Raider GM Curtis Hunt reflects on WHL trade deadline

Herald File Photo. Prince Albert Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt delivers a speech in 2018

It’s been more than a week since the trade deadline in the WHL has passed and the Prince Albert Raiders have their eyes firmly set on making a postseason push for the second consecutive season.

Raider general manager Curtis Hunt made a total of eight trades throughout the 2022-2023 season including moving on from some major contributors on the Prince Albert Roster.

Hunt says it was evident that the Raiders needed to add more scoring and youth to their lineup at the start of the season.

“I think it was pretty clear early in the season that our strength was our goaltending and our defense. I didn’t think we would struggle to score as much as we did. I thought we might’ve gotten Ozzy [Wiesblatt] back which would’ve supplemented the scoring. As it went on, it became clear that we needed to make some changes and change the age dynamic to give us a chance to get into the playoffs because we were slowly losing ground.”

The Raiders have made major strides to their forward core this season acquiring the likes of Carter Anderson, Brayden Dube, Gabe Ludwig and Aiden Oiring via trade throughout the course of the season.

Hunt says it took a while for trades to come to fruition but the play of the Raiders as of recently has shown to be a different team than at the start of the season.

“Unfortunately, these things take a little bit more time than you want. But there were some key players that we had targeted and there were a few players on our team that other teams targeted. It was always our goal, and it remains our goal to get into the postseason. Our post-Christmas play has shown a better team, a faster team and a more tenacious team.”

It was Curtis Hunt and the Prince Albert Raiders who made the first major trade of 2022-2023 season when captain Nolan Allan was traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Nov. 16 in exchange for a trio of players in Brayden Dube, Gabe Ludwig, and Easton Kovacs, along with six draft selections.

Hunt says it was important to him to make trades early in the season to allow the Raiders to gel as a team and form chemistry.

“The number one priority our team has is to become a team. That was one of the reasons I wanted to get deals done earlier is to get the group together to become a team and to allow the coaches more time to work with or players to find the chemistry in our lines and specials teams.” Hunt says.  “I feel the coaches have done a terrific job in what hasn’t been an ideal situation. Recognizing that early gave us opportunity allowed us to move Nolan [Allan] a little earlier than I would’ve like to. It was important to get that support up front. The goal remains the same for this year, I believe we are playoff team for sure next year. We are concerned about doing everything we can this year to give us a chance at getting into the postseason.”

Aiden Oiring, acquired on New Year’s Eve in exchange for Carson Latimer from Winnipeg, was one player the Raiders were very high on going into the season.

Hunt says he feel like the team is heading into the right direction after the trade deadine.

“There are two things about a trade is that there is who is interested in the player and what are the needs we are looking for in exchange. With Nolan’s deal, this had started in September. We knew we needed to add some depth to our lineup, the players in the deal that got done were players we liked. From what we knew from them as a people and what they are as people. The second deal was very similar. Aiden Oiring was a guy we liked and that took a long time to come together. There was certainly interest from both players we moved out from a large spectrum of teams. In the end, that is what I thought was the best fit for our group moving forward. We were able to fill the needs, we were able to increase our team speed and now that the coaches have created some chemistry with our lines and units and I feel like our team is headed in the right direction.”

Over the deadline, many teams around the WHL paid premium prices for some of the top players available. 2023 Memorial Cup host Kamloops traded a package of four players and 10 draft picks to Everett to acquire defenseman Olen Zellweger and forward Ryan Hofer.

The Eastern Conference leading Winnipeg ICE also paid a premium for forward Zach Ostapchuk at the deadline sending a package of four players, three first round draft picks, plus a 5th round pick.

Hunt says it is very difficult to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup and teams can recoup assets the following season even with trades being harder to make because of more limitations on trading 16- and 17-year-old players. He points to the trades the Edmonton Oil Kings have made this season as an example of how a team can gain assets after a championship push.

“I can say by experience to win this league is very difficult. The feeling and emotion and the relationships that we built in our journey in 2019 is worth it. The landscape has changed because of the rules that apply to moving players so picks seem to be more of the flavour of the day. If we look at what Edmonton did, they were able to recoup a whole bunch of picks. There’s a way to trade for now but manage for the future.”

Full list of Raider trades made in 2022-2023

Sept. 20: Raiders trade a 2023 8th round pick to Medicine Hat in exchange for goaltender James Venne

Sept. 30: Raiders trade Vladislav Shilo to Winnipeg in exchange for Owen Boucher and Alessandro Segafredo.

Oct. 11: Raiders trade defenseman Tayem Gislason and conditional 2024 5th round pick to Red Deer in exchange for forward Carter Anderson

Oct. 11: Raiders trade 2026 7th round pick to Tri-City in exchange for forward Tanner Gould

Nov. 16: Raiders trade Nolan Allan and rights to Reese Shaw to Seattle in exchange for forwards Gabe Ludwig and Brayden Dube, defenceman Easton Kovacs, 2023 1st round pick (via Kelowna), 2024 2st round pick, 2024 3rd round pick, 2025 6th round pick, 2026 2nd round picks and a conditional 2026 6th round pick.

Dec. 31: Raiders trade Carson Latimer to Winnipeg in exchange for forward Aiden Oiring, a 2024 3rd round pick and a 2025 conditional 3rd round selection

Jan. 10: Raiders trade rights to Landon Cowper to Kelowna for 2025 conditional 5th round pick

Jan 10: Raiders trade rights to Ozzy Wiesblatt to Portland for a conditional 2025 first round pick, and two conditional 2026 second round picks.