No roster changes for Blades yet
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
January 10, 2012
Saskatoon Blades coach/GM Lorne Molleken
Photograph by: Greg Pender, The StarPhoenix
Saskatoon Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken was open to tinkering with his roster in advance of Tuesday’s WHL trade deadline.
But by the time the clock struck 4 p.m. local time, the right offer never came.
With the team hosting the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup, Molleken has maintained that next year is the priority and didn’t want to mortgage the future for a short-term gain.
“We explored some different options and, in the end, teams didn’t want to trade the guys we were asking for,” he said.
“The prices were extremely high this year. That’s something that I’ll have to keep an eye on as we move forward.”
In what was a quiet day of activity that saw nine moves across the league — most finalized just under the wire — the Blades’ roster will remain intact for the rest of the 2011-12 season.
But as they head into tonight’s road game against the Brandon Wheat Kings, Molleken is hoping that the Blades can keep treading water until Josh Nicholls (strained MCL) and Andrey Makarov (concussion) to get healthy.
“The biggest thing with this year is we’ve shown that we can be a real good hockey club,” he said. “That’s like making two good trades when those guys come back.”
He added that Nicholls is eyeing a return for either Jan. 20 or 21 against Brandon or Victoria, while Makarov will be re-evaluated at the end of the week.
While the Blades were silent leading up to the deadline, it was their East Division rivals who made the most noise.
The Regina, Moose Jaw and Brandon all made significant trades to booster their lineups heading into the last third of the season.
The Pats pulled off an eight-piece deal that saw them obtain Slovakian defenceman Martin Marincin and three draft picks from the Prince George Cougars for Swedish blue-liner Ricard Blidstrand and three picks.
Marcinin had four goals and 17 points in 30 games this season, while Blidstrand had three goals and 13 points in as many contests for Regina. The Cougars received a first- and second-round pick this in this year’s draft and a fifth-rounder in 2013. The Pats take on Prince George’s fourth- and seventh-round picks in 2012 and a fourth next year.
A day after acquiring overage centre Cam Braes from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw added some more veteran leadership in the form of 20-year-old winger James Henry. The Vancouver Giants captain, who has 41 points in 41 games, was obtained for a second-round pick in 2012 and a fourth-rounder in 2014.
The deal was the second between the two teams in less than 24 hours as the Warriors shipped defenceman Tyler Vanscourt to Giants for a fifth-round pick in 2012 on Monday.
To make room for Braes and Henry, the Warriors shipped 20-year-old forward Brett Lyon to Kelowna for two high-round draft picks.
The Wheat Kings acquired 19-year-old centre Kevin Sundher from the Victoria Royals late on Monday for 18-year-old blue-liner Jordan Fransoo, 17-year-old left-winger Dakota Conroy and a first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Sundher is currently seventh in league scoring with 22 goals and 64 points in 40 games.
Moose Jaw sits second in the Eastern Conference with 55 points. The Pats are fifth (50), the Blades sixth (47) and the Wheat Kings eighth (46).
Even with their divisional opponents bettering their rosters, Molleken wasn’t altering his course of action.
“We have a plan and I think it’s important that we stick to the plan,” he said. “Going into the bantam draft this year, we have some options we can look at and try to address.
“We feel comfortable with our hockey club right now. The guys have come back after Christmas re-energized and playing hard. We know it’s going to be a real battle to secure a playoff spot this year.”
In two last-minute deals, the first-place Tri-City Americans acquired the rights to Prince George forward Brett Connolly for a fifth-round draft pick in 2013 and the Portland Winterhawks obtained winger Marcel Noebels from the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Connolly is currently playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but if he is sent back to the WHL and plays with the Americans, Prince George will also receive Tri-City’s first-round pick in 2013 and its second-round selection in 2014.
Noebels, who was Seattle’s second-leading scorer with 24 points, was moved for winger Seth Swenson and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014.
Other notable moves on Monday included the Americans acquiring Saskatoon native Jesse Mychan, 19, from the Everett Silvertips and the Swift Current Broncos picking up former Blade Levi Bews, 17, from the Giants. Both players were dealt for high-round draft picks.
The Blades made four trades this season.
The biggest transactions were in October when they dealt goaltender Adam Morrison and Bews to the Giants for winger Michael Burns, Zach Hodder and a fourth-round pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. Less than two weeks later, Saskatoon moved overage winger Darian Dziurzynski to the Wheat Kings for three picks.
Defenceman Kyle Schmidt was acquired from the Calgary Hitmen for a draft selection before the start of the season and Matthew Pufahl and Locke Muller were brought in from the Red Deer Rebels on Dec. 29 for Devan Fafard and a pick.
BLADE BITS: Makarov will not play dress for tonight’s game in Brandon. He sustained a concussion when Pats winger Morgan Klimchuk collided with him during last Saturday’s 4-3 win. Alex Moodie will start will start for the fifth time in six games.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix