Trade talk exploded this week in NHL circles when the Maple Leafs overhauled their roster and the Devils won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. The chatter will only intensify as the March 3 trade deadline moves closer.
American League trade rumors are decidedly more muted, but, for a variety of reasons, GMs annually shuffle their AHL rosters as the Calder Cup playoffs near: Gunning for the playoffs, clearing salary, making lineup space for young amateur prospects who will be sampling the AHL after their junior or college seasons end or doing a favor for a loyal veteran are all motives for GMs to act.
When Clear Day – the AHL’s answer to the NHL trade frenzy and a deadline for rosters to be finalized for the post-season – arrives next month, some talent will surely swap cities. Springfield and San Antonio both are all but finished in the playoff race. Binghamton is also fading quickly, but the Senators do not have much veteran talent to offer.
Here is a look at a few AHL veterans who could be potential assets to clubs with Calder Cup playoff aspirations.
DEAN ARSENE, SPRINGFIELD
The Edmonton defenseman farmhand parlayed a Calder Cup last spring with Hershey into a contract with the Oilers. Desperate for a crack at the NHL after stalling in the deep Washington organization, Arsene’s decision paid off with a two-game call-up in mid-November.
Arsene holds the Springfield captaincy and holds together the Falcons’ rickety blueline. But the sturdy, steady defender will be 30 this summer and the Oilers need to replenish much of their organization with new faces. Arsene offers prospective suitors a two-time Calder Cup winner who blossomed as a pro in the highly respected Hershey environment with his no-frills brand of play and ample leadership.
JEFF HOGGAN, SAN ANTONIO
The Rampage own one of the AHL’s more intriguing rosters, but a brutal early season has buried the Phoenix affiliate. Hoggan has struggled since coming to the Phoenix organization and the 32-year-old winger saw his plus-minus drop from plus-39 in 2007-08 with Providence to minus-30 last season. But the British Columbia native offers buyers an experienced hand who has assembled consecutive 20-goal seasons and owns a Calder Cup on his resume.
DEREK MACKENZIE, SYRACUSE
Whether or not the Crunch can remain afloat in pursuit of a playoff spot is very much an open question; even a brief skid would likely prove fatal. If the Crunch does fall out of contention, MacKenzie is a dependable two-way center who has been to two Calder Cup finals (winning once) and can provide steady top-six offensive pop.
THIS AND THAT
• Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier’s two wins and a pair of shutouts earned him player of the week honors.
• Keith Aucoin (12 goals, 35 points, plus-11) of Hershey won monthly player honors for January, while Milwaukee’s Colin Wilson (seven goals, 20 points) won monthly rookie honors. Chicago goalie Peter Mannino went 6-1-0 with a 1.28 GAA and .958 save percentage to win the January goaltending award.
• Portland’s Mark Mancari tied a franchise mark with a five-point game in a home win for the Pirates on Tuesday.
• The AHL finalized agreements with XM Radio and the NHL Network this week. XM coverage will debut a 12-game slate that begins Feb. 16. A six-game NHL Network schedule will start Feb. 20 when Syracuse hosts Binghamton in the AHL’s first outdoor game.
• The Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star reported this week the Adirondack Phantoms will return to the Glens Falls Civic Center for another season.
• When the week began, several proven NHL/AHL defensemen lugged dreadful plus-minus marks. Syracuse’s Brendan Bell owned a league-worst minus-24 mark. Tampa Bay prospect Matt Lashoff carried a minus-19 line with Norfolk. Edmonton farmhands, not surprisingly, also ranked near the bottom of the AHL in this category, with Colin McDonald (minus-15), Kip Brennan (minus-16) and Taylor Chorney (minus-17) all representing Springfield.
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 profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.