After what could be described as a slow season in terms of trades (seriously, I don’t recall one being made since the season started), the Carolina Thunderbirds and Port Huron Prowlers shook things up Wednesday morning with a three-player swap.
Port Huron will send defenseman Mike Baker to Carolina in exchange for forward/defenseman Tom Kilgore and forward Artur Drindrozhik.
It’s an interesting move for a couple of reasons, and may offer hints into what each team is wanting as we near the mid-way point of the season approaches, and what they could be building towards as the playoffs get closer.
Let’s start with the Carolina side of things. They get a solid, stay at home defenseman in Baker who has appeared in all 26 games this season for Port Huron, registering one goal and 10 assists for 11 points on the year, and a dead even 0 in the +/- category. This is Baker’s third season in the FHL, and has played 128 games in that span, posting six goals and 44 assists for 50 points and a career +27 rating.
So with a team that’s given up the fewest goals in the league this year, why would Carolina trade for a defenseman? Well, it likely has to do with yesterday’s news that goaltender Christian Pavlas had been called up to the SPHL’s Fayetteville Marksmen, leaving them with Frankie McClendon as the current starter. And a look at McClendon’s career numbers may not excite Carolina fans. So the team likely wants to load up on the back end to get McClendon as much help as possible if he is required to be the starter for an extended stretch.
For Port Huron, it’s an interesting move because sending out a good defenseman seems odd for a team that has given up the second most goals in the league this year, but the team does have holes in its forward corps at the moment after former leading scorer Yianni Liarakos left the team to play in Hungary. And potentially getting two solid forwards could help them both offensively and defensively.
Drindrozhik has appeared in just nine games this year for Carolina, more of a depth piece that anything for the Birds (while also missing games due to suspension), and in 29 games over two seasons in Carolina totaled 19 points. He also played the 2016-17 season with the Berlin River Drivers, registering 44 points in 41 games for career totals of 63 points in 70 games. You have to figure that with the holes in Port Huron’s offense, he slots in at worst on the second line and will see far more playing time than he was getting in Carolina.
The real wild card in this trade is Tom Kilgore though, a good forward who has scored at about the same rate as Drindrozhik over three seasons in the FHL…but has hasn’t appeared in a game this year for Carolina. Kilgore played 54 games for the Birds last season, totaling 46 points, and had 29 in 31 games for a VERY bad St. Clair Shores team in 2016-17. If Kilgore does report to Port Huron and play, you suddenly have two more strong forwards in the lineup who likely make up for the loss of Liarakos.
So to recap, a very good defensive in Carolina team is getting even stronger on the back end to help out what may be a shaky goalie, and the Port Huron Prowlers are hoping that the pair of forwards can bolster their offense and get them back into a playoff position as we get ready to start the second half of the season.