The Quad-City Mallards can be eliminated from the playoffs this week, so they're turning their attention to next year.
The Mallards made a bevy of big moves Tuesday, including trading Sam Warning, who had been with the team for three seasons, and current leading scorer Brayden Low.
The Mallards also traded defenseman Kyle Bigos — who had been suspended by the team on Monday — to Jacksonville for financial considerations and signed forward Huba Sekesi to an amateur tryout agreement.
Goaltender Ivan Kulbakov was also recalled from the Mallards by the AHL's Cleveland Monsters.
The moves come two days before Thursday's ECHL trade deadline, and while it may signify the Mallards are selling on this season, head coach Phil Axtell sees it as investing for the future.
"I really kind of see it as buying for next year," Axtell said. "We get a little more experienced, but still young. They're coming from winning organizations, and that's what we need to do."
The Mallards traded Warning's ECHL rights to the Florida Everblades in exchange for forward Quentin Shore, future considerations and financial considerations.
Warning has been up with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda since Feb. 1, but when he left the Mallards he led the team with 16 goals and 31 points. After three years with the Mallards, he ranks 21st in franchise history with 174 games played, 14th with 56 goals and 26th with 116 points, including 60 assists.
"It's really hard," Axtell said of trading Warning. "It was a privilege. For him to come in after an injury, almost be the odd man out ... to go from there in his first year and then last year, putting up 50-plus points and 20-plus goals, and this year, having the start he did, for him to earn an opportunity to be called up to the American League, it's awesome."
Shore joins the Mallards after playing 45 games with the Everblades this season, scoring 11 goals and adding 16 assists. A sixth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators in 2013, he played 56 games with the Manchester Monarchs last year, scoring 18 goals and adding 25 assists and also scored a goal in 13 AHL games with the Ontario Reign.
"He's a winner," Axtell said. "Everywhere he goes, he wins, and I heard a lot of good things about Quentin, on and off the ice."
Low, whom the Mallards traded to Wichita for forward Nick Bligh and future considerations, led the Mallards with 17 goals and 39 points in 58 games this season, a big step after last year with Rapid City when he scored just three times and had seven points in 42 games.
Bligh, 25, has scored nine goals and added 13 assists in 34 games split between the Thunder and Indy Fuel this season. He scored 15 goals and added 13 assists in 41 games divided between the Fuel, South Carolina Stingrays and Adirondack Thunder last year.
"He had a big year compared to last year," Axtell said of Low. "He wanted to try and make a run with a playoff team, and I felt like Nick could chip in on offense and help."
The Low-Bligh trade will make an impact right away as the Thunder host the Mallards today.
Sekesi joins the Mallards after four college seasons at Division III St. John's University. Sekesi, 24, scored three goals and added 11 assists in 21 games as a senior this season. In his college career, the Munich, Germany, native scored 25 goals and added 40 assists in 94 games.
Kulbakov returns to the Monsters, where he's gone 0-4-0 with a 3.95 goals against average and a .865 save percentage. He has gone 11-11-0 with a 3.63 goals against average and .902 save percentage.
Axtell said he wasn't necessarily done before Thursday's trade deadline and will continue looking toward the future as this season comes to a close.
"I always have my ears open, and there's a couple players on the team that I've got phone calls about," he said. "But the trade offers aren't as lucrative as the ones I've made today."
These roster moves, along with trading Tristan King to Allen last week, means the Mallards have lost over 25 percent of their scoring from the season.
Though it's suddenly a much different team than the one that played at the TaxSlayer Center on Sunday, Axtell said he isn't waving the white flag, nor does it allow the remaining players to play with any less intensity.
"In my eyes," he said. "this is encouragement for the remaining players to perform even better."
This week: The Mallards hit the road this week, traveling to Wichita, Kansas, to face the Thunder at INTRUST Bank Arena today at 7 p.m. The Mallards are 1-2-1 against the Thunder this year.
The Mallards then travel to Toledo, Ohio, to face the Toledo Walleye at the Huntington Center on Friday and Saturday at 6:15 p.m. The Mallards are 1-2-0 against the Walleye this season.
All games can be heard on Fox Sports Radio 1230AM.