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Sunday, October 1, 2023
Home Opinion Quirky WHL deadline passes with ho, hum action

Quirky WHL deadline passes with ho, hum action

Quirky WHL deadline passes with ho, hum action
The Prince Albert Raiders celebrate a second period goal by Cale Sanders at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday, Oct. 16. -- Kyle Kosowan/Daily Herald

Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

When it comes to trades in the WHL, it is always advisable for teams to make deals well before the WHL trade deadline. As the trade deadline nears, normally the prices to make a deal tend to go up, especially if you are trying to pry a good veteran player away from another team.

With the world still in the grips of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this season’s WHL trade deadline was expected to have its quirks. The first quirk was the fact the deadline came Monday at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on the date of January 17.
In most seasons, the trade deadline falls on January 10. This year’s deadline was pushed back a week due to the fact the WHL regular season started about 10 days later than usual.

Despite the quirks in a season where the COVID-19 specter is present, it is best to try and get deals done way before the deadline. The Prince Albert Raiders went this smart route. General manager Curtis Hunt and head coach Marc Habscheid have been wise men in the game for a long time, and their experience shows through when it comes to dealing with the trade deadline.

The Raiders biggest trade this season came on December 1, 2021. In that deal, the Raiders dealt captain and star 19-year-old defenceman Kaiden Guhle to the Edmonton Oil Kings for right-winger Carson Latimer, who is in his 18-year-old season, 17-year-old defenceman Eric Johnston, a first round selection in the 2021 Prospects Draft, a sixth round selection in the 2022 Prospects Draft, a first round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft and a conditional third round pick in the 2025 Prospects Draft.

In the Prospects Draft held on December 9, 2021, the Raiders used the 2021 first round selection they got from the Oil Kings to select 15-year-old forward Cole Peardon from the Saskatoon Blazers under-18 AAA team. Latimer and Johnston have already started to make decent impacts on Raiders roster. Latimer has three goals and 11 assists in his first 11 games with the Raiders, while Johnston has a goal and two assists in his first 10 games in Prince Albert.

On December 31, 2021, the Raiders made a key move in acquiring some immediate size for the back end. They acquired 19-year-old defenceman Trevor Thurston, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 198 pounds, and a sixth round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for 18-year-old winger Tyson Laventure and defenceman Ross Stanley, who is in his 17-year-old season. Thurston will likely be with the Raiders for a 20-year-old campaign.

The Raiders didn’t make any deals on trade deadline day with their last trade coming on January 10, when they dealt the WHL rights of 18-year-old forward Logan Linklater to the Regina Pats in exchange for a conditional eighth round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft.

On this year’s deadline day, a total of nine trades were made, which was kind of par for the course. From January 12 to 16, no trades were made in the WHL.

Overall, it was more of a quiet trade front. That was likely due to the fact teams got spooked with COVID-19 issues causing numerous games to be postponed since returning from the WHL Christmas break.

In Canada’s other two major junior leagues that play under the CHL umbrella, the OHL has dealt with numerous schedule disruptions due to COVID-19 issues since returning from that circuit’s Christmas break, and the QMJHL still hasn’t returned from its Christmas break having last hit the ice for games on December 18, 2021. That circuit is now eyeing a return to regular season play on February 1.

Clubs in the WHL have to have a little trepidation what the this season’s WHL post-season could look like and have legitimate worry about the status of the CHL championship tournament in the Memorial Cup, which is slated for June 4-13 in Saint John, New Brunswick.

When the trade deadline came during the 2019-20 campaign, no one at that time expected the entire CHL post-season would cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 12 trades were made on the WHL trade deadline day of January 10, 2020. A total of nine trades were made on January 9, 2020 and three deals were done on January 8, 2020.

The Oil Kings, who sit third overall in the WHL with a 26-9-2-1 record entering play Tuesday, are the one club that truly went all in for this year. On Monday, they sent 19-year-old left-winger Jacob Boucher, a first round selection in the 2022 Prospects Draft and a first round pick in the 2025 Prospects Draft to the Vancouver Giants in exchange for Giants captain and star 19-year-old centre Justin Sourdif.

With the trades for Guhle and Sourdif, the Oil Kings have dealt away four first round draft selections including three picks to be used in the next four Prospects Drafts.

In the WHL’s Eastern Conference, the Oil Kings were the franchise that was pegged to have deep runs in the WHL post-seasons that were nixed due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. In 2019-20, they topped the Eastern Conference with a 42-12-6-4 record, and they topped the WHL in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign with a 20-2-0-1 record. It appears the Edmonton franchise is intent on making up for those lost opportunities.

During these COVID-19 times, using trades to load up for one season is a bigger gamble than normal, because you might not get that post-season run.

If you need to get trades done, it is still best to do them way before the deadline no matter the circumstances