The Kenai River Brown Bears traded forward Brad LeLievre to the Corpus Christi (Texas) IceRays for forward Eric Purcell on Tuesday.
The Bears also re-acquired defenseman Jake Bushey from the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League. Forward Brody Decker was released in order to make room for Bushey on the 23-man roster.
Both Bushey and Purcell are expected back on the central Kenai Peninsula by tonight. They will be ready to play against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday and Saturday in Fairbanks.
Purcell, 20, was leading the IceRays with 15 points in 18 games at the time of the trade. Those 15 points also tie him for 16th in the league.
This is Purcell’s third year in the league. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder had 39 points in 59 games for Corpus in 2011-12, and 27 points in 54 games for the IceRays in 2012-13.
“We are getting a player that we feel fills a void for us,” Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “We felt we had unbalanced scoring, and they wanted to get a little bit younger.
“They got Brad and we got a guy who is a little bit older and a proven scorer in the league.”
With Purcell, the Bears now have four of the top 16 scorers in the league. Alec Butcher leads with 23 points, while Albin Karlsson is tied for 10th with 18 points and Sebastian Fuchs is tied for 16th with 15 points.
Beauparlant said the problem is Butcher, Karlsson and Fuchs have done 40 percent of the scoring. The coach said that number is way too high.
“It gives us a second level of scoring,” Beauparlant said of the trade. “He’s big, he skates well, he’s physical and he can put the puck in the back of the net.”
The Bears were forced to part with LeLievre, who joined the team last season and put up 19 points in 48 games.
LeLievre is just 18, so he is eligible to play two more years in the North American Hockey League after this season.
He got the first goal of his NAHL career Feb. 10, 2012, as a member of the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex against the Brown Bears.
“The reason for the trade is to give Brad an opportunity to be in a more prominent role,” Beauparlant said. “He’ll be a guy that they’ll be going to and giving every opportunity to be in the top six, which at this time we were not able to provide.”
IceRays coach John Becanic is familiar with LeLievre. Becanic was the coach of the Wild when LeLievre scored the game-winner on that February night in Soldotna.
“We give up a lot in Brad,” Beauparlant said. “He is one of the hardest-working guys on the team.
“He has offensive ability that has not materialized here. He’s always been a solid penalty killer and a great teammate. We wish him nothing but success with the IceRays.”
Bushey was called up to the Tier I USHL from the Tier II NAHL in mid-October due to the injury of a Fighting Saints defenseman.
Barring something unforeseen, Bushey was expected back in about three weeks and that is what played out.
“They just felt it’s in Jake’s best interest to get playing time as he pursues his college dream,” Beauparlant said of the Fighting Saints.
Bushey appeared in four games in Dubuque. He didn’t get a point and had four penalty minutes and was minus-2.
For the Bears, Bushey had nine points in just 12 games and was plus-2.
The Bears also announced Tuesday that they had tendered Ryan Meure from San Jose. Tenders allow teams to protect players from the draft. Kenai River has nine tenders left.
Meure, 16, a right-handed forward, plays for the San Jose Jr. Sharks U-16 team.
“He really fits our mold as a Brown Bear,” Beauparlant said. “He enjoys the outdoors, he’s excited to be a part of the organization and he’s one of those kids that can skate around the bigger rink.
“He reminds me a lot of a young Alex Jackstadt. He has that kind of potential, if not more.”