As a member of the Abbotsford Heat last season, Aldergrove native Matt Keith was afforded the luxury of playing as close to home as possible.
As of this fall, Keith could hardly be any further away. He signed a one-year contract last week with Orebro, a club in Sweden’s second division.
The 28-year-old forward chuckles when the geographical irony is mentioned to him.
“It’s funny – my buddies are wondering why I have to leave so early, since I have to go over there the first week of August,” he said. “But I’ve been around here for 18 months now, so it’s not so bad.
“It’s just part of the business. The way I look at it, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play (in Abbotsford). I’m proud of the way it went, and now it’s on to the next chapter.”
Keith is coming off a solid season with the Heat – he paced the scoring-challenged squad with 35 points (20 goals, 15 assists) in 77 games. He was also the team’s AHL Man of the Year award recipient, recognizing his contributions to the local community and charitable organizations.
Keith had talks with the NHL parent Calgary Flames about returning, but the two parties ended up parting ways.
“They just decided to go another way,” said Keith, alluding to the Flames’ signing of AHL veterans like Ben Walter, Guillaume Desbiens and Clay Wilson to two-way contracts. “I haven’t been on an NHL contract for three years now, and it was looking like, if anything, it was going to be another AHL contract from them (the Flames/Heat).
“Where I am right now in my career, I’m looking forward to going over to Europe and starting the next chapter, seeing where that takes me.”
Keith has some experience playing in Europe, having suited up for Germany’s Ingolstadt ERC in 2008-09. With Orebro, he’s been told he’ll play on a line with Jared Aulin, a former WHL standout with the Kamloops Blazers and a longtime AHLer.
“He’s a great offensive-minded guy, and that’ll make it easier,” Keith said. “I want to go with the mindset that I want to improve and get better, and keep as many doors open in North America as possible.”
SEABROOK SHIPPED TO PANTHERS FOR HENRY
Former Heat defenceman Keith Seabrook is also on the move. The Delta native was traded to the Florida Panthers on Saturday in exchange for fellow D-man Jordan Henry.
Seabrook, 22, showcased some offensive upside as a rookie pro in 2009-10, posting 10 goals and 18 assists with the Heat. He spent much of his sophomore season in former head coach Jim Playfair’s doghouse, though, and was loaned to the Manitoba Moose in late February in exchange for centre MacGregor Sharp.
Henry, a 26-year-old blueliner from Milo, Alta., signed with the Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He spent three seasons with the Rochester Americans, Florida’s AHL affiliate, before signing with Minsk Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia for the 2010-11 campaign.
Henry has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flames, and general manager Jay Feaster described him as a “two-way defenceman who plays with an edge.”
“He is a responsible and smart defender, yet he is also adept at joining the rush and pinching down the wall to support the offence,” Feaster said in a press release. “He is still a solid prospect and we viewed this trade as an opportunity to give two young players a new start with different organizations.”