It was wild Wednesday in the Western Hockey League as the trade deadline struck at 4 p.m., but the Prince Albert Raiders opted out of the craziness.
General Manager Curtis Hunt orchestrated five transactions between Jan. 2 and 8, but was content to watch the final rush ahead of the deadline as the Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos, Victoria Royals, and Portland Winterhawks pushed their chips into the middle of the table.
Big names were moved around the league over the final two days, as Brandon shipped Kale Clague to Moose Jaw and Tanner Kaspick to Victoria, Prince George moved Dennis Cholowski to Portland, Saskatoon flipped Cam Hebig to Regina, and the Broncos brought in Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan, and Tanner Nagel from Lethbridge.
“We did exactly what we thought we needed to do. I didn’t see any need for us to chase anything else. I think we’ve got some great 17-year-old players, I think we can protect those guys a little bit better now with the addition of the two [veterans] in our lineup that can play big minutes for us,” Hunt said as he met with the media after the deadline had come and gone.
“We sat today and watched and thought ‘geez it would be great to be a seller this year’. Those teams did what they had to do. [I]t doesn’t matter to the Prince Albert Raiders what they do, we have to play and take care of our games and each other, and they did what they needed to do based on where they are in their internal process.”
Over the past eight days, Hunt brought in proven offensive veteran Regan Nagy (20) from the Victoria Royals and Kody McDonald (19) from the Prince George Cougars to strengthen the offensive attack, while sending forward D-Jay Jerome (18) to Victoria.
Defensively, the Raiders acquired Jeremy Masella (18), a six-foot-five, 215-pound blueliner from Victoria, and Konrad Belcourt (17) a promising puck mover from Kelowna while sending Rhett Rhinehart (16) and Austin Crossley (18) to the Cougars, and goaltender Nick Sanders (19) to Calgary.
Additionally, the Raiders acquired two bantam draft picks while sending six out the door.
Hunt said the team was in an advantageous position to move assets without hurting the future.
“We have our full roster of picks this year, we have our full roster of picks next year, and we have our full roster of picks in 2020 as well. We made some deals last year to rebuild, I guess, for a lack of a better word,” explained Hunt.
“We had some extra assets and picks and we made a decision to spend those assets without going into a deficit situation as I call it, to fill in some of the gaps in our ’98 group and to hopefully upgrade our over agers.”
With 31 games to play, Hunt said that the Raiders are focused on securing a playoff spot this spring.
“I think in the end, for our group, what they need to understand is if we’re prepared to play the right way, to sell out every night for each other, and nobody else but each other, we have an opportunity to grab one of those last two spots – that’s our goal – and make some noise.
“We’re a better team than we were.”
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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