SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Trade deadline day. It’s a team’s last opportunity to fill in holes, address needs, and bolster their roster for a (hopefully) long and successful playoff run. For the American Hockey League, this year’s trade deadline has now passed.
For the 2022 AHL trade deadline, eight players have found new homes on five different teams.
Atlantic Foes Swap Defenseman
Perhaps the most perplexing move today came early, where the NHL affiliates of the AHL’s first and second place teams in the Atlantic Division teamed up for a trade.
However, only one player was actually moved in the deal: defenseman Brady Lyle.
Lyle, who has played 48 games with the Providence Bruins this season, notched two goals and seven assists. Now, he’s off to the Springfield Thunderbirds in exchange for future considerations.
In his rookie campaign, the 22-year-old native of North Bay, Ont., skated in 25 games with the P-Bruins in 2020-21, posting seven goals and seven assists.
It is curious that a team would give the team above them in the standings a depth piece for nothing in return.
Chicago Adds Three to the Den
The Chicago Wolves were the busiest by far, bringing in three new players. However, that also means that they are saying goodbye to one of their own in the process.
First came the announcement that veteran forward Richard Panik had been loaned to the Wolves by the New York Islanders. He has skated in 194 AHL games and 521 in the NHL, Panik knows what it takes to win at the pro level.
Having won a Calder Cup as a rookie with the Norfolk Admiral in 2011-12, Panik is a perfect addition to an already stacked roster. If anything, this addition will help provide further leadership and guidance to a group that looks poised to compete for the Cup this season.
Next, news came down from the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago’s NHL affiliate, about their first trade of the day. In a move to shore up the Wolves’ defense, Carolina acquired defenseman Tarmo Reunanen from the New York Rangers in exchange for forward Maxim Letunov.
Reunanen tallied two goals and 15 assists for 17 points, along with a plus-8 rating, in 40 games with Hartford this season. This is good enough for 12 in scoring on the Wolves, fourth among defensemen.
A 24-year-old native of Finland, Reunanen was an Atlantic Division AHL All-Star in 2020-21, when he notched four goals and 13 assists in 21 games for Hartford. He also made his NHL debut last season, recording one assist in four games with the Rangers.
Meanwhile, Letunov is off to the Hartford Wolf Pack. For a team that is even on goals for and goals against, they desperately needed a player that can provide some offense. They hope that Letunov is the answer, as his 13 goals currently put him at fifth place on the roster for goals scored. In total, the 26-year-old Moscow native has also posted 10 assists for 23 points in 60 games with the Chicago Wolves this season.
The UConn product returns to Connecticut having totaled 49 goals and 57 assists for 106 points in 199 career AHL games with Chicago and San Jose. He has also played three NHL games with the Sharks, posting one goal.
To round out the afternoon, the Wolves also announced that defenseman Chris Bigras from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins would be joining the roster in exchange for future considerations.
Bigras appeared in 28 games with the Penguins this season, tallying three goals and seven assists for 10 points. In his seven seasons as a pro, Bigras has recorded 24 goals and 93 points for 117 points over 267 AHL games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Lehigh Valley, Hartford, San Antonio, and Lake Erie.
For the Pens, this move seems to just be opening up a roster spot for the youth in the organization. However, for Bigras, this is an opportunity to win a championship and work towards something special with Chicago.
Rochester Finds an Answer
After a lengthy stronghold on the upper half of the North Division, the Rochester Americans are struggling as of late. They are in what seems to be a daily jostle for the last playoff spot in the North between the Syracuse Crunch and Belleville Senators.
While they have strength in goal scoring thanks to players like JJ Peterka, Michael Mersch, and Jack Quinn, their defense needed desperate help. So, the Amerks went out and landed defenseman Mark Alt from the San Jose Barracuda in exchange for forward Mason Jobst.
This is a prime case of landing a veteran to fill a critical vacancy on the roster. After all, the Amerks are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Their -23 goal differential isn’t exactly helping. It’s not the goals for that are the problem. In fact, Rochester is second in the AHL and top in the East for goals for. On the flip side, they are also tied for dead last in goals against.
Historically, Alt has been a solid defender. In 46 games with San Jose this season, he recorded three goals and five assists. Though his -18 rating leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not surprising coming from a team that is 11 points out of the Pacific Division playoff race.
When looking at his pro career in the AHL, he averages a rating of -1, with a season-best of +19 in 55 games with the 2019-20 Colorado Eagles. The ninth-year pro has skated in 451 AHL games with San Jose, Ontario, Colorado, and Adirondack/Lehigh Valley, totaling 33 goals and 92 assists for 125 points. Originally a second-round choice by Carolina in the 2010 NHL Draft, Alt has also appeared in 20 career NHL games with Philadelphia, Colorado, and Los Angeles.
Going the other way to San Jose is Jobst. In a team ripe with forward talent and scoring potential, he was the odd one out here. Moving to a team that is 11 points out of a playoff spot will end his season sooner than he expected. However, it will give him experience in the Western Conference and a tough Pacific Division.
This season, Jobst has notched four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 26 games with Rochester. A third-year pro, Jobst has compiled 14 goals and 22 assists for 36 points in 89 career AHL contests with Rochester, Bridgeport, and Binghamton.
And that’s it for the moves for this AHL Trade Deadline.
Balance of Power Remains Strong
The biggest takeaway from this AHL Trade Deadline is that the balance of power in the league remains intact. Chicago looks to be the most improved, which they needed to compete with either the Ontario Reign or Stockton Heat coming out of the Pacific.
Rochester is the Eastern conference winner, as they addressed a major need heading down the last month in AHL regular-season action.
For teams looking to possibly add some additional pieces, Amateur Tryout Contracts (ATO) are still an option. As collegiate and European leagues are finishing their seasons, plenty of top-tier young talent will be available for signing.
This is the market that deserves watching, as it’s these players that sometimes make the largest impacts during the playoffs.
The AHL regular season ends on Saturday, April 30th with a slate of nine games.
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