KENNEWICK -- They don't call him Trader Bob for nothing.
Tri-City Americans general manager Bob Tory traded prospect Zach McPhee to the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday afternoon for 19-year-old defenseman Paul Sohor.
An hour and a half later, Tory was at it again, this time trading 20-year-old defenseman Zak Stebner to the Kelowna Rockets to get down to the league maximum of three overage players.
"This was probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make here in the Tri-Cities," Tory said. "You get to know them as people and players. Sometimes you can't please everyone."
With forward Neal Prokop returning from a broken left femur suffered in March, the Americans' pool of overage players had been one over the limit the last two weeks.
Since Prokop was on the injured list, the Western Hockey League gave Tory a two-week window to evaluate his players.
"It was a difficult decision," Tory said. "We had to do what is best for the hockey team. I care about them more than just hockey players. Trades have impacts on lives beyond hockey. We wanted to make sure we did what is right for the team and for the players."
Along with 6-foot-3, 206-pound Stebner, the Americans sent the Rockets a 2011 seventh-round bantam draft pick. Tri-City will get Kelowna's fourth-round bantam pick in 2011 and its eighth-round pick in 2012.
"We were up against the deadline," Tory said. "I would have liked to have kept all four. I wanted to make sure whoever it was had a place to play and a good place to play. Bruce (Hamilton, Kelowna GM) treats his players well. Credit Kelowna for being fair. They had interest in Zak when we got him from Calgary."
Joining Prokop on the Americans' overage list are captain Kruise Reddick and assistant captain Tyler Schmidt.
"We saw Neal return to the same form he had last year and we thought he could continue that," Tory said. "He was a big part of this team last year. There was interest in Reddick and Schmidt, but they are the fabric of our team. They have been here for five years and you want to see those players finish with your program."
Stebner, who played in the Memorial Cup with Calgary last year, had seven assists in 15 games with the Americans and was paired with Brock Sutherland and Schmidt on the blue line.
"All four are great kids," Tory said. "In the short time Zak has been here, he endeared himself to the community. I probably couldn't have done that if I hadn't acquired Paul Sohor earlier today."
Sohor, a 6-1, 190-pounder from East St. Paul, Manitoba, is in his third year in the WHL. He's played 109 games -- all with Everett -- handing out six assists and totaling 82 penalty minutes. In 13 games with Everett this year, Sohor had no points and 20 penalty minutes.
"We hope Paul can re-energize his career here," Tory said. "We hope he can come in and make a smooth transition. He's a solid stay-at-home defenseman who will give us depth going into the second half of the season. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do in an Americans' uniform."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; email@example.com