The cost of doing business didn’t get any cheaper for the Saskatoon Blades on Thursday.
Blades GM/head coach Lorne Molleken, with his club serving as the Memorial Cup tournament host in May, coughed up four bantam draft picks at the trade deadline to add three players. Only one of the additions, former Brandon Wheat Kings rugged sniper Michael Ferland, is a front-line performer.
The others — forwards Erik Benoit and Collin Valcourt, acquired from the Kootenay Ice and Spokane Chiefs, respectively — will admittedly help the Blades. Benoit, acquired in exchange for a fourth-round bantam draft selection in 2014, will provide secondary scoring and Red Deer product Valcourt is a large body who brings a definite physical presence and has found a scoring touch with 13 goals and 23 points this season, but he cost the Blades a first-round bantam pick in 2015 and a fifth-rounder this year.
For Ferland, the Blades coughed up their first-round pick in this year’s bantam draft and so far this season have dealt nine of their selections in the first five rounds of the next two drafts.
To his credit, Molleken has also gained a pair of third-round selections in the 2014 draft — including one in exchange for former Rebels captain Adam Kambeitz in a Thursday deal with the Seattle Thunderbirds — but clearly the Blades have mortgaged their future for a legitimate shot at winning a Memorial Cup for the first time in franchise history.
To that end, Molleken didn’t have a choice in the matter. On very few occasions this winter has Saskatoon resembled a WHL power, let alone a team that can compete for a Memorial Cup title.
With so many of their future draft picks no longer in place, it just might be now or never for the Blades.
In other deals Thursday, Regina sent former Rebels forward Colten Mayor to Calgary in return for forward Carson Samoridny and a 2013 four-round bantam draft pick, and Moose Jaw dealt forward Andrew Johnson to Seattle for a fourth-round pick this year.
Additionally, Brandon bid adieu to promising 17-year-old Ayrton Nikkel, sending the rearguard and a 2015 conditional pick to Everett for defenceman Nick Walters and forward Taylor Sanheim, and then dealt high-scoring Swiss forward Alessio Bertaggia to Spokane in exchange for forwards Marek Kalus and Rhett Gardiner along with third- and fifth-round picks in this year’s bantam draft.
l More surprising than the trades that were made Thursday was the deal that didn’t go down — the expected transaction involving disgruntled Prince George Cougars forward Alex Forsberg, the 17-year-old who decided not to return to the team following the Christmas break.
Forsberg, the first overall selection in the 2010 bantam draft, will finish the season with the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL.
Clearly, Cougars GM Dallas Thompson felt he wasn’t offered enough for Forsberg. He had gone on record as saying he wouldn’t deal Forsberg for anything less than a substantial haul.
Meanwhile, former Rebels forward and Olds native Daulton Siwak has also abandoned the Cougars.
Siwak left the club last Sunday.
“He told us that he was going to go home and ponder his life and think about what he wants to do,” Thompson told the Prince George Citizen.
Siwak, 19, has nine goals and 17 points in 38 games this season.