Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter rolled the dice this week when he acquired defenceman Nelson Nogier and forward Austin Adamson from the Saskatoon Blades.
Nogier was the centrepiece of the deal from Sutter’s point of view, a shutdown defenceman who at 18 years of age should a key member of next season’s team that will host the Memorial Cup tournament in May of 2016. But the Rebels boss also paid a hefty price to complete the transaction, giving up a first- and second-round pick bantam draft pick to the Blades as well as 17-year-old forward Mason McCarty, who admittedly didn’t appear to have a future in Red Deer.
In breaking down the deal, the acquisition of Nogier cost Sutter two high draft picks, which is market value for a quality 18-year-old rearguard, while Adamson came over in return for McCarty.
Only time will tell if the Rebels were winners in this trade, but Sutter has a track record of success when it comes to wheeling and dealing. He’s won far more of these transactions than he’s lost.
The biggest player swap engineered by the Rebels boss put the club over the top in their successful quest for the 2001 Memorial Cup title, as Sutter acquired forward Martin Erat, defenceman Darcy Robinson and netminder Cam Ondrik from the Blades. Going the other way were goaltender Michael Garnett and forwards Justin Wallin and Martin Vymazal, plus a first-round bantam draft pick.
Erat was key in the Rebels’ march to the 2000-01 WHL championship, in particular, and had a goal and six points in the Memorial Cup tournament, while Robinson, who tragically died of a heart attack in 2007 while playing in Italy, filled a big hole on the back end at six-foot-three and 230 pounds.
Garnett was the major piece in the deal for the Blades, and while he had a fine WHL career, the Rebels had rock-solid Shane Bendera between the pipes and future NHLer Cam Ward already waiting in the wings. Chalk one up for Sutter.
• The Erat-Robinson deal was actually preceded by a series of trades the season before, as Sutter picked up overage forward Dustin Paul from the Moose Jaw Warriors shortly after purchasing the team in May of 1999, then brought in defenceman Ross Lupaschuk and power forward Kyle Wanvig, who were crucial components of the Memorial Cup squad.
Paul, who cost the Rebels a third-round bantam draft pick, was coming off an 83-point season with the Warriors and scored 37 goals and provided leadership for the rebuilding Rebels in his final WHL campaign.
Lupaschuk and rugged forward Craig Brunel were acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders in return for forward Brent Hobday and defencemen Regan Darby, Scott McQueen and Steve McIntyre. The Rebels switched toughness for toughness in regards to Brunel and Darby, while McQueen never lived up to his promise in Red Deer and McIntyre couldn’t keep up with the pace of play at the major junior level.
Hobday sniped 40 goals in Moose Jaw the previous season but only recorded only four points during his brief 11-game stay with the Rebels. The Raiders trusted that he’d rediscover his scoring touch with a change of address — as it turned out, he notched 10 goals in 49 games with P.A. — thus their willingness to part with up-and-comer Lupaschuk.
The rest is history, as Edmonton native Lupaschuk earned WHL and Memorial Cup all-star status in the 2000-01 season while scoring 28 regular-season goals and collecting another 15 points in the playoffs.
Wanvig was acquired in a three-way deal involving Kootenay and Seattle, with the Rebels relinquishing ‘future considerations’. The Calgary native scored 55 goals the following winter and was also named the Memorial Cup MVP.
• Partway into the 2001-02 season Sutter dealt for dynamic forward Carsen Germyn, sending Memorial Cup goaltender Bendera to Kelowna with the knowledge and comfort that Ward was ready to be the Red Deer starter. The feisty Germyn scored 49 goals and collected 107 points in 100 regular-season games with the Rebels over a year and a half and sniped eight goals and garnered 29 points in 46 playoff outings.
• In the 2002-03 campaign, Sutter sent defenceman Doug Lynch to Spokane for scoring forward Matt Keith and forward Diarmuid Kelly to Prince Albert for blueliner Rory Rawlyk. Each of the deals was basically a wash, although Keith was a key contributor as the Rebels marched to their third consecutive WHL final.
• Another pretty much even-up deal occurred during the ‘05-06 season when forward Ashton Rome was sent to Kamloops for forward Kris Versteeg and defenceman Brennan Chapman. Versteeg, now an NHL regular, was the best player in the deal but the Rebels missed the playoffs that spring.
• In an absolute steal, Sutter picked up forward Martin Hanzal and throw-in defenceman Mike Cann from the Chilliwack Bruins in June of 2006 in return for underachieving forward Mathew Cline and a fourth-round bantam draft pick. Hanzal was dominant during his lone winter as a Rebel before jumping directly to the NHL, putting up 85 regular-season points (26-59) and nine more (2-7) as Red Deer stretched the eventual league champion Medicine Hat Tigers to seven games in a first-round playoff series.
• Sutter didn’t win every deal — he’d like one do-over at least, namely the trade that ridded the team of forward Blair Jones in the ‘04-05 season. The Rebels got Rome and fellow forwards Cam Lilley and Karey Pieper from Moose Jaw for Andre Herman and Jones, who sniped 35 goals and recorded 85 points the following winter and had another 21 points (9-12) in 22 post-season games while leading the Warriors to the league final.
Sutter also didn’t get equal value for Finnish forward Masi Marjamaki (to Moose Jaw in ‘03-04 for Tyler Johnson), although future pro Jordan Knackstedt to the Warriors in ‘06-07 turned out OK since the Rebels got serviceable forward Brennan Wray and the rights to rearguard Cullen Morin in return.
Both Marjamaki and Knackstedt had worn out their welcome in Red Deer and sometimes a GM/coach simply has to cut his losses.
• Jesse Wallin also did a fine job at the trade table during his time in charge of the Rebels, stealing Andrej Kudrna from the Vancouver Giants in 2009 and making out like a bandit a year later when he accepted forward Byron Froese and a fifth-round draft pick from Everett in exchange for Landon Ferraro. Kudrna cost the Rebels Cass Mappin, making for two lopsided deals in the space of one year.