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S13 - Hartford brings Lindros/Stillman into the fold (®)


A mere six days ago, the Hartford Whalers decided that Joe Sakic and Curtis Leschyshyn did not fit into their future plans and as such moved on from the duo in a trade with New York.  With a future of the franchise in a bit of a limbo to some, the questions were being asked. Is this a Whaler team that can make some noise in the playoffs, or is this a team that will put on a good product but ultimately use the plethora of draft picks that have been acquired to create a new wave.  Those questions were answered emphatically as the Whalers once again reached an agreement with the Saskatoon Wolves to acquire one of their top forwards (Whalers acquired Sakic from Saskatoon five seasons ago).

Whaler fans, meet Eric Lindros.  

In what we now know as a six player deal, the Hartford Whalers have acquired 6’5, 226 pound forward, Eric Lindros as well as versatile forward, Cory Stillman from the Saskatoon Wolves.  In return the Whalers sent back veteran forward, Scott Mellanby, newly acquired finish forward, Sami Pahlson, as well as a pair of first round selections.  

“Eric was never a guy that we had in our trade conversations to be honest.  He was never really on the market and we respected that. However, we got a message around 9am yesterday morning that he was being made available, so we put together a strong package pretty much right away.  In total I think we had a deal wrapped up in about five hours, something that is rather quick when dealing with bigger names in this league.

In the end we are happy to get both Eric and Cory in our roster.  We think that the addition of both will add another layer of depth to our roster and add more scoring punch to our line up.  Eric in particular is a bonafide number one center in this league. He is averaging over a point-per-game during his career in this league.  He is a big body that plays a tough, physical game. We haven't had a player in a similar mode since Bobby Holik decided to leave a few years back.  I know every member of our organization is beyond excited to have on our team going forward.”

Lindros, who started his VHL career at the age of eighteen, is now in his twelfth season, but his next game will be the first game not with the Quebec Nordiques/Saskatoon Wolves organization.  In total during his time with the Wolves/Nordiques, Lindros amassed 1008 points on 471 goals and 537 assists in 895 games.

“I think that part is going to be a little weird.  I have been apart of that team for my entire professional career, it is all i have every really known to this point.  So to go to a different team, and be in a locker room with very few faces that I really know it will be different. With that in mind, I am beyond excited to go to Hartford.  This is a team that is always challenging to win the cup, I believe that the last time they didn't win forty games in a season was in 1994. It is obvious they prioritize winning and they have been great at doing that.”

While it is obvious that Lindros has done his homework on the Whalers organization, the excitement is evident that he wants to be in Hartford and he is willing to help push the franchise to new heights.  Hours after the deal was announced, the club along with Lindros jointly announced that they had reached a new four year contract extension with the club.

“This is a team, a franchise that I want to grow with.  They are perennial playoff contenders, and that is something I haven't always had the luxury of being around during my career to date.  When I was looking into my future as a player in this league, I wanted to go to a team that had a great chance of winning a Stanley Cup, and I feel that the Hartford Whalers give me a great chance at that.”

Not to be lost in the trade, the Hartford Whalers also picked up Cory Stillman in the same deal.  The forward will be looked upon to add strength to the wings and put up points on the board.

“We have always liked Cory, he is a guy that we can plug on our top line or we can move down the lineup a bit, he has that ability to be really flexible for us; that’s a quality that we really value in our organization.  We haven’t really figured out just how he will fit in our roster, but we have a lot of time to tinker and play around with the lines to get the best fit for Cory possible.”

Stillman, who was originally drafted by the then Quebec Nordiques in the first round has also spent parts of three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and two with the Buffalo Sabres during his career.  During the length of his eleven year career Stillman has only recorded one twenty goal season but has put up a respectable but not spectacular 299 point total in 564 career VHL games. While the offensive numbers have never been there to the degree that some believe it could have been or really should be, the Whalers believe there may be more than what meets the eye in that regard.

“With Cory it is odd.  He hasn’t been able to put up good numbers in man advantage scenarios.  For a guy to average over three minutes of ice time per game on the powerplay we feel that his numbers in those situations is a bit low.  That is something we think in our organization that we can really grow his game to become a better offensive threat.”

For Stillman (like Lindros), the opportunity to go to a playoff contender is something that he looks forward to.

“During my entire VHL career, I have played in twenty-eight playoff games.  That is it. I believe that in Hartford, I can be on a roster that will not only make the playoffs, but be able to go deep and make a run.  I am excited to get this opportunity and look forward to spending the next part of my career in Connecticut.”

While the Whalers are obviously excited to bring in a few bodies to their roster, they did give up some assets to make that happen.  The biggest name (at this point) is Scott Mellanby. The veteran Montreal native was never able to get out of first gear with the Whalers during his time there.  In a little less than two seasons, Mellanby recorded a mere twenty-nine goals and sixty-seven points. A total that became a little too underwhelming for the club to carry on with and resulted with him being moved up and down the line up seeing time on the third line for parts of the last two seasons.

“Scott is a great guy.  He plays a strong game, gets on the body and is a great teammate.  However, we brought him in to be a threat on the scoreboard as well, and he just couldn’t mesh with our lineup.  I think at times our pace may have been a bit much, but things just never worked out for us.”

Also joining Mellanby in the deal was Sami Pahlsson, a part of the Joe Sakic deal.  For Pahlsson’s time in Hartford, it will be remembered as a time were we didn’t even get to know the kid, playing in a mere eight games and recording a single assist (for the record, the VHL stats page shows him with ten games played and two goals and two assists.  Those numbers are incorrect as they have incorrectly recorded Sakic’s three point night prior to his trade as Pahlsson’s).

“Sami is a good kid, and if we still had him on our roster we would be happy about that.  With that said, even prior to his trade to us, we identified him as a good option as a number two center and nothing more, and that was kind of the reason we felt okay with moving on from him so early during his tenure with us.  He will be a great center in this league, he will play a strong two-way game, but we feel that his offensive game may never reach its full potential.”

WIth the trade completed, the Whalers are now looking forward to a long playoff run, but will there be more deals in the future?

“You know us, we like to put out a competitive team, and will roll the dice at times to get there.  I will say, if this is the roster we are carrying going into the playoffs, we will be quite happy about that.”


Whaler Notes:

  • Moments after the Whalers-Wolves trade was announced, the Wolves sent Pahlsson and the Whalers 2003 first round pick to the Milwaukee Admirals as part of a trade package for Jason Arnott and Rod Brind’Amour.

  • The aforementioned 2003 first has the opportunity to be swapped for one of the two other firsts Hartford has if the the Whalers win the Stanley Cup this season.  This makes the city of Milwaukee and the Admiral organization the biggest Whaler fans for the remainder of the season

  • This morning the Whalers officially sent a 2005 first round pick (originally belonging to Edmonton) to Saskatoon as compensation for Lindros signing his extension

  • Winners of three in a row, the Whalers will get to test their new roster with a home game against division rivals, the Boston Bruins this evening in a battle of the top two teams in the Northeast