WICHITA, Kan. – The 2020 ECHL trade deadline was set to go one of two ways: the sellers would sell and start stockpiling assets for the offseason, or the tight playoff races and influences from above would force teams to hold tight to what they had.
While moves were limited on Thursday — just five in total — there were some significant moves that set teams apart from the pack.
Here are the winners and losers of the 2020 ECHL trade deadline.
Winner: Toledo Walleye
As opposed to the last several seasons, the Toledo Walleye have been steady, but not flashy, this season. Sitting second in the Central Division, the Walleye will be playing hockey next month — and potentially beyond — and may have added the final two pieces that could get them over the hump to their first Kelly Cup championship.
For years, the Walleye have been a very solid team from the net out, but they seemed to have lacked the physicality necessary to win in the playoffs. With that in mind, head coach Dan Watson pulled the trigger in the last two days of the deadline, acquiring the ECHL rights to Cedric Lacroix (currently playing with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and the still-suspended Emerson Clark in exchange for Jimmy Lodge and Alex Kromm. In both deals, these are clear wins for the Walleye, given that both Lacroix and Clark have AHL experience and have a penchant for chipping in goals at key times.
If the Walleye can survive the first round or two of the playoffs, there is a chance they could get several players back from Grand Rapids, including veteran netminder Pat Nagle. Could this be the year the Walleye finally cash in on a championship?
Loser: Kansas City Mavericks
As I mentioned in my Mountain Division preview, the time has come for a cleansing of the locker room in Kansas City. In a year of angst for the Maverick fanbase, Mavs management had an opportunity to move on from some players and stockpile some assets. Unfortunately, the only player moved was Tad Kozun in exchange for forward Dylan Fitze and future considerations. What this means for interim head coach Kohl Schultz is that he will be hamstrung on putting his true mark on the team in the last month of the season.
That said, this period is an open audition for those players on the roster to put their best foot forward for the next coaching staff.
Winner: Rapid City Rush
Rapid City Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault enjoys gambling. As opposed to folding his hand like last year, this year Tetrault and the Rush went “all-in,” pushing their chips to the middle of the table as the team looks to secure their first Kelly Cup Playoff berth since 2016. The additions of defensemen Brett Beauvais, Mark Auk and forward Bo Brauer provide the Rush additional depth and energy to the lineup. Should the Rush make the playoffs, they become a dangerous team, considering they will likely get a few players from AHL Tucson.
Loser: Fans of the Norfolk Admirals
After another subpar season, a significant firesale happened in the Tidewater over the course of the deadline period. Gone is Christian Horn, Charlie O’Connor, Josh and Ben Holmstrom, Johnny Coughlin, Derik Angeli, Joe Masonius, and Austin McEneny. The return includes Alex Tonge, Philippe Hudon, Taylor Ross, Scott Dornbrock, Freddy Gerard, Ruslan Rakhmatov, John Furgele, at least five future considerations, and some cash.
Head coach Rod Taylor has to be hoping that the players he picked up in return could be a significant piece of the foundation for his team in 2020-21. The Norfolk fanbase is starving mightily for a winner, but I cannot see many more of these losing seasons and firesales being palatable to those who remain.
Stay with The Sin Bin as we continue to cover the race for the 2020 Kelly Cup Playoffs!