Foster Culp, Colorado Springs (16 G, 16 A, 32 Pts, 12 PIM, Even)
D: Lowell Sharkey, Omaha (4 G, 19 A, 23 Pts, 12 PIM, +8)
RW: Harris Wondolowski, Utah (15 G, 24 A, 39 Pts, 18 PIM, +2)
LW: Gabriel Swindonburg, Milwaukee (19 G, 10 A, 29 Pts, 34 PIM, -4)
D: Trevor Lockwood, Omaha (12G, 14 A, 26 Pts, 29 PIM, +11)
C: Lloyd “Goofy” Banjax, Utah (13 G, 19 A, 32 Pts, 10 PIM, -6)
D: Craig Werner, Utah (7 G, 17 A, 24 Pts, 12 PIM, +2)
RW: Joel Hagendosh, Colorado Springs (13 G, 20 A, 33 Pts, 63 PIM, -13)
Hobie Sanford, Milwaukee (7-8-3, 2.02 GAA, .931 save %)
Curt Freeze, Minnesota (12-8-1, 2.07 GAA, .924 save %)
Coach: Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh (Virginia)
LW: Alan Youngman, Baltimore (18 G, 22 A, 40 Pts, 22 PIM, +17)
D: Ambroz Melicar, Baltimore (11 G, 25 A, 36 Pts, 10 PIM, +2)
C: Tucker Barnhill, Baltimore (17 G, 30 A, 47 Pts, 24 PIM, +17)
D: Elvis Bodett, Oshawa (14 G, 8 A, 22 Pts, 19 PIM, +12)
RW: Steve Brandon, Cleveland (19 G, 12 A, 31 Pts, 24 PIM, +2)
LW: Yuri Laronov, Virginia (16 G, 15 A, 31 Pts, 16 PIM, -5)
D: Teddy Morrison, Maine (8 G, 13 A, 21 Pts, 14 PIM, Even)
C: Hilliard Macy, Oshawa (15 G, 18 A, 33 Pts, 12 PIM, +15)
D: Casimir Druzek, Virginia (2 G, 20 A, 22 Pts, 27 PIM, -4)
RW: Sidney Archer, Baltimore (15 G, 16 A, 31 Pts, 2 PIM, +17)
LW: Marty “Fish” Pescatelli, Hartford (12 G, 16 A, 28 Pts, 39 PIM, -9)
D: Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta, Virginia (6 G, 12 A, 18 Pts, 70 PIM, -5)
C: Tanner Brooks, Virginia (19 G, 12 A, 31 Pts, 10 PIM, -5)
D: Burton Cullidge, Cleveland (1 G, 15 A, 15 Pts, 42 PIM, -4)
RW: Felix Delorme, Hartford (15 G, 13 A, 28 Pts, 14 PIM, -9)
Eugene Looney, Cleveland (8-7-0, 1.79 GAA, .925 save %)
Jonathan Crane, Maine (9-9-2, 2.06 GAA, .917 save %)
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.
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!”
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.
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.”
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.”