With the ECHL trade deadline looming on Thursday, the Walleye plan to make one more big move to be fully primed for another push at that elusive Kelly Cup.
A deal is imminent.
While Toledo has charged to the top of the overall ECHL standings with a 40-14-5 record, Walleye coach Dan Watson is not content with the current makeup of his roster. The second-year head coach has made it abundantly clear that he would like to shore up his defensive corps.
“I think we're still a deal away,” Watson said. “Obviously with the amount of forwards we have right now, we'll be looking to get a high-end D-man.”
He said the goaltending is more than solid with the ascension of vet Pat Nagle to clear-cut No. 1 status. His teammates and coaches have the utmost confidence in the calm and confident Nagle, who leads the ECHL in wins.
The offense remains as steady as ever with an average of 3.24 goals per night. In fact, Watson believes the abundance of quality forwards should allow him to let go of a high-end offensive weapon.
It's clear it will be one of the team's top producers. “100 percent,” Watson confirmed.
Such decisions are obviously not easy, he said. But they are necessary.
“It doesn't matter what their stats are. It's going to come down to what the best move is for us,” Watson said.
So what goes into determining the odd-man out? For Watson, it comes down to the players' daily commitment to the team.
“If you look at our roster, I think all of our forwards can play,” Watson said. “Now [it comes down to] the guys who are detailed. It's the guys who come to work every single day. It's the guys who play the game the right way. It's guys who are here for the right reasons.”
Another factor to consider is that the current roster is loaded with current and future ECHL veterans. The league allows teams to have only four veterans (players with 260 or more pro games played) on the roster at one time.
Toledo's current four veterans are forwards A.J. Jenks, Kyle Bonis, and Mike Embach and defenseman Beau Schmitz. Captain Alden Hirschfeld, who has been on IR since November with a lower-body injury, also is a vet. He was slated to return to the lineup in early April.
“If you look at our roster, we have eight guys that will become vets next year,” Watson said. “So for me personally, the era of Bonis, Jenks, [Shane] Berschbach, [Tyler] Barnes, Schmitz, Hirschfeld … all of these guys playing together, this could be it. So we want to make sure we're doing the right thing where we give them the best opportunity to win a championship here.”
The deadline is officially at 3 p.m. on Thursday.
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