The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and the Laval Rocket felt some aftershocks in the American Hockey League as a result of it.
The Tomas Plekanec trade by the Montreal Canadiens added a couple of new faces to the Rocket lineup with forward Kerby Rychel and defenceman Rinat Valiev coming over from the Toronto Marlies; two bubble players who got lost in the Maple Leafs’ impressive depth. Going the other way is Kyle Baun, an impending RFA with arbitration rights, who helped the Rocket after being acquired for Andreas Martinsen at the start of the season.
The Canadiens also announced the recall of Nikita Scherbak on Monday, and the former first-round pick is on the verge of winning a full-time spot on the team for next season, as seemingly his time in Laval has come to an end.
One of the relevant rules for the Rocket is that any player who is not on the AHL roster by 3:00 PM on the day of the trade deadline is no longer eligible to play for the remainder of the season, meaning that Scherbak, Noah Juulsen, Byron Froese , and Daniel Carr are done in the AHL until the Canadiens’ season officially ends.
There is a two-hour window between the 3:00 AHL deadline and the 5:00 NHL deadline to send a player down and recall him back to the NHL in order to ensure that they are available to play later that day; a process called a ‘paper transaction.’ The Canadiens did this with Charlie Lindgren, but no other player that was currently on a recall with the Canadiens was papered.
Matt Petgrave was released from his PTO a day after the trade deadline, and returned to the Brampton Beast of the ECHL. Seeing at it was his second PTO, he is no longer eligible to return to the Rocket unless he signs a full-on AHL standard player contract.
So the anticipated roster for the Rocket going forward should look like this:
- Goaltenders (3): Michael McNiven, Zachary Fucale, Charlie Lindgren (currently in Montreal)
- Defencemen (8): Rinat Valiev, Brett Lernout, Tom Parisi, Eric Gelinas, Simon Bourque, Stefan Leblanc, Willie Corrin (PTO), Matt Taormina (Injured)
- Forwards (15): Kerby Rychel, Adam Cracknell, Chris Terry, Michael McCarron, Jeremy Grégoire, Daniel Audette, Niki Petti, Jordan Boucher, Markus Eisenschmid, David Broll, Thomas Ebbing, Antoine Waked, Luc-Olivier Blain (PTO), Yannick Veilleux (Injured), Jeremiah Addison (Injured)
There is still the AHL trade deadline coming up on Monday, which is the last day to loan players to other AHL teams, so there may be a slight variance, but that’s not really expected to happen at this point.
Sitting well outside of a playoff position, the Rocket will continue playing for their post-season lives in a gruelling sequence of three games in three nights in three different cities.
On Friday they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before travelling to Syracuse for Saturday’s game, and finally a Sunday afternoon match in Rochester. It’s a 1,100 km round trip after Friday’s game. Here are the likely line combinations:
Bridgeport plays sub-.500 hockey on the road, which should be a good opportunity for Laval to kick off the weekend on the right foot. However, the Rocket are the worst home team in the entire AHL, with a points percentage earned of a sad .362, so even hosting a weaker team is no guarantee of a win. The two teams last met on October 21, when the Rocket won by a 6-3 score in Bridgeport.
On the road Laval has fared much better, with a points percentage of .558, which is in the top half of all teams in the league. So perhaps being on the road for the other two games is for the best.
Against the Syracuse Crunch, the Rocket are 3-3-0-0 this season, with two more games left against their divisional rival. The Crunch are one of the best teams at home, undefeated in regulation in their last four home games, so the Rocket will have their hands full in probably their toughest game of the weekend.
The Rochester Americans haven’t won in regulation at home in three games, so they will be looking to bounce back, especially given that they are locked in a battle with the Utica Comets for divisional ranking. Whoever comes out the loser will face the mighty Toronto Marlies in the first round of the playoffs, and no team wants that.
The Americans will try to take advantage of a tired Rocket team, but the Americans won’t exactly be fully rested as they will be coming back from an afternoon game in Toronto the night before. The Rocket are 2-2-2-0 against the Americans this season, also with two games left to play against them.
At this point every single divisional game is crucial for the Rocket. Eighteen points out of a playoff spot is probably curtains, but if you still hold any hope, the importance of divisional games is obvious. The Rocket are 17-16-5-1 against their own division in 39 games; just a .513 points percentage, which is strongly reflected in the standings.
Where to listen/watch?
- Friday, March 2, 7:30 PM EST vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Saturday, March 3, 7:00 PM EST @ Syracuse Crunch
- Sunday, March 4, 3:00 PM EST @ Rochester Americans
All games are broadcast on 91.9 Sports and shown on AHLlive.com.