Saturday, February 13, 2010

Out with the new, in with the old

By: Rob Merrills,

It's all change in Rhode Island again, as another trade - this time with the West Edmonton Mauls - sees a total of four new signings tip up at the Cocumcussoc building site. Eyebrows will no doubt be raised at the fact that two of the players are of veteran status, with Keith Tkachuk (37) and Cory Stillman (36) set to struggle in to their new scarlet, black and gold uniforms, while Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Radim Vrbata pack their thermals and head for the frozen tundra in Alberta.

"As far as the players involved are concerned" said Recoats GM Rob Merrills, "this is not a trade for the future. The thinking behind it was again to solidify production down the stretch and protect the hockey club's standing in the WHL's Most Improved race - that, of course, secures us an early pick in the opening rounds of the 2010 draft, and that's where the real talent will come from."

While most observers had Lucic nailed down as a keeper for the Redcoats, the young power forward has struggled to hit the heights since coming back from injury early this year. The signing of Phil Kessel - producing at a phenomenal rate recently - undermined Lucic's potential long term position, and when the opportunity to pick up Dan Carcillo arose, his outbound ticket was rubber-stamped. "Dan has generated 40% more points than Lucic since the New Year" said Merrills "In our position, I have to trade for that sort of upturn when the opportunity arises".

"Keith and Cory, point for point, are a minor downgrade compared to Bergeron and Vrbata at their best" continued the Rhode Island GM "but they offer solid, reliable production rather than peaks and troughs, and if they can carry that forward after resting up over the Olympic break, then they'll have done everything I can ask of them".

The final piece in the jigsaw sounds almost inconsequential, but was in reality the driving force behind the whole deal. Positional realignments opened up a free spot at center ice, and Greg Campbell was picked up off the waiver wire in place of Brad Winchester (LW), giving the club another near 50% boost in player for player point production. Further free agent signings in the near future may further increase this positive differential.

"It's mind-numbing stuff - bean counting to the n'th degree" said Merrills "but to lay the foundations for the future of the club, I'm trading names for numbers right now. If other GM's want to offer solid production from John Doe in return for a flashy name, they know where I am....".

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