Portland Pirates defenseman Garrett Stafford was involved in a three player trade on Sunday as the Phoenix Coyotes traded him along with forward Petteri Nokelainen to the Montreal Canadiens organization for Brock Trotter and a seventh round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“We’re fairly deep at defense in Portland,” said Coyotes Asst. GM Brad Treliving. “They played well. They’ve played hard, but we haven’t been able to score. We’ve almost had to overwork to score and this move allows us to get some more skill and ability into the lineup.”
Stafford, who played last night for the Pirates as a forward, scoring a goal in the team’s 4-3 loss to the Bruins, played in the first six games for the Pirates this season, posting four points.It’s been a crowded on the blueline for the Pirates to start the year with as many as nine defensemen on the roster, while up front things didn’t pan out as the Coyotes had hope, leaving the Pirates thin on the offensive side of the puck.
“With (Andy) Miele (in Phoenix), losing Brett MacLean (on waivers to Winnipeg), not getting (Patrick) O’Sullivan – who earned a roster spot with the Coyotes – and Pouliot being out we needed to get some depth into back the organization with ability,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “If Phoenix loses a Ray Whitney, Brock (Trotter) has proven he can fill that role at this level.”
Another reason for the move was the sheer number of veterans on the Pirates roster, which hampered with not only getting prospects ice time, but it restricted ice to the veteran as Edwards was forced to manage the bench a little more closely.
“Part of it was the fact we have a lot of young defensemen, who have to play,” said Edwards. “We don’t have a plethora of veteran offense up front, but (with the trade) we’ve got seven defensemen here now. When Rozsival returns – from an injury – we’ll have Chris Summers back so we’ll be back to having eight defensemen in the mix; it was kind of jarred back there. We almost had too many on the backend.”
Edwards went on to explain that because AHL rules only a maximum of six veterans to play, the Pirates were going to be forced into a situation they would rather avoid, which they feel this trade accomplishes.
“Going into Tuesday, if Pouliot is ready, we were going to have to sit a veteran, which would have been tough to do,” he said. “This clean up a lot for us to allow the young kids to play and it took care of the veteran issue, while allowing us to get some veteran experience and scoring.”
Trotter, 24, has been in the Montreal organization for the last five years, with the exception on last season when he signed overseas with Riga Dynamo of the KHL.
Known as an offensive threat on the ice, Trotter was the leading scorer for the Hamilton Bulldogs in five games this season with two goals, five assists for seven points. The Brandon, Manitoba native had a career year during the 2009-’10 season with the Bulldogs, when he recorded 36 goals, 41 assists for 77 points in 75 games.
“Brock is an accomplished player at the American Hockey League,” said Edwards. “For him, I think he’s excited for a new opportunity with a new organization. He’ll help us offensively. He’s another guy with some leadership ability, and has some real playoff experience. He should be a great addition for us.”
Edwards said the plan is for Trotter to meet the team in Toronto on Monday and fly to St. John’s as they play the Ice Caps on Tuesday and Wednesday. Edwards wasn’t sure where Trotter will play as he’s still contemplating the lineup because of injuries and a potential suspension to Ryan Hollweg.
Hollweg was assessed a two minute penalty for a check to the head during Saturday’s game against the Providence Bruins. He was informed that the league was looking at it, but wouldn’t speculate any further punishment.
Edwards didn’t have an update on Hextall, who dealing with an upper-body injury, but skated briefly with the team before they boarded a bus for Boston, only to stay that he will be evaluated on Tuesday. From Boston, the team will catch an early morning flight to Toronto where they will have a three hour layover before flying to St. John’s Newfoundland.
It will be the Pirates first time back in St. John’s since 2005 when the Toronto Maple Leafs had their affiliate on the island.
Not lost in today’s trade is Petteri Nokelainen, but the bigger question is what does this mean for rookie forward Andy Miele who was recalled by the Coyotes on Friday.
Did the move open a roster spot on a more permanent basis?
Not necessarily so said both Treliving and Edwards.
“It will be up to Andy Miele,” said Edwards. “If he can prove what he did down here in four games or so up there he’ll have a chance to stay, but the NHL is a little different. Andy has played well down here, and they want to see if it equates to playing well up there. If it does then maybe he has the ability to stay there.”
“He’s going to be given every opportunity here and his stay in Phoenix will be determined by his play,” said Treliving. “We’re going to give him every opportunity there, but we have to remember he is still a young guy and we have to keep that in mind.”