For 3 1/2 seasons, Marcus Messier wore the red, white and blue of the Tri-City Americans. Tonight, he still will be in red, white and blue, but that of the Spokane Chiefs.
The Americans made a rare trade with their biggest rival Friday morning, sending Messier, 19, to the Chiefs for forward Jackson Playfair, 19.
“We were talking about something totally different,” said Spokane general manager Tim Speltz of his conversation with Americans GM Bob Tory. “I didn’t expect in the end we would have a footprint for a trade.”
It was the second big-name player the Americans traded in two days, as Tory sent second-leading scorer Connor Rankin to the Calgary Hitmen on Thursday. Rankin and Messier were the two longest-tenured players on the team.
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Friday’s trade was the first one Tory has made with Spokane since taking over as GM 13 seasons ago.
“The only other trade I’ve made with Tim was when I was with Kootenay,” Tory said. “Spokane had interest in Marcus and I thought we needed to make a change. This was an opportunity to get a player like Jackson. He’s a power forward — we expect him to play a physical game.”
Messier, who was in the Chiefs’ lineup Friday night against Kamloops, said the trade — and his destination — came as a shock.
“It’s been a tough couple of days,” said Messier, who will wear No. 13 in Spokane. “It’s always hard, but it’s the nature of the business. I will really miss the boys and what this organization has done for me.”
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Messier was one of the Americans’ top penalty killers and a solid defensive forward. The native of Canmore, Alberta, had five goals, 15 assists and 10 penalty minutes in 39 games this season. In 195 career games, he has 21 goals with 35 assists and 57 penalty minutes.
“I think we’ve seen him enough,” Speltz said. “We have a lot of respect for the way he plays. Marcus has a lot of experience and can help our younger guys. He can help us make a push the last 32 games. It was tough to give up Jackson, who is such a physical player.”
Messier, who was a second-round bantam pick by the Americans in 2009, said he knows a few players in Spokane, and his older brother Jordan played for Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur when he was behind the Americans’ bench.
“There will be some familiar faces and Don is a great coach,” Messier said. “I will do what I can to make them better. This trade came as a complete shock to me, but I guess Don saw something in me.”
The Americans and Chiefs play each other 12 times a season. They still have seven matchups left, the next Jan. 18 at Toyota Center.
“It will be interesting playing in a rival’s jersey,” Messier said. “It’s so hard for me to comment. Tim and Don have been really great about everything. I’m excited to be a Chief. I never thought I’d say that.”
Being just two hours from the Tri-Cities has helped Messier cope with the trade.
“I will get to see the boys a lot,” he said. “It’s not good-bye forever, which is important.”
The 6-1, 215-pound Playfair flew to Everett for the Americans’ game Friday night. Listed by Spokane in September 2012, Playfair played 89 career games with the Chiefs, recording six goals, nine assists and 124 penalty minutes.
A native of Fort St. James, British Columbia, Playfair is the older brother of Americans prospect Austyn Playfair, who signed with Tri-City in August. They are the sons of Phoenix Coyotes associate coach Jim Playfair.