by Jason Karnosky | AHL On The Beat
In the salary cap era early-season trades are a rare sight in the National Hockey League.
An October deal in the American Hockey League? You might has well have found a four-leaf clover being chased by leprechaun.
Yet on October 24, 2016, Milwaukee and Springfield pulled off what amounted to an AHL blockbuster. The Admirals acquired eight-year NHL veteran defenseman Adam Pardy in exchange for forward Eric Robinson, defenseman Teddy Doherty and goaltender Brandon Whitney.
“Usually you don’t see these kinds of moves this early in the season,” Pardy said. “It’s been a strange start to the year, but I’m excited to be with this (Predators) organization.”
The 32-year-old blueliner welcomed the move as it represented a chance to play his way back into the NHL.
“Every year there are some challenges and adversity that comes your way,” Pardy said. “The reason why I lasted eight years in the NHL was because I always put the work in. I’m still trying to get back to the NHL (full-time) and to be the best player I can be.”
Admirals coach Dean Evason knew exactly what kind of player his team was picking up in Pardy. The positive impact on his new team was immediate and impressive.
“(Adam)’s a veteran guy that’s played over 300 games in the National Hockey League,” Evason said. “He’s been there and he’s done that, but if you talk to him or watch him on the ice, he doesn’t act like he’s above anybody here.”
At the time of the trade Pardy was strictly on an AHL deal, playing in hockey’s top development league on a full-time basis for the first time since 2007-08 (with the Quad City Flames). It was a bitter pill for the veteran to swallow and a far cry from his previous eight years of playing mostly in hockey’s top league.
After being drafted in the sixth round by Calgary in 2004, Pardy went on to play three seasons for the Flames from 2008-11 — a tenure that included six playoff games and all four of his NHL goals. Future NHL stops included Dallas, Buffalo, two-and-half years with Winnipeg, and a disappointing end of the 2015-16 season with Edmonton.
“I know I’m a lot better than what happened last year in Winnipeg (and Edmonton),” Pardy said of a season in which he played only 23 games between the Jets and Oilers. “For me this opportunity is just about getting back to playing, getting to feel good again on the ice and reacting out there.”
Despite last season’s struggles Pardy had no interest in giving up on his NHL dream. In the offseason he tried out with a Florida Panthers organization that had spent much of the summer acquiring veteran assets.
“I didn’t know if I was even going to get a NHL deal this summer, so I started to contemplate different things,” Pardy said. “Even though I’ve been a pro for 12 years, I wasn’t ready to hang them up. I told my agent just to get me a deal so I could work my way back to the NHL.”
Pardy failed to make the Panthers, and though he later signed with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield, the Thunderbirds kept him on as a healthy scratch. That point could have easily represented the end of Pardy’s playing days.
“To go through camp in Florida and not even make the team, get released and then spend two or three weeks in Springfield and not even play, was difficult,” Pardy said. “It felt like it was ‘here it goes again’ like last year in Winnipeg.”
A trade to Milwaukee breathed life back into Pardy’s career. The oldest Admirals player made an instant impact on is new teammates and on the AHL.
“When the opportunity arose to move to Nashville, I was pretty excited,” Pardy said. “Getting here to Milwaukee, I really like the city. The coaching staff here is great and the team is great. I’ve had a great time being and playing here.”
In his first game with the Admirals, Pardy picked up his team’s lone goal — the defenseman’s first since March 19, 2013, with the Rochester Americans. Two nights later Pardy added two assists (and was a plus-4) as Milwaukee routed rival Rockford 7-3.
“Adam’s a great guy and I’ve had a lot of fun playing with him,” said Admirals rookie Alexandre Carrier, who’s been Pardy’s usual defensive pairing mate in Milwaukee. “He’s a very experienced NHL guy, a leader for us who takes care of a lot of details.”
Throughout November, Pardy was terrific on Milwaukee’s blue line, preventing opportunities against while transitioning the game the other direction. Pardy has also made significant impact offensively — a crucial element necessary to find his way back to the NHL on a long-term basis.
“I’ve always thought of myself as more of a two-way defenseman, but at the NHL level I had to adjust my game to whatever situation I was in,” Pardy said. “Here in the AHL and playing more than 20 minutes a night, I could start to see that part of my game coming back and it feels more and more comfortable.”
In his first 16 games for the Admirals, Pardy scored a pair of goals and added four assists. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound defender is also a clear physical presence for the team, racking up 18 penalty minutes, while posting a plus-6 rating.
“There are a lot of young guys on our blue line and having (Adam) back there takes a little bit of the pressure off of us,” Milwaukee defenseman Trevor Murphy said. “He’s a really good player, who’s strong and can do a lot on the ice. He was a really good pick up for our organization.”
While his career was declining in Winnipeg, Nashville’s management took notice of the newly rejuvenated Pardy and gave the defenseman a coveted two-way NHL contract on November 30, 2016.
“It was great to get the new contract,” Pardy said. “That’s what I worked for and what I came here for — to get back to the NHL. I knew there was that opportunity here in Milwaukee.”
The new deal was a clear statement that the Predators organization was impressed with Pardy’s play. It also showed an eagerness on Nashville’s part to have him ready at a moment’s notice for NHL game action.
“Adam’s new contract was 100 percent well-deserved,” Evason said. “He’s come in and provided us with a real calming atmosphere on the back-end. He’s a great teacher for our guys.”
Shortly after signing the new contract, the Predators called Pardy up and his return to the NHL came on December 8 against Dallas. After another stint in Milwaukee, the defenseman added three more games in a Nashville uniform before returning to the Admirals to start the new year.
“Not that long ago I was just practicing with Springfield, so it’s amazing how far I’ve come,” Pardy said. “It’s been rewarding knowing that all of the work I put in at this stage in my career resulted in getting to play again in the NHL.”
Whether the rest of Pardy’s 2016-17 campaign features games in Milwaukee or Nashville, the revitalized blueliner is sure to make a positive impact on and off the ice. Time will tell whether or not this is the last hurrah of a distinguished career, but even if it is, at least Pardy will be going out on his own terms.
“At this point of my career I have to take it year-by-year, and even day-by-day with how I approach things,” Pardy said. “I’m not ready to walk away from the game at this point, so if I want to keep playing, I have to keep putting the work in and appreciate what I’m doing.”