From Manchester to Rapid City- All in a Day’s Work
The ECHL Trade Deadline is an interesting day for teams, players, and fans alike. Teams are trying to acquire talent for a playoff push or younger players who have potential for future success with those teams. Players are waiting to see if they will be relocated for the rest of the season, or if their teammates will be sent off in exchange for new faces. Fans are on edge wondering if their team will acquire the player needed for a Kelly Cup run, or uneasy about their favorite player possibly being dealt away to another team.
Rapid City Rush forward Alex Rauter got to experience all of these emotions first hand during this year’s Trade Deadline Day on March 7, 2019. Standard trades on/around an ECHL Trade Deadline Day have a player being traded to one team. It is rare that a player then will be sent to another new team by the deadline. However, in a completely rare occurrence, Rauter was not only moved once, not even twice, but three times, which means that he was on four team’s rosters in the span of a few hours.
Rauter spent most of the season with the Wheeling Nailers before being traded to the Manchester Monarchs on February 20. Rauter had 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points in 44 games with Wheeling.
“I can’t thank those guys in Wheeling for giving me the opportunity to play, it was a great place to start,” Rauter reflected on the start of his first full professional season.
When Rauter was traded to Manchester, he was the “future considerations” in part of a deal that sent his former teammate Zac Lynch to Wheeling.
“It was honestly a surprise. All season we knew that Manchester was owed future considerations for Lynch on Wheeling, and we knew at some point that Manchester was going to claim someone, but we weren’t sure when,” Rauter said. “They were having a real good year and we (Wheeling) were trying to make the playoffs as well.”
On February 19, he got the call. “So one morning I got the call from Coach Bavis (Wheeling Nailers Head Coach Mike Bavis) telling me that the Monarchs were claiming me and there wasn’t much he could do about the situation.”
When professional athletes are traded, it’s easy to envision a team car arriving to bring them to their new destination. In Rauter’s case, it wasn’t quite as glamorous as one may envision.
“I had to pack up my car with everything that I had, since I was in Wheeling since training camp, and then make the drive all the way up to Manchester. It was pretty long honestly, but it was definitely worth it. I got in at 2 am and ended up playing in my first game later that night,” Rauter recalled of the journey to Manchester ahead of the Monarchs game versus the Worcester Railers on February 20. “I actually scored my first goal with the Monarchs that night, which was a pretty cool experience.”
Although Rauter was only on the Manchester roster for only a short time, he found himself fitting in nicely.
“I loved it there. It was a great place to play and they had a beautiful facility. The town was awesome to play in and the fans were great,” Rauter said. “They had a great group of guys that played an up-tempo type of game, and I thought things were going really well. I was playing well, we were winning, which was great.”
Though Rauter was performing on the ice while in Manchester, the team’s NHL Affiliate, the Los Angeles Kings, moved several players which ultimately resulted in more movement for Rauter.
“Right before the Trade Deadline, the LA Kings sent down two forwards (to Manchester) from the AHL that were on contracts. Then one of our defenseman got hurt for the season. Another one of our defenseman got called up as well. So we gained two forwards and lost two defenseman,” Rauter recalled the movements that unfolded in Manchester before he was traded. “After this, I kind of knew a move was coming, but not sure who it would be and when exactly it would happen. All I figured was that it would be me since I had just arrived, and then that’s when Deadline Day happened”.
While fans often speculate about player movements close to a Trade Deadline, it’s unique to hear a player himself acknowledge this thought process. In his stint with the Monarchs, Rauter registered one goal and one assist in six games.
Then there was March 7. Rauter woke up as a member of the Monarchs. He would finish the day on a team nearly 2,000 miles across the country, but not before some excitement in between.
Before Rauter explained how the news was broken to him regarding his trades, he paused and started by saying, “It was really wild.”
“It unfolded slowly but surely,” Rauter exclaimed. “The Manchester coaches were really nice and they wanted to send me somewhere where I could get a lot of playing time. That morning (March 7) they called and said they sent me to Allen (Americans) for a defenseman, which is what the team needed.”
Rauter recalled the next part of his Deadline Day journey, “moving on, Allen owed Fort Wayne (Komets) future considerations. So an hour later, I got sent to Fort Wayne as part of a future considerations deal. This was basically the same thing that brought me from Wheeling to Manchester, but now ended up taking me from Allen to Fort Wayne. The Manchester coach let me know that I had been claimed by Fort Wayne, but he also let me know that they were probably going to move me again.”
While fans and media typically spend this day scouring the internet for any news on movements from their team of choice, Rauter recalled what it was like to live through this day when your life is affected by it.
“I was just sitting there all day waiting to see what unfolded. I didn’t know anything until after the Trade Deadline, which was around 3:30 P.M., when I finally got a call from the Monarchs coach letting me know that Fort Wayne had sent me to Rapid City for a veteran defenseman. I thought ‘Wow, that’s crazy.”
For Rauter, who is in his first full professional season, it’s clear that his first Trade Deadline Day is one he will always remember. “It was a whirlwind day because there was so much movement. I also knew that Fort Wayne had a bunch of forwards from when I played them, so I kind of figured they weren’t going to keep me. Being a part of four teams in one day is kind of funny when you think about it, but I am happy to have found a home in Rapid City.”
Rauter mentioned that his original plan on Trade Deadline Day was to return to his hometown in New Jersey to pack once he learned he had been traded, and Newark (NJ) was a larger airport than Manchester. Originally, Rauter’s plan was to go home and pack during the day (of the Trade Deadline) and then catch a flight at night. Once he was informed he would be moving to a few teams, he decided to stay put in Manchester until the deadline passed. Rauter’s teammate with Manchester, Dexter Dancs, was also traded to Rapid City in a separate deal. Once Rauter realized that Dancs was also heading to Rapid City, he waited for him to pack his belongings before the two drove together back to New Jersey.
The two former Monarchs embarked on a journey from Newark, NJ to Rapid City, SD that started with a flight at 6 a.m. ET on Friday, March 8. “He’s a great guy, and it was nice to have him go through the whole experience with me,” Rauter mentioned.
Dancs and Rauter arrived to their new home in time to suit up for the Rush game that night versus Mountain Division foe, the Utah Grizzlies.
“I had my first fight, and both of us had our first points with the Rush, which is pretty awesome,” Rauter recalled of his first game in the Rush uniform. “I also played with Myles McGurty growing up in New Jersey, so it was cool to get to play with him again as well.”
Now three weeks removed from the trade deadline, Rauter is settling in to his new team and making an impact with six points in ten games. “I’m pretty happy now. We have a great group of fans, coaches, and players, and all I have to worry about now is playing, and nothing else.”
Rauter helped the Rush beat the playoff-bound Grizzlies in four of his first five games with Rapid City. On March 18, Rauter had the game winning goal to help Rapid City defeat the Grizzlies 4-3, earning himself first star of the night.
Rauter is settled in Rapid City. It was not the most routine way for him to end up there, but he’s there, and he is making an impact. It’s the journey that matters, not only the destination; and Rauter is proving that by performing in his new home, 1,400 miles from Wheeling, and 1,900 from Manchester. From Manchester to Rapid City, through Allen and Fort Wayne, this crazy roller coaster ride is finally over, and Rauter is a member of the Rush for the rest of the season, after a Trade Deadline Day that he and the ECHL will never forget.