Unless the Red Deer Rebels can bolster their back end, look for GM/head coach Brent Sutter to stand pat at Friday’s Western Hockey League trade deadline.
While Sutter feels his defensive corps could use a boost, he’s more than satisfied with what he has up front.
“We’re happy with our forward group,” he said Tuesday, after reassigning winger Christian Stockl to the Virden Oil Capitals of the MJHL.
“We could still have 15 forwards here with all of them capable of playing in the league.”
Sutter, who returned to Red Deer Monday after coaching Team Canada in the world junior championship, will stay in his office this week to pursue possible trades while his team is on the road.
“Shaun (assistant GM/director of player personnel Sutter) was here a lot when I was gone,” said the Rebels boss. “He was working the phones.”
Sutter suggested that affiliate player Scott Feser, who has been impressive of late, will stay with the club for at least the time being.
“We’re leaning towards keeping him, but that will mean there will be three decent forwards sitting out every night,” he said. “But that’s good because there’s competition and it doesn’t matter the age of the player . . . if someone isn’t playing well he’s going to sit out.
“That being said, we’re still looking at improving our back end if we can, but then every other team is trying to do the same thing.”
Sutter dismissed rumours that 20-year-old import Patrik Bartosak — the reigning Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year — will be moved, especially with the Rebels still comfortably in the running for a playoff berth.
“We’re not doing that,” he said, in reference to the possibility of trading Bartosak.
“We’re going to push right through with the team we have, and with our forward group we feel we can roll four good lines a night when we’re healthy. And the great thing about it is we’re only going to lose three or four of them next year.
“My mindset through all of this is that this team has played really well. We’re 6-2 since I left (for the world juniors) and I give them full marks because they’ve done that with a very thin lineup due to injuries. Our goal is to push and get into the playoffs and it’s right there for us.
“I’m not going to blow this team up because we have too many good players to do that. With keeping Patty, it allows (rookie goalie Taz) Burman to develop the right way and gives us a very good goaltender for the rest of the year. But if I can add one more defenceman, I will look at it.”
l Former Rebels defenceman Matt Dumba has been assigned to the Portland Winterhawks by the Minnesota Wild.
As a result, the Rebels will get the ‘Hawks’ second-round pick in the next three WHL bantam drafts, after already securing forward Presten Kopeck in last month’s deal with Portland.
l Stockl was reassigned to Virden of the MJHL after missing much of the last two months with a concussion.
“He’s been cleared for contact in practice and after missing so much time here and us having 15 forwards, for his development we thought it would be best to get him to a team where he can play more,” said Sutter.