In the end, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter was happy to put his feet up and watch the chaos unfold on WHL trade deadline day.
Sutter watched the 3 p.m. deadline breeze past with a bevy of blockbuster trades around the league, with his team deciding to keep the status quo.
“We sat back and watched everything transpire around the league,” Sutter said.
“It’s been wild, it’s been crazy. Part of it had a lot to do with the fact that there were a lot of buyers this year. The market dictated the prices. It started slow early and then it kept getting bigger and bigger right up until the last minute before the deadline with two big trades Brandon made.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings dealt coveted defenceman Kale Clague to division rival Moose Jaw minutes before the deadline, and they also shipped out forward Tanner Kaspick to Victoria. The Medicine Hat Tigers also sent Max Gerlach to Saskatoon in a three-way deal that swapped draft picks with the Regina Pats earlier in the day.
All and all 16 trades were made and nine first round WHL Bantam Draft picks were traded on Wednesday.
The Rebels instead stuck with the work they had done pre-deadline, adding puck-moving 19-year-old defenceman Colin Paradis and two second round picks from the Moose Jaw Warriors, along with a third round pick for veteran forward Austin Pratt.
Sutter said that year three after they hosted the Memorial Cup was always targeted as the point to bring forward the youth movement. He explained after struggling to begin the season he decided in early December that he would kickstart the rebuild into overdrive, eight months early.
“We didn’t have a great start to the year, and it got to Dec. 10, that was my deadline about where it was going to go. You have to be a realist about it, you have to face facts. We just fast-tracked everything by eight or nine months,” Sutter said.
“Started bringing the young kids in, started moving some older players out and acquiring some assets for the draft. We were able to add a couple good players into our lineup, (Josh) Tarzwell and Paradis. We accumulated a lot of picks through it all. It’s been an interesting three weeks, with that being said I like our future here.”
Sutter noted while there were conversations about several players on his roster Wednesday, for the most part, the offers weren’t really anything he considered.
“Everyone was calling and talking about certain players but it has to make sense. In the back of my mind, I had to think of what’s best for our young players, too,” Sutter said.
“What kind of group do you want around them? We were cognizant of that and it was something we needed to make sure we were careful with what we were looking at.”
The veteran group surrounding the young talent includes 20-year-old forwards Mason McCarty, captain Grayson Pawlenchuk, as well as 19-year-olds Kristian Reichel and Brandon Hagel along with 18-year-old defenceman Alex Alexeyev. The rest of their roster this season is made up of five 16-year-olds and seven 17-year-olds, a promising sign for Sutter.
“I like the present even with all the young kids playing,” Sutter said.
“We’re going to go through some tough times. These young kids– each game you see improvement in them and you see our team grow a little bit. I’m looking forward to where it’s headed here in the future.”
The Rebels GM/head coach is also looking forward to the next three WHL Bantam Drafts where they have 10 selections in the first two rounds, including two first rounders next year.
“We’re certainly lined up with our draft picks, not saying every draft pick is going to be used in the draft. Something might happen to improve your team, it’s nice to have the cupboard full. It’s nice to use what you need in the appropriate way,” Sutter said.
The Rebels are back on the ice Friday when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first game of a seven-game homestand.