Entering this trade deadline, the class of the division has been the Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays. Florida punched their ticket to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in resounding fashion on February 28, while the Stingrays are very close to joining their Estero-based counterparts. Meanwhile, it’s four teams battling for two spots as we head down the stretch.
Florida Everblades (39-12-2-4, 84 pts — Clinched Playoff Berth)
Home Record: 19-5-1-2
Road Record: 20-7-1-2
Last 10 Games: 6-3-1-0
Greatest Need: Florida has been one of the most complete teams in the ECHL all year. That said, if there was a move to be made by Brad Ralph and Tad O’Had, it might be to bring in depth in the forward position.
Prediction for the Deadline: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Florida stands pat at the deadline, but may curiously peruse on a few pieces.
South Carolina Stingrays (36-12-6-1, 81 pts — 2nd in South Division)
Home Record: 20-5-3-0
Road Record: 16-7-3-1
Last 10 Games: 7-1-2-0
Greatest Need: Health & players returning from call-ups. At the time of this preview, the Stingrays have Tim McGauley, Andrew Chernichwan, Joey Leach and Frankie Simonelli up in the American Hockey League with various franchises. Other players, like Taylor Cammarata and Patrick Meggannety are banged up and have been out for some time.
Prediction for the Deadline: This is the kind of push-pull most coaches & general managers in the ECHL have at this time of the year: Should I make moves to improve the roster or wait for the players who are up to come back? We could see the Stingrays being active, especially with acquiring an additional depth forward or defenseman (they already acquired Evan Neugold from Adirondack on Sunday) as we approach Thursday at 3 pm.
Orlando Solar Bears (28-25-5-1, 62 pts — 3rd in South Division)
Home Record: 14-12-3-1
Road Record: 14-13-2-0
Last 10 Games: 7-3-0-0
Greatest Need: If you had asked about the greatest need of the Solar Bears’ a week ago, you might have said “a good puck-handling defenseman” or “another experienced forward.” But then ECHL All-Star Nolan Valleau came back to the roster after an extended stint in the AHL with Chicago Wolves. And on Sunday, Kale Kerbashian joined the team after an injury. Kerbashian scored twice, including a game-winner in the 2-1 victory over Reading Royals on Sunday afternoon. The Solar Bears seem to be peaking at the right time, and part of that is because the team is gelling.
Prediction for the Deadline: Last year, the Solar Bears made a big move to acquire Justin Buzzeo from the Atlanta Gladiators. They gave up Alex Gacek and a future consideration in that trade. This is a different situation this year, and the Solar Bears are not likely to make any disruptive moves. The pieces of the team are coming together at the right moment. Asked about the possibility of a trade, head coach Drake Berehowsky kept his cards close to his chest, but intimated he is not taking an aggressive posture.
“YOU KNOW, WE’RE ALWAYS LOOKING, AND I WON’T TEAR THIS TEAM APART. I LIKE OUR TEAM. I LIKE THE GUYS. THERE’S A CHEMISTRY IN THAT [LOCKER] ROOM. SO, YOU KNOW, IF THERE’S SOMETHING AVAILABLE TO US, WE’LL EXPLORE THAT OPTION, BUT, OTHER THAN THAT, WE’RE JUST LOOKING RIGHT NOW.”
Atlanta Gladiators (27-30-1-2, 57 pts — 4th in South Division)
Home Record: 10-15-1-2
Road Record: 17-15-0-0
Last 10 Games: 3-7-0-0
Greatest Need: Offensive depth. Heading into this trade deadline, the Gladiators have just four players with thirty or more points on the roster; Lindsay Sparks, Phil Lane, Brady Vail, and defenseman Ben Danford.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Gladiators acquired Mathieu Aubin from Allen on Sunday, which will certainly help with the offensive depth issue. Don’t be surprised if Chuck Weber takes another big swing at the offense as Thursday approaches.
Norfolk Admirals (23-30-5-1, 52 pts — five pts behind Atlanta for fourth)
Home Record: 12-14-3-1
Road Record: 11-16-2-0
Last 10 Games: 5-5-0-0
Greatest Need: Admirals head coach Robbie Ftorek may have done his best coaching job ever, with scrounging the SPHL for players to fill spots after Nashville left town and fighting to get his Admirals team back into a battle for the playoffs. That said, there are probably too many needs to fill at this point through trade to justify improving the roster to make a push. It may be time to sell off some assets and get a look at the return you get from those and determine whether or not to protect them for the next season.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Admirals will likely stand pat, but don’t be surprised if they make a splash by moving a piece or two.
Jacksonville Icemen (22-29-4-3, 51 pts — Six pts behind Atlanta for fourth)
Home Record: 13-13-2-2
Road Record: 9-16-2-1
Last 10 Games: 6-3-1-0
Greatest Need: Offensive depth. Like the Atlanta Gladiators, the Icemen have just four players on the roster (all rookies) who have more than 30 points on the campaign; Elgin Pearce, Jimmy Lodge, Bobby MacIntyre, and Cameron Critchlow. Certainly, the pieces are there for Jacksonville to build on for the next few years.
Prediction for the Deadline: As mentioned above, the pieces are there for the Icemen to be successful at least next season and potentially longer. I do not think head coach Jason Christie will be active at the deadline since he likely will not want to mortgage the future on a playoff run this year.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits (20-32-5-1, 46 pts — Last in South Division)
Home Record: 9-17-2-1
Road Record: 11-15-3-0
Last 10 Games: 0-8-2-0
Greatest Need: Defense. It’s been this way all year long in Greenville. With the losing skid now at 12 games and counting, it’s probably time to sell off the offensive assets the team has and get some new blood in there.
Prediction for the Deadline: Greenville could be very active and they have several pieces that could be enticing to teams in the playoff hunt, such as rookie forward Evan Jasper, Joe Basaraba, Jack Nevins and goaltender Ty Rimmer. If one or two go, it’s possible the fire sale could be on.