Keeping Up With The Joneses; Spartans Trade To Stay At The Topby Sean Gallagher | February 24, 2019, 1:00 AM ET
Locked in an extremely tight World Conference standings race, with four teams currently tied in points at the top, the St. Louis Spartans have made a couple trades in the last week, one of which even SICHL insiders didn't see coming.
"Well, we're always trying to make the team better," said GM Sean Gallagher, "Often, there's no way to do it. But we always investigate. I like our roster, but you never know what can happen if you don't at least ask the question."
The first move was in response to probably the worst-kept secret in the league. The Spartans had reached out to at least eight teams looking for defensive specialist help for their fourth line and penalty killing units. Rebuffed at every turn for weeks on end, a chance discussion with Gary Graves of the Boston Colonials found traction quickly.
The Colonials, frequent trading partners of St. Louis over the years, had been altering and updating their roster recently and when asked about Mike Fisher, were open to the idea of letting him go to an American Division rival. Getting their own 4th round pick this year back in addition to a late-rounder was enough to pry away the onetime St. Louis Spartans/Chicago Cardinals franchise draftee.
In his first game with St. Louis, Fisher somehow played over 15 minutes and unloaded seven hits.
"Yeah, uh, that's not going to be his role going forward. That's definitely an anomaly," said Gallagher. Fisher has slotted in on the fourth line, centering Jay Beagle and Markus Granlund, the three of whom also take on most of the team's PK duties.
The second trade was more surprising in nature, even if the negotiations went similarly.
"I don't even really know why or how I started the conversation," said Gallagher, "But somehow it seemed to make sense to both of us and went through fairly quickly, if somewhat hesitantly on both sides."
The rare one-for-one hockey trade was Evander Kane for Jeff Skinner. Both are scoring left wingers. They are one year apart in age. They are one million dollars apart in salary. And yet, each seems destined to be a better fit on their new team than on their former.
"Change of scenery trades are a bit of a gamble," said Gallagher, "But Matt [Burch, GM of the Calgary Mustangs] and I both felt like it was worth the gamble.
The trade sees the end of the Kane Squared experiment in Calgary and the end of Skinner's nearly 300-game stay in St. Louis.
"Jeff Skinner is one of my favorite players to watch," said Gallagher, "But for whatever reason, he just has always underperformed here. It was really hard to let him go, but I can't help but feel this will be best for him. In Calgary he has a chance to start fresh. My guess is he has a strong finish to this year and a great season next year."
Despite a constant role on the top two lines in St. Louis, Skinner never scored more than 27 goals in a season for the Spartans. This year, in particular, has been frustrating for all concerned, as he has scored just four goals despite playing with league-leading scorer Anze Kopitar and the always-effective Patrice Bergeron as his centermen.
"The chemistry just never seemed to be right," reiterated Gallagher, "Now he gets a chance to play with guys like Schiefele and Patrick Kane. I'd bet on him doing well."
As far as the next few weeks go before the trade deadline, will St. Louis make any other moves? You never know, but one would bet they'll continue to explore options and listen to offers.
"We're in more a tweaking mode than a shake-up mode," said Gallagher. "But we're always listening."