Badgers Pull Off Blockbuster, Acquire Thurman from DC

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.

Casey Thurman

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.”

Marty Pescatelli

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.”

Kermit Kaufman

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.”

Thurman Knocks DC Crowd, Says He’s Willing to Be Dealt

If there’s a player who’s been the face of the Washington Galaxy, it’s LW Casey Thurman.  From the early days of the franchise, Thurman has been a leader in the clubhouse, whether talking to reporters after tough losses or teaming up with teammates to imitate Hershey’s singing cows.  When Washington went to back-to-back SHL Finals, it was Thurman who led them there.  He balances a love of locker-room lunacy with a commitment to playing hard and giving it his all, no matter what the scoreboard or the standings say.

Casey Thurman

It’s almost impossible to imagine a Galaxy team without Thurman on it.  But it became easier to imagine this week, when Thurman sounded a rare downbeat note in a postgame interview and suggested for the first time that he might be open to a trade.

Thurman spoke to reporters after Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Hershey Bliss.  After the typical back-and-forth about the game, a reporter asked about the sparse attendance at the game.  As the Galaxy’s on-ice results have declined the last couple of seasons, so too has turnout.

Thurman paused a bit before responding.  “I’ve got to say, I miss the atmosphere in the old days,” he said.  “When the house was packed and the fans were living and dying with every goal, it gave you that extra boost when you needed it.  Now, the crowds are smaller and quieter.  They get going when “Cosmic Thing” comes on, but then the song ends and it’s quiet again.

“Don’t get me wrong,” the winger added.  “Our crowds are very nice.  They don’t boo us, even when we deserve it.  They don’t yell obscene chants at the other team, and they don’t fight in the stands.  They’re good people, and I’m glad they come.  But I miss the energy from the old days a little bit.”

Another reporter asked about trade rumors.  Thurman has a no-trade clause in his contract, but GM Wilson Shuster has made clear that the team is in rebuilding mode, and no player is untouchable.  Multiple teams have reportedly inquired about Thurman, who is signed through the 2022 season.

Thurman stated that Shuster had not approached him about any possible deals, and that he wasn’t in a hurry to leave.  “This is my home,” said Thurman.  “My family’s here.  We’ve got a good young team, and I love being a mentor to those guys and helping them develop their game.”

Then, after a pause, he went on: “On the other hand, I definitely know I’m an old man in this locker room.  Most of my old friends are gone: Coz [C Eddie Costello] is gone, and Bucky [D Kevin Buchanan, and [F] Gene [Kennedy], and Big O [G Roger Orion], and Lenny [D Leonard Wright], they’re all gone.  And I still don’t have a ring.  So if the right situation came along, where I could get that ring?  I’d have to consider it.”

Thurman was then asked if there were specific teams he’d like to go to, at which point he ended the interview.  But his remarks triggered speculation around the league.

Shuster said that the team was in no hurry to trade Thurman.  “Obviously, Thurm has been the heart and soul of this team for a long time,” Shuster told reporters.  “It would take a big return for us to move him.  That said, he would be a valuable piece for a lot of contenders, and we’re looking long-term.”

Thurman tried to walk back his remarks the next day, saying that he’d “had a bad day” and was “feeling bummed out” by the loss.  But any contender with the interest and the cap space to acquire Thurman will likely be calling Shuster in the coming days.  Depending on how those talks turn out, we may have to get used to the idea of the face of the Galaxy suiting up for someone else.

Galaxy Turn to Shuster As GM

It’s been a swift decline for the Washington Galaxy.  After going to back-to-back SHL Finals and narrowly missing a third straight trip, the Galaxy have fallen apart over the last couple of seasons.  In 2018, Washington lost 19 of their final 27 games to finish below the .500 mark for the first time; that collapse cost coach Rodney Reagle his job.  Last season, under new bench boss Peter James, the bottom fell out and the Galaxy finished only four points out of last in the East.  That fiasco led to the firing of GM Ace Adams at season’s end.

Now, the Galaxy are facing an overhaul of their aging roster and, likely, a multi-season rebuilding effort.  To oversee the rebuild, the franchise is turning to Wilson Shuster, the assistant GM of the Michigan Gray Wolves.

Wilson Shuster

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Shuster.  “I can’t wait to get started.”

The Galaxy’s new GM has experience building a winning organization.  Working alongside GM Tim Carrier, Shuster helped shape the Wolves squad that won the Vandy in 2016.  He specialized on the draft and the minor-league roster.  Shuster’s resume is similar to that of Taylor Teichman, who assembled the core of the Hamilton Pistols team that won last year’s championship before becoming GM of the Seattle Sailors, who made the playoffs for the first time last season.

Unlike Teichman, who took over a team that seemed poised to vault into contention, Shuster is facing the difficult task of disassembling a once-strong team.  One of his first decisions will be whether or not to attempt re-signing franchise cornerstone RW Jefferson McNeely, who is a free agent.  Shuster will likely seek to trade several veteran hold-overs, such as Ds Kevin Buchanan and Leonard Wright and LW Charlie Brooks, and perhaps C Harvey Bellmore or even LW Casey Thurman.

Shuster declined to discuss the future of specific players, but seemed to indicate that a full-scale rebuild was in the works.  “One of the things [owner Perry] Dodge made clear to me when I was hired is that he wants a championship,” Shuster told reporters.  “This is the District of Champions now, after all.  The Caps did it, the Nats did it, and the Mystics did it.  We should too.  So I have to ask myself: which players are going to be on our championship roster?  Those are the guys I’m building around.  We’ll go from there.”

The famously reclusive Dodge, who issued a release rather than holding a press conference when he fired Adams, appeared at this announcement and introduced Shuster to the media.  True to form, though, he refused to answer questions.

Michigan has a reputation around the SHL as a hard-hitting defense-oriented club.  Shuster himself was known as a pugnacious, bulldog defenseman during his playing days in college and the minor leagues.  Will he attempt to build the Galaxy in the Wolves’ – and his – image?  “Ideally, I’d like to find players who are much more talented than I was,” the GM quipped.  “I do think that defense is the bread and butter of championship hockey, and I’ll build with that in mind.  In Michigan, though, we had The Bear [G Dirk Lundquist], and it’s a lot easier to try to win every game 1-0 when you’ve got a guy like him in net.  This team will have its own identity.”