Arena bargain buy

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SHEFFIELD Steelers were the surprise recipient today of a new American forward - as they benefited from another club’s financial misfortunes.

Coventry Blaze off-loaded comparative high-earner Luke Fulghum, shortly after bringing in cheaper labour in the form of Czech forward Frantisek Bakrlik. It is a coup for Sheffield coach Ryan Finnerty - who has been trying to find a defenceman to replace injured Rod Sarich. The search for defence coverage continues, but Finnerty said: “For us to be able to sign a player of this quality in December is unheard of.

“It was a one-off deal we could not turn down. Luke has the ability to score 20 or 25 goals from now to the end of the season and there aren’t many players who can do that.”

Fulghum, a 31-year-old former Manchester Phoenix skater, will play tomorrow (Cardiff Devils, home, 7pm) on the same side as RG Flath - but that won’t be for long. Flath has indicated that he wants to return to America, so his slot will go to Fulghum.

While Coventry have not gone into details about finances, it is unlikely there were any other reasons to get rid of their third highest scorer who has scooped 28 points in 26 games so far.

On their website, Coach Paul Thompson would only state: “We would like to thank Luke for all his efforts over the last two and a half years and we wish him every success in the future.”

The player has said he is “shocked and disappointed” to have been ditched from the line up.

“I have been there three seasons and felt part of the organisation” he said. “But I understand the reasons and in the long term this may be the best move for myself and the two clubs.”

Fulghum, from Colorado Springs, is a right winger who can both score and set up goals.

His best year in the Midlands was his first, in 2009-10, when he notched 48 goals and 32 assists (80pts) in 56 games. Before that, he has played at AHL level for Toronto Marlies and Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Steelers are continuing to negotiate the signature of a Central League hockey defenceman.

The CV of a French Canadian blue liner has also come across Finnerty’s desk.

Meanwhile, Flath obviously feels he has better options on the other side of the Atlantic. He has been averaging a point every other game for the Elite champions.

Fulghum will take to the Arena ice tomorrow with skipper Jonathan Phillips, who returns from long term injury. Finnerty said: “Jono isn’t a skilled guy like Mike Ramsay who was a bit tenative about coming back and may take some time to adjust after injury. Jono just gets straight back on with it.”