Oh, Anton. (You came and you saved without tanking?) We all knew you were probably gone after this year anyway, but still. Traded away on the last second of Trade Deadline Day. It seems so cold and impersonal, especially since the parent team made the deal and not the Aeros. Seems like we should have had a chance to throw a farewell party or something. But alas, that ain't the way it goes in pro sports, especially not in the minor leagues.
It was a bitter end to a really dull deadline day. Only two or three deals that had much bite to them. Lots of teams shipping off minor leaguers or late picks. The most interesting part of the day came when Canadian blogger Down Goes Brown jokingly suggested everybody on twitter send a message to Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul at the same time wishing him luck on Long Island, and then somehow it got reported on the Flyers' official web site that Lupul had been dealt to the Islanders. DGB posted a tweet that said, "*Sigh* Sorry about that, Twitter." Other than that, the day was a snoozer.
And then, just before everyone packed up and went home, Russo came out with a message that the Wild had made a "minor-league deal" that would be announced shortly. And an hour later, you were gone. Good luck in Providence.
Longtime WBW readers will remember my fairly frequent posts about the Aeros' spectacular run to game six of the 2009 AHL Western Conference Final. I couldn't help it. That year's playoff run was so much stinking fun. We won two game seven's on the road against two heavily favored teams, played multiple overtime games, instituted the Magic Shirt and the Magic Double-Overtime Oven-Baked Pizza. We had the "Get Blown Out 8-0 One Night & Turn Around to Eliminate Them In Their Own Building" story. We had the "Game Delayed Because The Team's Flight Was Re-routed Through New Orleans Due To A Torrential Downpour In The Midwest, Team Hops Directly On The Bus To The Yo From The Plane, Wins The Freaking Game Anyway" story. But the greatest story of the first two rounds (both upsets) had to be young Anton Khudobin, the third-string rookie goalie who came out of nowhere to beat both the Peoria Rivermen and the second-seeded Milwaukee Admirals just to get us to the Conference Final. And the kid was so gosh-darn nice. It was impossible not to love him! Possibly the highlight of the season came when Anton was named the first star of the game after shutting out the Ads on home ice on his 21st birthday. (22nd? 23rd? I think it was 21st) The whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to Anton, with the kid standing at center ice, waving his stick and grinning from ear to ear.
When Josh Harding went down before the season started (which sucked, by the way), I was stoked that Anton was going to get a chance to play in the NHL consistently. (He was fairly awesome in spot duty last season) However, the Wild signed Jose Theodore (another great story/great guy) and Anton was AHL bound again. With Matt Hackett playing better hockey and Darcy Keumper waiting in the wings and Dennis Endras penciled in to be the Wild's backup next year, it was obvious that Anton just wasn't in the long-term plans anymore.
Still. The last trade on trade deadline day. Even though the return is good, and the D-man we're getting back is going to help the team, and we'll be just fine calling Josh Tjordman up from the ECHL, I liked Anton. He was one of the last ties to that 2009 playoff team, and that was a fun team. Even if he goes back to Europe after this season (not unlikely), he'll always have a special place in my hockey-loving heart for that magical month in the spring of 2009.
Best of luck, Anton. *stick tap*