KEARNEY, Neb. – Tri-City Storm head coach and general manager Jim Hulton announced two trades Monday afternoon which will position his team for the future.
The Storm will acquire forward Conner Valesano from the Sioux Falls Stampede, along with a second round pick in the 2014 Phase I Draft in exchange for Storm defenseman Garrett Cecere and an eighth round pick in the 2014 Phase I Draft.
Tri-City has also agreed to send forward Joel L’Esperance and future defenseman Logan Fauber to the Sioux City Musketeers in exchange for future forward Jake Wahlin of White Bear Lake High School, a second round pick in the 2014 Phase II Draft and a player to be named later.
“It has been a difficult day and this is the business side of the game that none of us enjoy,” Hulton said. “This is an opportunity for two outstanding, loyal players that have been a huge part of the Storm family. It will allow them to play in playoff competition that will have them better prepared for their colleges next year.”
“Most importantly, it’s a huge boost to the future for the long-term health of our franchise. It was quite simply two offers that were too good to refuse, that allows us to stay highly competitive this year and hopefully catapult into one of those top four powerhouse positions next year.”
Both Cecere and L’Esperance came to the Storm within the same week, via trades with Dubuque and Des Moines in 2012. They now leave the team as some of the better skaters in recent memory.
Cecere, an assistant captain, scored four goals and assisted on 27 others while in Kearney. He was a mainstay on defense, who was also a contributor on the power play.
“Garrett was a highly sought after player throughout the league but in particular with Sioux Falls,” said Hulton. “They’ve been heavy in their pursuit for a while. We were insistent that we have Valesano; he’s a player that we think has all the attributes of what we want to build. He’s got a huge work ethic, grit, character, leadership skills and we’ll have him for a year and a half as opposed to Garrett who is leaving next year.”
“The second round pick in the Phase I draft allowed us to address a lot of needs for our future in one deal.”
L’Esperance was the Storm’s leading scorer this season with 21 goals and 13 assists in 35 games. He finishes his career in Tri-City with 53 points in 86 games on 31 goals and 22 assists.
The Michigan Tech commit will stay in the Storm record books, as his total of 31 goals in under two seasons is 17th best all-time.
“This was also a very, very difficult deal for us,” Hulton said. “Anytime you move your leading scorer it is hard, but again the package sets us up for the future. There might be a little bit of short term pain for this one but there will be long term gain. Jake Wahlin is a highly regarded offensive player out of Minnesota. All of our reports both internal and external using NHL sources indicated that he was going to be a very high end producer immediately in this league. We also get a second round pick in the Phase II Draft which is hopefully someone who steps right in to our lineup.
Valesano is expected to join the team and dress for Tuesday night’s game in Lincoln. The Duluth, Minn. native is in his second season in the USHL, and has accumulated 12 goals and 23 assists for the Stampede in 90 games.
Wahlin, originally selected by Des Moines in the 2012 USHL Futures Draft, has starred at White Bear Lake and played for the United States at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament with current Storm forward Austin Poganski. The St. Paul, Minn. native is also committed to play collegiately at the University of Massachusetts.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)