Pat Curcio continues to wheel and deal, searching for the right mix of players to propel the San Francisco Bulls forward as the Kelly Cup playoff race heats up.
With 19 games remaining, the Bulls’ head coach and president pulled the trigger on two major trades this week, bringing in a pair of NHL prospects, Tristan King and Bryan Cameron, in exchange for Alex Tuckerman, Martin Lee and Rylan Galiardi.
“I looked at our roster and we had to get a little better up front, more skill, guys who could finish,” Curcio said. “We had to make these deals.”
Right now, the Bulls (19-27-1-6) are losers in four of their last five games and they’re hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by only four points over the Bakersfield Condors.
The Bulls sent Tuckerman and Lee to the Utah Grizzlies on Tuesday to obtain Cameron, a third round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2007 NHL draft. Cameron was the Grizzlies second-leading scorer with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) and Curcio said his style of play reminds him of former-New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy.
“He’s more of scorer than Dean Ouellet,” Curcio said. “He’s up and down the wing and he just finds ways to score.”
But hooking Cameron wasn’t enough. The Bulls pulled off another blockbuster move on Wednesday, shipping Galiardi to the Idaho Steelheads for King, the team’s active leader in goals (18) and points (37) in 35 games.
“The kid is amazing,” Curcio said of the Dallas Stars prospect. “He’s now our highest points per game player.”
Curcio said the Steelheads were willing to part ways with King because he will become a free agent after the season.
“They wanted someone they could have for the future in Galiardi and for me, I’m looking to get into the playoffs, whether we can keep Tristan next year or not,” he said. “The next six weeks are more important than looking that far ahead.”
The Bulls coach said he likes the deals because the team acquired two top scorers for three players who weren’t necessarily daily fixtures in his lineup.
Lee rejoined the club less than a month ago and had been scratched from the lineup since defenseman Mikael Tam returned from AHL Worcester last week. Galiardi was acquired in the Justin Bowers deal in January, but he played only five games with the team before he was sidelined with concussion symptoms on Jan. 26.
“We haven’t had Galiardi in the last  games, Lee has only played two of the last 12 games and Tuckerman was a guy – if we were healthy – who might be rolling in and out of the lineup,” he said. “At the end of the day, these are trades I’m really excited about.”
The Bulls scored only one goal in back-to-back losses to the Stockton Thunder last weekend. But with Cameron and King on ice, Curcio said his club will have three lines that can put the puck in the net.
“If Deano (Ouellet) and Peter (Sivak) get shut down now, we’ve got a depth of guys who can score,” he said. “Against Stockton, they shut down our two best players and we had nothing else.”
Defenseman Cody Carlson will skate for the Bulls in the weekend’s contests against the Steelheads after X-rays on his foot returned negative. Curcio said Carlson’s status allowed him to package Lee with Tuckerman to acquire Cameron.
“If [Carlson] was going to be out for any length of time we would have had to rethink giving up Marty Lee,” he said.
Both Cameron and King will suit up for the Bulls this weekend against the Steelheads.