Erik Benoit’s time with the Kootenay Ice is over, as the 19-year-old was dealt to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft on Thursday.
Benoit had requested a trade a few months ago, but got injured as general manager Jeff Chynoweth hunted around for an appropriate deal that would see a good return for the team.
However, with deadline approaching, he found a dance partner with the Saskatoon Blades, who were looking for veteran players as they host the Memorial Cup tournament this year.
“Erik had requested a trade, which caught us completely off guard, we’ve known about it for a while and I’ve tried to accommodate his request, with the bottom line of always looking after the team first,” said Chynoweth. “It took awhile, Erik was hurt and then everything ramped up as we got closer to the trade deadline.
“Ideally we would’ve liked to have got a player in return, but we didn’t have many options—meaning many suitors—at this late stage of the game, so we took what was the best deal and it gives Erik an opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup again and his experience is something that Saskatoon really wanted.”
Benoit came undrafted to the Ice three years ago, cracking the roster as a 17-year-old. The Calgary native played a career total of 151 regular season games, with tallying 59 points.
That leaves the Ice with five defencemen and 14 forwards, however, Jeff Hubic dropped down to the defensive corps in Thursday’s practice to cover the absence of Mike Simpson, who was dealt to the Hurricanes on Wednesday.
“Obviously, things can change here over the next seven hours, but as of right now, he’s going to play defence tomorrow [Friday],” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill. “He played there right before Christmas, and I think he was okay with that.
“Obviously, we like his effectiveness up front with the way he has been playing up front, but at the same time, I think his versatility allows us to put him back there. It might take him a little while to get acclimatized, but certainly he’ll fill in a good spot for us.”
For his part, Hubic is just happy to fill whatever role the coaches need him to.
“I’m used to it by now,” said Hubic, who filled the same role last year as well. “Bouncing back and forth, it’s kind of a day-to-day thing at this point, because there’s different kinds of injuries and different situations, so I’m just happy to be playing.”
Chynoweth admits he’s still in the hunt for a defenceman before a midnight deadline—either a 20-year-old that was released from another WHL club or a player in any of the Junior A leagues across Western Canada.
“”I did file on Ryley Miller, who Brandon released this week and he told me that he’s going to Dauphin, Manitoba (MJHL), and I also spoke to Ryan Dech, who played in Edmonton last year and is playing with Todd Johnson at the University of Regina about possibly coming in, but he’s going to stay at the U of R, which I respect,” said Chynoweth.
“I’ve been trying to find a defenceman and now I’m scouring all the tier two leagues in Western Canada trying to come up with another defenceman.”
Deadline day can be tough on some players, especially the veterans like Joey Leach and Brock Montgomery, as the two overagers would have been valuable additions to other WHL clubs.
“Me and Leach, we have something special with the team that we can do and prove ourselves to the young group,” said Montgomery.
“I know, for myself, I haven’t slept very well the past few days, but you never really know what’s going to happen.”
Chynoweth said there wasn’t much of any horse-trading for his oldest pair of WHL veterans.
“Nothing materialized in the last two days, even remotely offered for either of the players, which is surprising to me,” said Chynoweth. “It doesn’t upset me to keep them both, they’re quality players and quality individuals and I think their experience and leadership will be invaluable as we play 20 of our final 30 games on the road.”