When the Vancouver Canucks reassigned Frank Corrado to the Utica Comets on Sunday night, it seemed likely that he was going to stay there for a while.
The 21-year-old defenseman, who has played very well in limited action with the Canucks this season, hasn’t played since February 1 due to injury. That the club sent him down a day before the trade deadline – which is also the day before the American Hockey League’s playoff eligibility deadline – suggested that this wasn’t just a paper move, and indeed it was reported as a bona fide reassignment by Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.
Well now it seems that Corrado will play some games and log some ice-time for the Canucks over the balance of the regular season, as he’s been recalled from Utica, the club announced Tuesday. This is a strange one, and I’ll explain why after the jump.
So here’s the particular mechanics of what’s gone on with Vancouver’s reassignments and call-ups over the past few days. AHL rules stipulate that only players on the AHL roster at the time of the NHL trade deadline are eligible to compete in the balance of that AHL season, including the Calder Cup playoffs. Because of this, teams generally ‘paper down’ – a euphemism which describes a club reassigning a player on paper, without them actually going to the AHL – up to four waiver exempt players immediately prior to the NHL trade deadline, and then immediately recall them.
All it does is make those players eligible to compete in the AHL playoffs.
I’m going to go over the timeline here, just for the sake of clarity. Willie Desjardins confirmed Corrado’s reassignment on Sunday night, and it was announced in a press release on Monday morning. Then on Monday afternoon, the Canucks reassigned four players to Utica – Alex Biega, Adam Clendening, Jacob Markstrom and Ronalds Kenins – and then immediately recalled Clendening, Markstrom and Kenins. Canucks general manager Jim Benning was coy about whether any of the transactions were bona fide reassignments during his post-deadline media availability, but the Comets sent out a press release that explicitly suggested that Biega’s reassignment was for real on Monday evening.
Following the AHL playoff eligibility deadline teams are permitted four call-ups of the non-emergency variety. Benning suggested that the club would use three non-emergency recalls on the papered down players during his post-deadline availability on Monday, and if we look over the AHL transaction sheet that is in fact what happened: the Canucks recalled Biega, Cledenning, Kenins and Markstrom (an emergency recall) following the trade deadline on Monday.
Actually Benning explicitly confirmed that Biega had been among the Canucks players papered down to the AHL.
“We had to paper some guys to go down (so that), god forbid we don’t win the Stanley Cup this year, that they’re eligible to go play for Utica for the playoffs. We did Clendening, we papered Kenins, and we did Biega.”
Now here’s where this gets a bit weird. After being recalled on Monday, the Canucks appear to have once again reassigned Biega to the Comets:
Based on the timeline here – Corrado being reassigned well before the deadline while Biega was reassigned when we’d have expected him to be as a paper transaction, then Biega being recalled according to the AHL, and then reassigned again – something just smells a bit off. I’m not going to speculate on what’s going on, but it sure seems likely to me that some sort of conversation behind the scenes caused the club to change course here, as it pertains to keeping Corrado or Biega on the NHL roster.
This could, of course, also be related to Chris Tanev sustaining a setback in terms of his head injury, but that doesn’t explain why Biega was reassigned for real on Monday, or why the Canucks decided – abruptly – that they’d rather have Corrado in the lineup.
Corrado is a really skilled defensive defenseman with good puck-moving abilities and solid two-way instincts. He was a fifth-round pick of the Canucks at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and is a pending restricted free agent.