The Red Deer Rebels traded veteran defenceman Blake Gustafson to the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday.
In return for the 20-year-old, the Rebels received a fourth-round pick in the 2023 Western Hockey League Prospects Draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2025 WHL Prospects Draft.
Gustafson played four seasons for a total of 124 games for the Rebels and in that time scored three goals and 19 assists for 22 points. The Ardrossan, Alta. native was selected 207th overall in the 10th round of the 2017 WHL Prospects Draft.
Owner, president, and general manager of the club Brent Sutter said it was hard to move on from Gustafson but ultimately they were happy with how their defenceman depth looked. The move was predicated by the return of 20-year-old import defenceman Christoffer Sedoff, giving the Rebels four 20-year-old players. They have until Oct. 12 to trim that number to three.
“This gives Gus an opportunity to go somewhere else and have an opportunity to play more prominent minutes than he was probably going to get the chance here to do,” Sutter said. “My loyalty to him was the fact that I wanted him to have that opportunity in his last year of junior and he may not have been happy if he found himself in a situation where he was in our third pairing or maybe not even dressing some nights.
“As a 20-year-old you need to play and Gus brings a role that can help a lot of teams but our situation here we just thought we have the Mayo’s and the Fabrizi’s that are two or three years younger than Gus that can bring the same element that he does.”
After the trade, the Rebels now have the league maximum of three 20-year-olds with Sedoff, defenceman Tanner Brown, and forward Jace Isley. Ben King, who is also 20 years old, is still with the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL through their preseason and if King does return to the Rebels they will need to cut one of the four from the roster once again.
Sedoff was returned this week after attending Calgary Flames training camp, leaving the Rebels with three import players on the team including rookie defenceman Vojtech Port and forward Frantisek Formanek. Each team is only allowed two import players and Sutter said they will need to make that decision soon.