Players rest easy as deadline yields no casualties
Kamloops Blazers’ head coach Guy Charron might have noticed his team was a little distracted at practice on Tuesday, Jan. 10 — which was the WHL’s trade deadline day.
The Blue and Orange usually take the ice at about 1:50 p.m., 10 minutes before the bench boss begins conducting drills.
On Tuesday, that 2 p.m. start time doubled as the time at which all trades had to be submitted to WHL headquarters in Calgary.
“There is definitely that worrisome thought in your head,” said Brady Gaudet, a 17-year-old defenceman with the Blazers.
“There are so many emotions put into it because the outcomes can be so different.”
The Blazers practising would have no way of knowing they were part of a last-minute deal — if it weren’t for Gaudet and forward Ryan Hanes, both of whom sat out the Tuesday practice due to injury.
“Me and Hanesy were constantly on Twitter, hitting the refresh button, checking out whl.ca,” Gaudet said.
“A lot happened yesterday [Tuesday] and we were on top of everything, letting everyone know right away. We were leaning over the boards spilling out the news.”
As it turned out, any worrisome thoughts were for naught as Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner did not make any moves.
“After looking back, I was happy we did our deal when we did it,” said Bonner, who acquired 20-year-old forward Brandon Herrod from the Prince Albert Raiders on Dec. 31.
“Who knows what the price would have been yesterday? I couldn’t believe how high some of the prices were.”
Blazer defenceman Austin Madaisky spoke to KTW about the feeling in the room on Tuesday minutes before practice.
“Usually, by that point, everybody knows that they made it,” Madaisky said.
“But, you hear things and rumours leading up to the deadline.”
The 2010 Columbus Blue Jackets’ draft pick was surprised by some of the moves made on Tuesday, especially the deal that shook the Northern Capital.
Prince George traded the rights to 19-year-old sniper Brett Connolly to the league-leading Tri-City Americans in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2013, a conditional first-round pick in 2013 and a conditional second-round pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.
“Out of all the deals, I did not see that one coming,” he said.
Madaisky did, however, expect the Victoria Royals to part with 19-year-old forward Kevin Sundher, who on Monday, Jan. 9, was traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for defenceman Jordan Fransoo, 18, forward Dakota Conroy, 17, and a first-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft.
Bonner said the Blazers are “always looking for a defenceman,” but good blue-liners are hard to come by — and were going to cost the club a pretty penny at the deadline.
“Teams aren’t willing to give up defencemen and neither are we,” Bonner said.
Kamloops sits near the top of the Western Conference and is deep at every position, except goaltender.
That depth stands to improve when 19-year-old forward Jordan DePape returns from shoulder surgery.
“You sometimes forget about him,” Bonner said of DePape, who registered 21 goals and 48 points in 54 games last season.
“He is a pretty good addition that doesn’t cost us anything.”
Barring any setbacks, DePape is expected to return in March.
Until then, the Blazers will rely on the horses that got them to where they are, jostling for position with the league’s best teams.
“I believe in this group, the coaches believe in it and the ownership believes in it,” Bonner said.
“We feel we are as good as anybody in this conference.”