The Calder Cup playoffs begin in two months, but American League clubs are already in preparation mode.
The NHL trade deadline on Feb. 28 will be followed a week later by the AHL’s Clear Day deadline. Clear Day is the date on which AHL rosters must be set for the playoffs, though clubs are free to add reinforcements whose major junior or NCAA seasons have concluded.
How will the machinations and movements of AHL teams’ parent clubs impact the rest of the regular season and the playoffs? Prospects, veterans and role players could all be on the move in the next two-plus weeks.
Here is a look at some of the AHL clubs that could be impacted soon. A further look at other teams in the AHL will follow next Thursday.
The Penguins’ top seven leading scorers – Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Brett Sterling, Eric Tangradi, Ryan Craig, Tim Wallace and Joe Vitale – are all on recall to Pittsburgh, but the AHL squad keeps rolling. The club laid a 7-1 beating on bitter rival Hershey this past Sunday and the Penguins’ 80 points lead the AHL. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is the AHL’s top defensive club in allowing just 2.31 goals per game and the team’s offense ranks fifth in the AHL. All the Baby Penguins really need at this point is for good health to return to the parent club.
Much like their Pennsylvania rival, the Bears’ lineup is tattered right now. Hershey’s goaltending has been handled by a pair of ECHL recalls, Todd Ford and Jared DeMichiel, but the Bears may require a more permanent solution if the parent Washington Capitals need to tap Hershey for the services of Braden Holtby. Injuries have kept Lawrence Nycholat and Sheldon Souray off the blueline for much of the season and Souray’s status will not be truly certain until the NHL trade deadline passes.
Leading scorer Jerome Samson and dependable defenseman Brett Carson are on recall to Carolina, but Charlotte potentially possesses phenomenal depth if the Hurricanes miss the Stanley Cup playoffs. A Hurricanes miss could yield the services of Samson, Carson, plus the likes of Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Brett Sutter. The Checkers will be a scary first round opponent.
Much like Charlotte, if Buffalo misses the NHL playoffs, the Pirates will benefit. Luke Adam is on the Portland roster, but always a logical recall option for Buffalo. Paul Byron remains on recall to the Sabres. Having the pair of talented scorers, plus goalie Jhonas Enroth, on the team for the AHL playoffs would be a big boost for the Pirates. A defenseman to replace the injured Drew Schiestel would be nice, but don’t hold your breath, as Buffalo is generally not active in the AHL marketplace.
The Senators could be an AHL playoff sleeper team, particularly if they cross over to the weaker Atlantic Division. A playoff entry would be Binghamton’s first since 2005. But how will Ottawa’s rebuilding effort impact Binghamton? Ottawa has made two NHL trades this month that have taken players off the NHL roster and not yielded a player in return. Ottawa may very well want to further audition players currently in Binghamton as the NHL season winds down and if depth is not added to help the AHL roster, Binghamton’s chances will take a hit.
The Sharks’ fortunes took a major hit this month when stout No. 1 goaltender Alex Stalock went down with a season-ending leg injury. Carter Hutton is on recall to San Jose, ECHL recall Tyson Sexsmith is injured (as first reported in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette) and Worcester’s goaltending duties are now in the hands of ECHL addition Daren Machesney and a recall from the Central League. San Jose desperately could use AHL goaltending depth, but it is not generally San Jose’s tendency to heavily engage in the AHL trade market.
THIS & THAT
• Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Brad Thiessen returned from injury and resumed anchoring the Penguins in net, claiming player-of-the-week honors. In five games last week, four of them wins, Thiessen stopped 99 of 102 shots for a 0.60 goals-against average.
• The AHL will have its second outdoor game Saturday when Connecticut hosts Providence at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. Last season, Syracuse hosted Binghamton in an outdoor affair and drew 21,508, an AHL-record crowd.
• Oklahoma City’s Bryan Helmer is expected to suit up for his 1,000th career AHL game on Friday when the Barons play Abbotsford at Calgary. Helmer will be only the seventh AHLer to reach that mark.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.