ORLANDO, Fla. – The more things change, the more they stay the same in the ECHL’s South Division. After an early stumble out of the gate, the Florida Everblades are back in firm command of the South.
But, perhaps, this division has offered up some of the bigger headscratchers this season; namely the constant toe-stubbing the South Carolina Stingrays seem to be having, in concert with the surge from the Atlanta Gladiators. It’s entirely possible the race for the final playoff spot in the South Division could come down to the final weekend of the season.
With all that in mind, The Sin Bin’s Chad Boerth, Travis Rogers and Matthew Harding break down the needs and possible deals each team will make when the ECHL Trade Deadline comes around on Thursday, March 7 at 3 pm ET!
Florida Everblades Info: 39-15-5-0, 83 points
Home Record: 19-6-2-0 Road Record: 20-9-3-0 Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: +76 Power Play Rank: 20th Penalty Kill Rank: 15th
Greatest Need: It looks like another season where both the AHL Charlotte Checkers and Everblades will be playing playoff hockey. With both Joe Cox and John McCarron up in the AHL right now, depth up front might become a concern for the ‘Blades.
Prediction for the Deadline: Aside from signing college players to add depth to the lineup, look for the Everblades to be a quiet team at the deadline.
Orlando Solar Bears Info: 31-20-4-0, 66 Points
Home Record: 16-11-1-0 Road Record: 15-9-3-0 Last 10 Games: 7-2-1-0
Goal Differential: +11 Power Play Rank: 16th Penalty Kill Rank: 26th
Greatest Need: If the Solar Bears can spot a powerhouse forward, they might consider something, but there are no glaring holes in the team this year.
Prediction for the Deadline: During the previous two seasons, the Solar Bears made big moves as the trade deadline approached. Two years ago, they gave up a set of players to acquire Justin Buzzeo from the Atlanta Gladiators. Buzzeo helped for the playoff push, but it proved a costly sacrifice as he went to play in Europe the following year. In the 2017-18 season, head coach Drake Berehowsky again threw the dice and got Hunter Fejes from the Wheeling Nailers. Fejes was worth the price, though he has been largely absent from the lineup this year due to an extended AHL tryout with the Manitoba Moose.
It’s not as likely to see Berehowsky making an expensive trade this year. The team has steadily developed a solid team across the board this year. A few weeks ago, the Solar Bears had some holes in the forward department, but defensive players like team captain Mike Monfredo came up big to boost the offense. Now, more forwards are coming off the injured list, and the team seems to be in solid shape if it can maintain consistent play.
Jacksonville Icemen Info: 30-25-2-2, 64 points
Home Record: 20-10-1-0 Road Record: 10-15-1-2 Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: -7 Power Play Rank: 27th Penalty Kill Rank: 1st
Greatest Need: The Icemen have scored 170 goals in 59 games this season and have just one player (Wacey Rabbit) with more than 40 points. That, combined with a last-ranked power play, exacerbates the need for a play-making forward for the Icemen.
Prediction for the Deadline: If Jason Christie can add one more top-line piece and get a decent haul from Manitoba just before the playoffs, the Icemen may be in a position to make a deep playoff run in their sophomore season.
South Carolina Stingrays Info: 26-27-5-0, 57 points
Home Record: 12-14-2-0 Road Record: 14-13-3-0 Last 10 Games: 1-8-1-0
Goal Differential: -12 Power Play Rank: 15th Penalty Kill Rank: 2nd
Greatest Need: The Stingrays need an experienced stay at home defenseman if they hope to secure a spot in the playoffs. The recent additions of Steve Johnson and Miles Liberati help but they are not enough to fill the needs of the Stingrays. With Captain Joey Leach injured up in Hershey, an experienced presence on the blue line is needed.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Stingrays have lots of young talent in the forward corps that is fighting for minutes. Look for two of those assets to be traded for a quality defenseman. The Stingrays will otherwise rely on fresh blood from juniors and the college ranks to make their playoff push.
Atlanta Gladiators Info: 24-23-7-1, 56 points
Home Record: 14-12-3-0 Road Record: 10-11-4-1 Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: -11 Power Play Rank: 5th Penalty Kill Rank: 7th
Greatest Need: The Gladiators have been very busy fine-tuning the roster as the Glads make a push to the playoffs. If there is a glaring need for the Gladiators, it’s in net. While Sean Bonar has been shouldering the load, Michael Bitzer has been underwhelming, with a 3.38 goals against average and a .874 save percentage in six starts.
Prediction for the Deadline: Head coach Jeff Pyle has been a busy man so far, look for the Gladiators to possibly make one more deal to shore up the roster.
Norfolk Admirals Info: 23-28-4-3, 53 points
Home Record: 10-17-1-2 Road Record: 13-11-3-1 Last 10 Games: 4-5-1-0
Goal Differential: -44 Power Play Rank: 21st Penalty Kill Rank: 17th
Greatest Need: For the third season under Robbie Ftorek, the Admirals roster has been full of tumult, thanks to injuries and roster call-ups. Perhaps the greatest need for the Ads is for the roster to be stable for a few weeks, so the team can make a push for their first ECHL playoff berth.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Ads have been very quiet at the deadline so far. Look for that to continue into Thursday.
Greenville Swamp Rabbits Info: 21-34-3-2, 47 points
Home Record: 11-15-2-2 Road Record: 10-19-1-0 Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: -56 Power Play Rank: 22nd Penalty Kill Rank: 27th
Greatest Need: Pieces for the 2019-20 campaign. The Swamp Rabbits need to focus on building for next year. Goaltending has been an issue and adding a steady net presence for next year would be a smart move for the team. As an independent, they have to grow their own talent pool and at this point in the season trading for some players that will help get them back into contention next year is best.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Swamp Rabbits do have some valuable trade players that may appeal to bubble teams that have depth at goal. If a goaltender can be found at a reasonable price, expect Greenville to make a move. Additionally, players that can be moved for futures to help the building process for next year are on the block.
Travis Rogers and Matthew Harding assisted with this preview.