Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Blades come out winners in a bonkers WHL trade deadline day

Max Gerlach (#9) battles for the puck for the Blades.
    A former standout veteran WHL executive once told me anybody in the league can be traded depending on what you want to give up.
    That played out to be true on Wednesday’s WHL trade deadline day, where 17 deals were made on that day alone before the deadline of 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time. That doesn’t include all the massive amount of moves that were made in the 10 days leading up to trade deadline day.
    When you step back and look at what was given up to get standouts that might be rentals for a maximum of five months, some of the WHL general managers and executives were out of their minds. Way too many deals were made in the fashion of an armchair general manager running a fantasy sports NHL team.
Netminder Tyler Brown (#31) helps out on the Blades bench.
    On the Saskatoon Blades front, credit has to be given to them for taking advantage of some good opportunities when they came about. Some of their good fortune was used to get a couple of good players they might not have originally thought they could pick up.
    Blades general manager Colin Priestner, his scouts and executive staff on the hockey side of things made the right hockey moves when it came to popular veterans Libor Hajek and Cameron Hebig when the Regina Pats camp calling. The Pats were stocking up their roster to be a solid host side when they host the Memorial Cup tournament from May 17 to 27. The Blades took advantage of a team in need.
    On Monday, Saskatoon sent Hajek, who is a 19-year-old import Czech defenceman and has a signed NHL entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, to Regina in exchange for 19-year-old defenceman Dawson Davidson, 16-year-old forward prospect Tristen Robins and a first round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Dawson Davidson jets up ice for the Blades.
    On Wednesday morning, the Blades and the Pats combined for another blockbuster. The Blades sent overage star centre and local product Hebig and 19-year-old goaltender Ryan Kubic to the Pats in exchange for overage star netminder Tyler Brown, 17-year-old right-winger Bryan Lockner, a first and a second round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, a third round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and a third round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft.
    The Blades proceeded to deal Lockner, a first round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a second round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for 19-year-old star centre Max Gerlach.
    Before deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the Blades made one more deal acquiring centre Eric Florchuk, who turned 18 on Wednesday, from the Victoria Royals for a first round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft and a fourth round selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft that was originally obtained from the Brandon Wheat Kings in an earlier deal. 
Bryan Lockner (#28) was dealt to the Tigers by the Blades.
    Florchuk was originally selected by the Royals in the first round and 13th overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.
    After the dust settled, the Blades managed to help themselves in the present as the arrivals of Brown, Gerlach and Davidson make up for the departures of Kubic, Hebig and Hajek. As a bonus, Brown is a big upgrade over Kubic, and Gerlach has the potential to return next season as an overager, while Hebig, who has an NHL entry-level contract signed with the Edmonton Oilers, will exhaust his major junior eligibility.
    Saskatoon now has one of the best goaltending tandems in the league with Brown being pair up with rookie sensation Nolan Maier, who turned 17 on Wednesday.
Max Gerlach zips into the offensive zone for the Blades.
    The Blades also helped themselves in the near future with the additions of Florchuk, who could potentially play the next three seasons in the WHL, and Robins, who appeared in one game with the Pats this season and could potentially play the next four campaigns in the WHL. Florchuk was in transit to join the Blades for the rest of the current campaign on Wednesday, while Robins currently plays for the Rink Hockey Academy prep team in Winnipeg, Man.
    On the WHL Bantam Draft front, the Blades came away with one less first round pick, one less fourth round selection, and they added two third round selections. The movement on the draft picks front won’t cause the Blades any pain, when it comes to building in the future.
Jaegar White, left, and Max Gerlach were teammates at Wednesday’s start.
    Overall, the Blades have to come away from this season’s action at the trade deadline feeling good about themselves. Their grade is an ‘A’ for what they accomplished.
    It should be noted they were able to do what they did on the trade front, because they didn’t want to trade Hajek or Hebig. Being in that position in a genuine state allowed the outrageous offers to materialize. 
    At the other end of the spectrum, the Pats might regret the fact they let Brown get away. They weren’t able to make a deal with another netminder, so they have to go through the rest of the season with Kubic, Max Paddock and Jacob Wasserman as their goals. Paddock and Wasserman are both in their 17-year-old rookie seasons.
    Only six players remain on the Pats roster who were full-time members of their squad that advanced to the WHL championship last season. They include forwards Sam Steel, Jake Leschyshyn, Nick Henry, Robbie Holmes and defencemen Josh Mahura and Liam Schioler. Regina is in for a challenging future in regards to playing the rest of the current campaign and a majorly challenging future when next season rolls around.
Rookie sensation Nolan Maier is now part of stellar goalie tandem. 
    The Blades will be a major contender to earn their first playoff berth since 2013 this season. Their prospects are also bright for future seasons.
    On Wednesday night with Gerlach and Davidson on the ice and Brown dressed as the backup goalie, the Blades dropped a 3-2 decision to the Tigers before 2,709 spectators at the SaskTel Centre.
Chase Wouters had a goal and an assist for the Blades, while Braylon Shmyr had a single. Gerlach picked up an assist in the setback.
    Gary Haden, Lockner and David Quenneville replied with singles for the Tigers.
    Maier made 43 stops to take the setback in goal for the Blades (21-19-2-1). Jordan Hollett turned away 31 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Tigers (23-16-3). Hollett was with the Pats last season and was dealt to the Tigers shortly after Regina lost out in the WHL championship series last May.
The Blades hope to celebrate a number of goals with their new additions.
    The Blades hold the second wildcard berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and they have a seven point cushion in the standings over the Prince Albert Raiders (15-18-6-2). The Raiders have two game in hand on the Blades.
    Saskatoon is a point behind Regina in the standings for the first Eastern Conference wildcard berth after the Pats record moved to 21-19-4 after a 4-3 loss in overtime at home to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday night. The Blades have a game in hand on the Pats.
    The Blades return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Red Deer to face the Rebels.

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