Give Brent Parker credit.
The Regina Pats general manager might be perceived as a schemer by some and a dreamer by others, but there’s no denying that Parker is willing to swing a controversial deal.
That was certainly the case on Wednesday when the outspoken GM acquired 18-year-old stud forward Carter Ashton and grinder Craig Orfino, 19, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, giving up a healthy portion of the Pats’ future in the process.
Also coming over from the ‘Canes was a third-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft. Headed the other way were winger Graham Hood, 17, top prospect Tayler Balog, 15, plus a second-round bantam draft selection next year and a first-round selection in 2011.
Parker made no apologies for the deal, which could backfire if (a) the Pats don’t venture far in the WHL playoffs next spring and (b) Ashton earns a spot with the Tampa Bay Lightning — who selected the Saskatoon native in the first round of the 2009 NHL entry draft — next season.
“We don’t think we’re that far away,” Parker told the Regina Leader-Post. “We think we can compete down the stretch. Hopefully this gives us an opportunity when we get to playoff time that we’re going to have a chance to be a team to be reckoned with.”
Clearly, the Pats, currently just one game clear of the .500 mark with a 16-15-3-0 slate, have every intention of keeping star forward Jordan Eberle and high-end rearguard Colten Teubert, both of whom would demand a hefty return on the trade market.
“I laughed — the rumour that I already heard around the rink was that we got Ashton so we could turn around and flip Eberle,” said Parker. “I guess people are going to read into it what they’re going to want to read into it. I don’t think trading Eberle and Colten Teubert is going to make us better. We made the move to make us better.”
Parker admitted he coughed up plenty to get Ashton.
“We knew going in that it was going to be steep for a guy like (Ashton),” he said. “Was it a lot? Sure it was. I guess we felt it was the right thing to do for us right now.
“There’s always pressure in our market. People want to see us win. That’s what we’re trying to do. There are no guarantees. There are a lot of good teams in the league and a lot has to happen right for you to win in the playoffs. We know that but we think this gives us an opportunity to have some success.”
Lethbridge GM/head coach Rich Preston, who likely sees his team as a longshot to even qualify for the playoffs this season, made the deal with both eyes on the future.
“I think it’s a pretty good trade for us because we get a first-and second-round draft pick and Balog,” he told the Lethbridge Herald. “I saw him in Saskatoon and I liked him and the scouts liked him. He’s going to be a really good winger in this league. He’s a big kid. He’s six-foot-one and 185 pounds already and he can skate. He’s a prototypical winger.”
Balog was selected by the Pats in the second round, 28th overall, and was ranked sixth overall by International Scouting Services.
Just notes: Just hours after Parker and Preston made the extensive exchange, the Pats fell 9-5 to the visiting Kelowna Rockets. Did the timing of the trade affect the Regina squad? Perhaps, suggested centre Matt Strueby, who certainly wasn’t offering that up as an excuse. “We shouldn’t have let (the trade) get to us that much,” Strueby, who recorded his first career hat trick, told the Leader-Post. “(The trade) shouldn’t have anything to do with it. There are no excuses for how we played. They came in here and plain and simple they outworked us for the first period and a half. That can’t happen.” . . . The Prince George Cougars continue to stumble through a nightmarish season, but first-year head coach Dean Clark is keeping his chin up. “We’ve been a little snake-bit at times and we are missing some of our top players,” Clark told the Tri-City Herald following a 4-1 loss to the host Americans on Wednesday, a setback that left the Cougars with a sorry slate of 5-24-1-1. “We have gotten better, but the wins haven’t been there for us. (The players) are starting to understand what it takes to be competitive. We did a lot of good things tonight.” . . . Portland Winter Hawks forward Taylor Jordan earned a game misconduct while sitting on the players bench during a 4-3 win over the host Everett Silvertips on Tuesday. Upset by a penalty call on the Hawks by referee Andy Thiesen, Jordan squirted a water bottle in the direction of the official and was banished from the game as a result . . . Former Red Deer Rebels winger Cass Mappin, now with Vancouver, was absent from the Giants’ lineup during the club’s 5-0 win over the visiting Chilliwack Bruins on Wednesday. Mappin was serving the first half of a two-game suspension he received from the league office for cross-checking Bruins defenceman and Red Deer product Jeff Einhorn in the face during a 4-0 win for Chilliwack last weekend . . . The Giants announced this week that former Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach and Giants assistant Mike Dyck has been hired as a WHL scout. Dyck is working as an assistant coach with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and will guide Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Challenge in Timmins, Ont., later this month.