The first glimpse of the Alaska Aces' roster shuffling for the upcoming hockey season arrived Monday, when the ECHL club announced it has traded Bobby Hughes to the Fort Wayne Komets for future considerations after the center requested a move closer to his Toronto home.
Hughes, 25, after a slow start last season, developed into the Aces' second-line center and proved their breakout player in the Kelly Cup playoffs, when he led the team in all scoring categories with 9-8--17 totals in 11 games.
"I did not want to trade Bobby Hughes,'' said Aces third-year coach Rob Murray. "He wanted to play out East, closer to his family, closer to his girlfriend.
"I told his agent I'd shop him around. I had to get some value for him.''
Given the way "futures'' deals generally work, the Aces will likely receive a player from the Komets, possibly before the season starts.
"Time will tell whether it's an upgrade,'' Murray said. "The way Bobby finished the season, it'll take a lot to be an upgrade.''
Last season was Hughes' first with the two-time Kelly Cup champions and he struggled early with injuries while he was trying to ramp up his fitness. Also, the Aces' roster was jam-packed with scoring forwards in the first half of the season, in large part because four NHLers from Anchorage played on the team until the lockout ended in January.
Hughes put up 6-11--17 totals in his first 32 regular-season games with the Aces. Once the NHLers left, about the time Hughes began to find his game, he became the club's second-line center, and also contributed on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
In Hughes' last 27 regular-season games, he racked 9-13--22 totals. He became a force in the playoffs, scoring at least one point in eight of 11 games. That scoring binge included three multiple-goal games -- one was a hat trick -- and seven multiple-point games.
The Aces last week revealed their first announced signing of the offseason with the return of veteran defenseman and alternate captain Sean Curry. The club this week will likely announce another signing.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY