By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips were not planning on getting Thomas Heemskerk back this season.
But Friday morning the NHL’s San Jose Sharks gave Everett a gift, and the Tips quickly used that boon to address their most-glaring need.
The Sharks returned Heemskerk to Everett rather than keeping him in the professional ranks this season, and the Tips in turn flipped their overage goaltender to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for overage defenseman Chad Suer.
Suer, a four-year Western Hockey League veteran, gives Everett a much-needed stabilizing presence on defense. And the Tips were able to fill that void using a player who was never in the team’s plans for 2010-11.
“I think it’s a deal that works out well for both teams,” Everett general manager Doug Soetaert said. “They get one of the top goalies in the league, and we get a reliable right-handed defenseman to play in our top four.”
Suer is scheduled to join the team today in Vancouver, B.C., prior to Everett’s final preseason game tonight against the Vancouver Giants. He will not play in tonight’s game.
Suer, a 6-foot, 205-pound native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has played 243 games in the WHL. Last season he had five goals and 15 assists in 64 games. He was also one of Moose Jaw’s alternate captains.
“From all reports he’s a real solid individual,” Soetaert said. “We needed a right-handed defenseman, and he plays five-on-five, kills penalties and plays hard.”
Suer adds to an Everett defense that took its share of hits during the offseason. Radko Gudas, the team’s heart and soul last season, moved on to the professional ranks in the Tampa Bay Lightning system. Fellow overage candidates Chris de la Lande and Curtis Kulchar decided not to return. That left the Tips with just one defenseman (Rasmus Rissanen) over the age of 18, and no defensemen with more than one season as a WHL regular.
“We needed a 20-year-old defenseman with de la Lande and Kulchar not coming back,” Soetaert said. “This fills that void, and is actually an upgrade.”
Heemskerk was a standout since arriving in Everett via trade with Kootenay in December of 2009. He stabilized a problematic goaltending situation during the last half of the 2008-09 season. Then last season he and Kent Simpson formed the league’s top goaltending tandem. Heemskerk, playing half time, finished 24-12-2-2 with a 2.34 goals against average and a league-leading .927 save percentage.
The Tips were not counting on Heemskerk being a part of the team this season. Heemskerk has already signed a professional contract with the Sharks, and as an overager he was eligible to play professionally in the minor leagues. In addition, the Tips planned to hand the No. 1 goalie position to the 18-year-old Simpson, a second-round NHL draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, making Heemskerk expendable.
Soetaert, who considered Heemskerk a 50-50 bet to stick in the pros, had been in discussions with the Warriors for more than a month on the possibility Heemskerk would return. As soon as Heemskerk was sent back, the teams pulled the trigger.
“It was a little bit of a luxury last year having two goalies of that caliber,” Soetaert said. “We weren’t going to go into the season with that scenario. This is the best move for Thomas, he’ll get to play a lot, and we feel very comfortable with Kent.”
Moose Jaw already had an overage goaltender in Jeff Bosch. However, the Warriors traded Bosch to Kamloops in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft immediately after acquiring Heemskerk.
Suer’s addition gives the Tips nine defensemen, which is one or two more than the team intends to carry. Soetaert said he’ll pare that number next week.
Heemskerk’s departure leaves the Tips with three goaltenders, with Luke Siemens and Andy Desautels competing for the job backing up Simpson.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog