(Photos: The Hockey Writers, Buffalo Sabres, Worcester Sharks)
The NHL Trade Deadline is an exciting and also nerve wracking day for hockey fans everywhere. Everyone wants to know what moves their team is going to make, if any, and what their team is going to look like when the dust settles. At the NHL level, people are looking for the big names rumored to be involved in the blockbuster trades. But there’s usually more involved in the trades than NHL roster players. Sometimes draft picks are thrown around, but there are often prospects included too.
The LA Kings were a team with rumors swirling around them about moves they wanted to make at the deadline. It seemed inevitable that some move they made would trickle down to their AHL team in Manchester. But, it wasn’t clear until the first LA Kings trade of the day broke. It ended up being defenseman-turned-forward Nic Deslauriers and 2013 draft pick Hudson Fasching to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Brayden McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker and second round picks in 2014 and 2015.
“This is a crazy business that we’re in. We’re sad to see him go because we’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth, especially this season where he made the switch from defense to forward. He’s had a great amount of success,” Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris said of Deslauriers. “We also realize it’s a great opportunity for him in the Buffalo organization. We’re happy for him.”
Although Deslauriers was initially skeptical about how the switch to forward from defense would go, it ended up being a match made in heaven. He led the team in goals, with 18, and was second in points, with 21. He added a new level to his game. He said his goodbyes to his Manchester teammates and headed to Rochester this morning. Coming back to the Kings organization are prospects Brayden McNabb and Jonathan Parker. Parker is currently in the ECHL with the Colorado Eagles. McNabb, however, was in the AHL and has already reported to Manchester.
“As far as Brayden (McNabb) goes, I did my homework talking to his past coaches. I’ve heard nothing but glowing remarks on what he brings as a player,” Morris said.
“It’s kind of sad to leave the guys you’ve built relationships with over the years but I’m really excited for this new chapter in my life. This is the first time I’ve ever been traded,” McNabb said on joining his new team. “I’m excited to get things going with a good team here. I want to help the team however I can. It’s a little bit of an adjustment but I want to go out and just play my game.”
McNabb, a 23-year-old third year pro out of Saskatchewan, has registered 29 points through 38 games with the Rochester Americans and had been kept off the score sheet through 12 games with Buffalo. He appeared in his second straight AHL All Star Game this season, defending his title as the hardest shot. This time he was ousted from the title by someone of Farjestad, but his slap shot remains impressive.
“I don’t really know much about Brayden (McNabb) but from what I’ve heard, he sounds like a strong defenseman with a lot of potential,” Monarchs captain, Andrew Campbell, said. “Hopefully he can step in on our power play and throw some life into that. It’s kind of been a struggle for us so maybe his shot can help with some offense there.”
Wondering how McNabb found out? It wasn’t that different from those of us that obsessively follow the rumors on Twitter.
“My agent called me about 5 minutes before we were taking off to come home. He said you might be getting traded and I didn’t really know what to think. Then I saw something on twitter,” McNabb said and laughed. “I didn’t know it was finalized until I landed. I had to rush home and pack really quick to get on a flight here. It was a crazy day.”
Kings fans did get their big move later in the day. LA sent Matt Frattin, one of the second round picks from the earlier trade, and a conditional third round pick to Columbus for Marian Gaborik. It seemed that people had been expecting that move. That was not it, although it might have seemed like it from an NHL standpoint. The Kings and Sharks made a rare deal between rivals that sent James Livingston to the Kings with a conditional seventh round pick in 2016 back to San Jose. It was a minor league deal as Livingston had been playing in the AHL in Worcester and has made the move to Manchester.
“We have a lot of respect for Livingston’s game. We’ve played against him and he’s an honest, hardworking right winger,” Morris said. “He’s been a tough guy to play against over the years that we’ve gone head to head. There’s mutual respect there.”
“I’ve known James Livingston a long time, I played with him back in juniors. I know what he’s about, he’s a hardworking, good character guy. He’ll be a great boost to our room,” Campbell said.
This was an interesting move based on the teams involved. San Jose and LA are division rivals, so you would not expect to see them make a trade. Although Livingston has spent his three seasons in the AHL so far, the Worcester Sharks and Manchester Monarchs are also fierce division rivals.
“I’m sure it’s more strange for him coming into enemy territory,” Campbell said and laughed. “We’ve already welcomed him in and anything that’s happened before is water under the bridge. We’re happy to have him on our side.”
“It’s definitely a little strange to make this switch, but I’m really looking forward to a new chance. They’re a great team and I want to help make the last push for the playoffs,” Livingston said.
Livingston, a third year forward from Ontario, has 15 points through 53 games this season. He has also added a lot of intangibles to the team, which is likely what Mark Morris noticed when the Monarchs and Sharks played each other. Livingston spent a lot of time holding down the penalty kill with Worcester and was an energy player, a role he’s likely going to take making the switch to a division rival. In an interesting twist, the Worcester Sharks planned a James Livingston bobblehead giveaway to fans this Saturday.
“I had a great couple years in Worcester and I’ve definitely taken a lot from there. I’m so thankful for my time there and for the great fans,” Livingston said. “I’m looking forward to jumping in and hopefully being able to help the team out.”
Mark Morris is now faced with testing out his new players and finding some new lines that will work best for him.
“It’ll be trial by fire. They’re going to go right in,” Morris said. “Much like anyone else that comes in on short notice, they’ll get the opportunity to show what they can do right away and we hope their assets are ones that will make us a stronger team.”
Most AHL teams expect that their team could get a different look when the trade deadline comes around. Head coaches like Morris do not have a lot of say in what happens with the trades. He was not expecting a player from a rival team, but he’s looking forward to seeing how the new additions fit in.
“I’m not quite sure how it all works,” Morris said. “I get the players and try to plug them into the right spots. I try to give them a chance to be successful. It’s not my position to make those types of decisions. Management knows what they’re looking for and the style of play they want.”
The Manchester Monarchs host three games in three days at home this weekend. They will host the Adirondack Phantoms Friday night, the Providence Bruins Saturday afternoon, and the Hartford Wolfpack on Sunday afternoon. The Monarchs will face off against the Worcester Sharks for the first time post-trade in Worcester on Sunday, March 16th.