The NHL trade deadline is on the horizon, but American League players are already on the move.
Three trades involving prospects with AHL implications went into the books Wednesday, with the NHL trade deadline still 18 days away. The AHL’s Clear Day, the date on which AHL playoff rosters are finalized, will follow and could yield further AHL roster moves.
Worcester captain Jay Leach was one of the players moved Wednesday. Leach was moved with 24-year-old center Steve Zalewski to the Devils, while center Michael Swift and right winger Patrick Davis headed to Worcester.
Leach, who spent AHL time with the Lowell Devils over the past two seasons, will provide a struggling Albany team with leadership and a big body on the blueline. Swift, 23, has continued to progress nicely in his third pro season and has 16 goals so far after a 24-goal campaign in 2009-10.
Both Zalewski and Davis, a pair of 24-year-olds, have struggled badly this season and needed a fresh start. Zalewski’s 22-goal effort last season had given way to a paltry four goals so far this season. Davis was in his fifth pro season in the New Jersey organization and had registered just three goals on the year.
Bridgeport should benefit, at least indirectly, from Wednesday’s acquisition of goaltender Al Montoya by the parent New York Islanders from the Phoenix organization. The Islanders have been ravaged by injuries in net and have dipped down to Central League product Joel Martin to fill the NHL backup role to unproven Mikko Koskinen, 22, who has struggled at the AHL level.
While the Islanders still have work to do in net, Montoya should help shore up the Islanders’ organizational depth at the position. Montoya, a 2004 first round selection of the New York Rangers, has struggled to establish himself as a dominant No. 1 goaltender despite having played nearly 200 AHL games. Were he to land in Bridgeport at some point, he would be a welcome addition to a team that is buried in the Eastern Conference. The Sound Tigers are on a six-game losing streak and have just three points over their past 10 games.
The move splits up a Montoya-Matt Climie tandem in San Antonio as that club finds itself immersed in a fierce Western Conference playoff race. The Rampage will turn to their Las Vegas ECHL affiliate and add Joe Fallon to fill the void.
Another past Rangers first-rounder, Hugh Jessiman, is on the move yet again. The 26-year-old 6-foot-6 right winger went to the Panthers in the Florida-Chicago deal involving Michael Frolik and Jack Skille. The move puts Jessiman, the only first-rounder from 2003 to not appear in the NHL so far, in his fourth NHL organization over the past three seasons. After back-to-back 20-goal seasons in the AHL, Jessiman’s season has come undone with Rockford as he has managed just three goals and has been limited to 25 games.
Finally, Ray Emery’s return from injury should benefit the Syracuse Crunch. Emery, who cleared NHL waivers after signing with the parent Anaheim Ducks, will provide the Crunch with a top-end No. 1 goaltender as the club plays out the regular season string. Neither Jean-Philippe Levasseur nor Timo Pielmeier has been able to establish himself firmly in the Syracuse net this season.
THIS & THAT
• Milwaukee’s Blake Geoffrion became the first AHL player since Portland’s Jim Carey in November 1994 to win AHL weekly honors in consecutive weeks. Geoffrion’s two goals and five assists last week earned him the award. The left winger has been hot recently, running up six goals and 17 points over his past seven games with the Admirals.
• Houston used an 8-1-0-1 push to barge through and take over the Western Conference lead with 66 points to start Thursday.
• Randy Robitaille, the AHL’s MVP with the 1998-99 Providence Bruins, signed a tryout deal with San Antonio this week. The 35-year-old center last appeared in the AHL during the 2001-02 season.
• Abbotsford goaltender Leland Irving recorded his ninth shootout win of the season last Friday at Chicago, a new AHL record. Twelve of Abbotsford’s 24 wins this season have come in overtime or the shootout. The Heat wrapped up a 10-game road trip on Wednesday with a 5-4-0-1 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.