Kootenay Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth isn’t about to join a growing group of sellers around the WHL as the league trade deadline approaches.
“From our end, nothing has changed. We want to add another defenceman,” Chynoweth said Monday. “We’re exploring all options and we have been since before Christmas.
“We’ve made some offers on some high-profile guys.”
The Ice have already added defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky to the fold but with Tanner Faith done for the season, Chynoweth is still looking to bolster the back end after being unable to do so prior to the holiday roster freeze.
“Unfortunately, it looks like Tanner Faith is out for the rest of the year,” Chynoweth said. “He’s going to require shoulder surgery.
“The poor guy has had no luck.”
After playing in only 10 games because of shoulder issues during the 2013-14 campaign, Faith has been limited to 19 games this season and will now undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
While Chynoweth casts his line in hopes of landing something worth feasting on, there has been no shortage of high-profile names moved about the league, as the WHL landscape continues to shift with the trade deadline inching closer.
The Prince Albert Raiders have already moved a pair of high-profile players, with defenceman Josh Morrissey (7G-21A-28pts) being dealt to the Kelowna Rockets in December and recently-returned forward Leon Draisaitl (2-7-9 with NHL Edmonton) being officially shipped to the Rockets Tuesday morning.
While the Rockets have loaded up in the WHL’s Western Conference, the Eastern Conference-leading Brandon Wheat Kings have done well to keep pace.
Monday, Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon filled his remaining overage slot by acquiring defenceman Reid Gow (6-56-62, 2013-14) from the Spokane Chiefs in exchange for a conditional fifth-round bantam draft pick in 2015.
Friday, the crafty McCrimmon landed Calgary Flames first-round draft pick Morgan Klimchuk (15-18-33) from the Regina Pats, shipping 17-year-old Jesse Gabrielle (13-12-25) the other way.
While those deals see the WHL’s strongholds fortify their armaments, three of Chynoweth’s Central Division rivals addressed needs within their rosters this past week as well.
The division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers added depth, up front and on the blue line, acquiring 19-year-old defenceman Kyle Burroughs (5-17-22) and 19-year-old forward Dryden Hunt (14-33-47) from the Pats. In exchange, Regina received 17-year-old defenceman Connor Hobbs — who requested a trade from the Tigers — and a pair of bantam draft picks.
The second-place Red Deer Rebels countered the Tigers by getting in on the fire sale in Regina. After the Tabbies picked up Burroughs and Hunt, Rebels head coach/general manager Brent Sutter acquired forward Connor Gay (20-24-44) and three bantam draft picks in exchange for 15-year-old prospect Jake Leschyshyn, who was Red Deer’s sixth-overall selection in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.
Even the Calgary Hitmen and Lethbridge Hurricanes were active Tuesday afternoon.
The Hitmen acquired help between the pipes from the Portland Winterhawks, trading for goaltender Brendan Burke (7-8-0-3, 3.63 GAA) in exchange for backup netminder Evan Johnson (5-3-1-1, 2.84 GAA) and a fourth-round bantam draft pick.
In Lethbridge, the Hurricanes shipped forward Taylor Cooper (12-16-28) to the Regina Pats in exchange for 17-year-old defenceman Brady Reagan.
That left only the Ice and Edmonton Oil Kings as inactives at the on-going Central Division trade show.
“I worry about the Kootenay Ice and what we have to do downstairs to get the best lineup we can,” Chynoweth said, acknowledging that trade activity around the division doesn’t impact his approach. “We have the best record in the WHL since Nov. 1. We think when we get everybody back and remain healthy, we can beat any team in the Western Hockey League.”
The Ice are 18-5-0-1 since Nov. 1 and only the first-place Kelowna Rockets — having played two more games than the Ice — rival that mark, having gone 18-5-3-0 over that same stretch.
Without captain Sam Reinhart and defenceman Rinat Valiev, who both attended the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, the Ice have only lost one regulation game (Jan. 3 at Edmonton) since Dec. 12.
If there’s anything that will prevent Chynoweth from going out and making a big splash, it’s the lack of having a 2015 first-round bantam draft pick at his disposal paired with the impending turnover he will see with his roster once the season comes to a close.
“The problem is we don’t have a lot of bullets in the gun,” Chynoweth said.
The Ice GM previously dealt Kootenay’s 2015 first-round pick to the Kamloops Blazers in the deal that brought star forward Tim Bozon to Cranbrook Oct. 22, 2013. The upside is Bozon remains on the roster as an overage import, producing at an efficient clip with 13 goals and 32 points through 25 games this season.
The team’s fifth-round pick in 2015 was also included in the Bozon deal, while Chynoweth sent his 2016 third-round selection to the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for former 20-goal scorer Zach Franko Jan. 8, 2014.
When you factor in that Chynoweth stands to lose Reinhart to the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres next season, while key 20-year-olds Bozon, Levi Cable and Austin Vetterl will age out following the campaign, it makes for difficult decision-making.
Do you call in the cavalry to backup the existing troops? Or do you toe the line knowing you’re going to need to replenish your stocks before next season?
“You’ve got to be cognizant of that because you’re going to take a step back next year,” Chynoweth said. “You’ve got to be careful with what you can and can’t do. We’re cognizant of that as we head into the deadline this week.”
The WHL trade deadline rolls around at 12 p.m. (MT) this Saturday, Jan. 10.
The Kootenay Ice host the Red Deer Rebels (21-14-3-2, 47 points) Friday and Saskatoon Blades (9-28-2-1, 21 points) Saturday at Western Financial Place.
WHL trades since Jan. 1, 2015 (as of Jan. 6 at 6:56 p.m. MT):
- Brandon Wheat Kings trade F Jesse Gabrielle (1997) to the Regina Pats in exchange for F Morgan Klimchuk (1995)
- Regina Pats trade D Kyle Burroughs (1995) and F Dryden Hunt (1995) to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for D Connor Hobbs (1997), a third-round pick (2015) and second-round pick (2016)
- Red Deer Rebels trade D Kolton Dixon (1995) to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for G Trevor Martin (1996)
- Red Deer Rebels trade F Jake Leschyshyn (1999) and a conditional fourth-round pick (2017) to the Regina Pats in exchange for F Connor Gay (1995), a second-round pick (2015), first-round pick (2016) and seventh-round pick (2017)
- Spokane Chiefs trade D Reid Gow (1994) to the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick (2015)
- Kelowna Rockets trade import F Kris Schmidli (1996), D Dalton Yorke (1996), a first-round pick (2015), fourth-round pick (2016) and conditional fourth-round pick (2016 or 2017) to the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for import F Leon Draisaitl (1995)
- Kamloops Blazers trade D Connor Clouston (1996) to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a fifth-round pick (2017)
- Prince Albert Raiders trade import D Tomas Andrlik (1995) to the Prince George Cougars in exchange for a 12th-round pick (2015)
- Regina Pats trade D Brady Reagan (1997) to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for F Taylor Cooper (1995)
- Portland Winterhawks trade G Brendan Burke (1995) to the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for G Evan Johnson (1996) and a fourth-round pick (2016)
- Saskatoon Blades trade F Alex Forsberg (1995), a third-round pick (2015) and fourth-round pick (2016) to the Victorial Royals in exchange for F Brayden Dunn (1998) and a first-round pick (2017)
- Saskatoon Blades trade D Adam Henry (1994) to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for a second-round pick (2017)
- Kamloops Blazers trade D Josh Connolly (1995) and a second-round pick (2016) to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for D Brycen Martin (1996)