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Big additions for Chicago Wolves at the AHL trade deadline

The Wolves are gearing up for a long playoff run.

NHL: NOV 26 Penguins at Islanders Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the NHL trade deadline is of course where the biggest splashes are made, the AHL trade deadline, which officially passed at 3:00 PM EST on March 28, can see significant moves get made to bolster playoff-bound teams.

The Chicago Wolves, currently leading the Central Division and on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, made a few moves of their own today to gather some reinforcements. The team is poised to make a deep playoff run, but has been dealing with injuries recently.

There is also the NHL playoffs to contend with; the Hurricanes will undoubtedly call up a few members of the Wolves to act as black aces for the NHL playoff run. A player like Jalen Chatfield, who has acquitted himself well at the NHL level this year, could be out of the lineup for the Wolves as he sits as insurance for the Hurricanes. That leaves some holes on the Wolves’ roster, which both the Wolves and Hurricanes organizations worked to fill today.

In perhaps the most significant move, the Hurricanes traded forward Maxim Letunov to the New York Rangers for defenseman Tarmo Reunanen. Reunanen, 24, is a 2016 fourth round draft pick of the Rangers. He came to North America last season after playing professionally in Finland. Reunanen played in four NHL games with the Rangers last season but largely has played for the Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate.

Reunanen recorded 17 points in 40 games this year for Hartford, but had been pushed down the depth chart by other Rangers prospects. Adding him to the Wolves gives additional depth to their blue line.

Losing Letunov hurts, particularly after he just had one of his best games of the season, but also because he’s acted as a translator for Pyotr Kochetkov. His 13 goals (23 points overall) have helped provide depth scoring on a team that at times has been very top-heavy. However, the team’s next move will hopefully replace some of those goals, as they received forward Richard Panik on loan from the New York Islanders organization.

Panik’s best season came in 2016-17, when he scored 44 points with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he’s been on a downward trajectory since then. Panik has played most of this season with the Bridgeport Islanders in the AHL, recording seven goals and five assists in 28 games.

Panik has one more year left on his deal, but with no real future in the Islanders organization, this loan at least guarantees him a playoff run, and provides some more veteran experience for a young Wolves team. Panik has played 521 NHL games and 194 AHL games in his career and won the Calder Cup in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals.

Finally, the Wolves added another veteran defenseman, acquiring Chris Bigras from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for future considerations. The 27-year old defenseman has played for several different AHL teams over the course of his career. He most frequently plays on the right side but can be versatile enough to switch if needed.

Bigras’ performance has been up and down, largely likely due to the varied quality of the teams he played on. This year with the Penguins, he recorded three goals and seven assists over the course of 28 games. He missed nearly all of December with an injury, hence the limited action.