IceCaps look to make major impact with minor league deals

Robin Short
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St. John’s add wingers Brock Trotter and Raymond Sawada

Brock Trotter (right) checks the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Borowiecki into the boards during an NHL preseason game in Ottawa. The St. John’s IceCaps picked up the 5-foot-10 Winnipeg native from the Portland Pirates on Friday in exchange for Kenndal McArdle and goalie Peter Mannino. — Canadian Press file photo

He may be new to the IceCaps, but Brock Trotter isn’t new to St. John’s.

The latest player to join the American Hockey League club is quite familar with Mile One Centre, having played at the rink on a number of occasions, even if the IceCaps are a brand new team in the pro hockey fold.

Trotter was in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ lineup in mid-October when the IceCaps made their home ice debut, and was back in St. John’s 10 days later as a member of the Portland Pirates when the Montreal Canadiens (Hamilton’s parent club) and Phoenix Coyotes (Portland’s NHL affiliate) swung a deal that saw Trotter and a seventh-round pick head to the Coyotes for Petteri Nokelainen and Garret Stafford.

On top that, Trotter was in the Bulldogs’ lineup two years ago when they played an AHL exhibition with the Binghamton Senators in St. John’s.

And eight years ago, while skating for Team Western, Trotter played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge staged at Mile One.

“So yeah, I’ve been there quite a few times,” Trotter said Sunday night from Winnipeg. “And it’s pretty exciting coming back now.

“I was a little surprised, I guess, but it’s always a good thing when you’re dealt to basically one of the best teams in the league.”

In what is effectively a minor league trade — because the move comes after the NHL trade deadline, only the team placing the player on loan can recall him to the NHL — Trotter came over from Portland for Kenndal McArdle and Peter Mannino, who had been playing with the Chicago Express of the ECHL.

In another move, a minor league deal between St. John’s and the Texas Stars, the IceCaps moved winger Shawn Weller to the Stars in return for big winger Raymond Sawada. In addition, Michael Forney was reassigned from Colorado of the ECHL to Texas.

However, it’s the 5-foot-10 high-scoring Trotter who is the key player in Friday’s deals.

The 25-year-old native of Brandon, Man. had 31 points in 35 games for the Pirates this season. He had two goals and seven points in Hamilton prior to his trade to the Coyotes organization.

Two years ago, he registered 77 points for the Bulldogs, giving the IceCaps a bonafide high scorer off the wing. In the 2009-10 Calder Cup playoffs, Trotter recorded 19 points in 19 games as the Bulldogs reached the Western Conference final.

Heading into Sunday’s game in Binghamton, N.Y., a 5-2 IceCaps win over the Senators, Spencer Machacek was St. John’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 40 points, 41st amongst AHL scorers.

“He certainly gives us balance on the forward line, a good balance of skill and grit,” said IceCaps’ coach Keith McCambridge. “I’ve seen him play a lot, and he gives us another dynamic on the power play.”

“There are two ways of looking at it,” chuckled Trotter about donning three different jerseys this season. “I like to think I’m in demand.

“But I know this is a good opportunity for me, and I can’t wait to get back and start playing again.”

Trotter has been sidelined the past two and half weeks with an upper-body injury, missing a half-dozen Pirates games. He was in Winnipeg over the weekend getting checked out by Jets’ doctors, and is expected in St. John’s this week. He’s not 100 per cent certain, however, of his status for this weekend’s games against the Hershey Bears at Mile One.

In Sawada, the IceCaps pick up a 27-year-old physical (he’s six-foot-two, 205 pounds) winger who had six goals and 10 assists in 26 games with Texas this season. He also picked up 57 minutes in penalties.

He’s familiar to Jets management having played with the Manitoba Moose — the IceCaps predecessor — in 2008-09 when St. John’s general manager Craig Heisinger was running the Moose.

Sawada, a big winger who skates well, played on a line with veteran Garth Murray and Maxime Macenauer, picked up from the Anaheim Ducks two weeks ago for Riley Holzapfel, Sunday night, wearing Weller’s old No. 23 and finishing the night with a minus-one rating. It was only his second game since Dec. 16 due to injury.

Organizations: IceCaps, American Hockey League, NHL Portland Pirates Montreal Canadiens Phoenix Coyotes Texas Stars Binghamton Senators Chicago Express Hershey Bears Manitoba Moose

Geographic location: Portland, Winnipeg, Colorado Brandon Binghamton, N.Y.

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