Right in tune with his insistence on icing a team that’s hard to play against, Brent Sutter swung a deal with the Saskatoon Blades Thursday, a transaction that could bring a familiar name to Red Deer.
The Rebels owner/GM/head coach dealt 18-year old defenceman Kevin Pochuk and the club’s third- and seventh-round selections in the 2014 Western Hockey League bantam draft to the Blades in return for the rights to overage forward Lukas Sutter, Brent’s nephew.
Lukas Sutter was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round — 39th overall — of the 2012 NHL entry draft after scoring 28 goals and collecting 59 points in 70 regular-season games with the Blades. He slumped to 13 goals and 24 points last season and has yet to sign with Winnipeg.
The Jets, however, have his NHL rights until June of next year and could still sign the six-foot-one, 214-pound winger/centre this summer. Brent Sutter would not confirm that there are conditions attached to the deal, instead preferring to focus on the grit and sandpaper — and potential scoring — that the Lethbridge native will bring to the Rebels if he is indeed returned to the major junior ranks.
“You look at our top nine forwards and it was important to add someone like Lukas to our team,” said Sutter. “Our hockey operations staff sat down and evaluated players in our league who we thought could fit in here with an element that we need, and he was at the top of our list.
“Yes, there are things that have to happen to get him here and Winnipeg will decide that. That being said, it’s a deal that was worth doing. Lukas should fill a gap in our forward group. If we can get him here, he’ll be a great addition to our team.”
Sutter was quick to dispel any notions that the trade revolved around nepotism.
“I don’t get caught up in last names,” said the Rebels boss. “This was strictly a situation of who would fit in here best and Lukas is where we started. As a GM and owner you have a responsibility to do research and then go out and fill the needs that have to be filled.
“I don’t worry about last names. I could care less, and that’s no different that when (son) Brandon and (nephew) Brett played here. Anyone who knows the way I am as a coach and GM will know that those things are totally irrelevant.”
If Sutter does join the Rebels, the deal with the Blades will essentially be him for Pochuk and forward Joel Hamilton — who was recently dealt to Vancouver for a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft — and a seventh-round bantam pick. Neither Pochuk nor Hamilton figured in the Rebels’ plans for next season.
Sutter is currently in Toronto working with renowned trainer and former NHL player Gary Roberts, which would suggest that conditioning — or a lack thereof — was front and centre in his shortage of production last winter.
“There are reasons why he didn’t have a good year and he started to correct them later in the season and he’s continuing that now,” said the Rebels boss.
On a positive note, Sutter was one of the few Blades who showed up against the victorious Medicine Hat Tigers in a first-round playoff sweep, and also played hard for the host Blades who finished 1-2 in the Memorial Cup tournament last month.
“I’ve talked to several people who thought that Lukas was Saskatoon’s best player in the Medicine Hat series,” said Sutter.
“I know that his attitude now is different than it was last summer. I also know what makes him tick and if he comes here it will be our job to get him ready to play pro hockey next year (2014). In the meantime, he can help our team have success while adding an element that we need in our forward group.”