Monday, January 10, 2011

F Peter Schaefer (Brandon, 1993-97) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Ingolstadt (Germany DEL). He had a goal and an assist in 16 games with the Vancouver Canucks (NHL) this season. . . .
F Dale Mahovsky (Kootenay, 2000-06) was granted his release by the Newcastle Vipers (UK Elite). He had 16 goals and 14 assists in 33 games for the Vipers this season. Mahovsky told the Vipers' website that he "had a very good offer from the U.S. and it's just too good to turn down." . . .
G Scott Langkow (Portland, 1991-95) signed a two-year contract extension with the Krefeld Pinguine (Germany DEL). The extension keeps Langkow with the Pinguine through 2012-13. He has a 2.53 GAA and a .905 save percentage in 33 games for Krefeld this season.
If it wasn’t the biggest trade in WHL history, it certainly rates right up there.
The Swift Current Broncos on Sunday dealt C Cody Eakin, 19, to the Kootenay Ice for five players and three draft picks.
The Broncos acquired one player off the Ice’s roster — forward Christian Magnus, 18, who is from Saskatoon and has 17 points in 42 games this season — and one other, forward Ryan Bloom, who will join them this week. Both are expected to play Friday against the visiting Saskatoon Blades.
Bloom, 17, was with the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons for whom he had 21 points in 20 games. A second-round pick by the Ice in the 2008 draft, he had one goal in six games with the Ice this season.
Magnus, who actually was selected by the Broncos with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Bloom should be in Swift Current’s lineup Friday against the visiting Saskatoon Blades. (At the trade deadline in 2009, the Broncos dealt Magnus, D James Martin and 2010 second- and fourth-round picks to the Broncos for D John Negrin and F Michael Stickland.)
On Sunday, the Broncos also acquired forward Jarett Zentner, 17, who is with the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs; F Colby Cave, 16, of the midget AAA Battlefords, Sask., Stars; and, goaltender Steven Myland, 16, who is from Cloverdale, B.C., and is with the major midget Valley West Hawks.
Zentner, from Red Deer, was a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft. On Friday, he was acquired by the Mustangs from the Okotoks Oilers. He had four points in 20 games with Okotoks. He managed one assist in seven games with the Ice.
Cave, from Battleford, Sask., was the 13th overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft. He has 20 points in 30 games with the Stars.
Myland, a 10th-round pick by the Ice in 2009, has a 1.64 GAA and a .934 save percentage with the Hawks.
The Broncos also got first- and second-round selections in the 2011 draft and a third-round pick in 2012.
As large as this trade is, in terms of numbers, it only came together over the last few days. In fact, it’s not that long ago when Mark Lamb, the Broncos’ GM and head coach, had no intention of moving Eakin.
 “The offer came a while ago,” Lamb told me Sunday evening as the team bus left Medicine Hat, after a 7-1 loss to the Tigers, and headed for home, “and I had no interest in it at all.”
Not only was Lamb saying, in his words, “No. No. No. No!”, he said he “didn’t want to even think about it.”
Jeff Chynoweth, the president and GM of the Ice, said that “for the longest time Cody Eakin wasn’t available. This came about more in the last three or four days.”
In the end, however, the opportunity for Lamb to put something into an empty cupboard made the difference.
“The situation that we’re in . . . we don’t really have (much) for next season,” Lamb explained. “We don’t have the (1992-born players) . . . the cupboards are bare.”
Lamb also pointed out that the Broncos are a good team that has dealt with a whole bunch of injury problems, and that they “haven’t had Cody a lot this season.”
Eakin had some injury problems and has played only 30 games. And he likely shouldn’t have dress for a few of those.
“We work hard and we’re fine. We’re not a great team but we’re not a bad team,” said Lamb, whose club is 22-23-1 and sixth in the 12-team Eastern Conference. “We’re in the pack. We’re not with Medicine Hat and Kootenay and Saskatoon and Red Deer. We’re in the pack and Cody’s value was unbelieveable.”
Now that might by the understatement of the season.
“I know how good (Eakin) is and how much he means to the team and the organization,” Lamb continued. “I know what he’s done for the organization and what’s he’s done for Swift Current. He’s just done everything. I’ve said he’s the next best player to (Joe) Sakic that has ever come out of Swift Current and I really believe that. I think this kid is going to be a real good pro.”
Eakin was a third-round selection by the Washington Capitals in the 2009 NHL draft. He has signed with the Capitals; in fact, he came awfully close to making their team in training camp prior to this season.
Eakin won’t play for the Ice for a week or two. He played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship and returned home to Winnipeg with a hand injury. With the Broncos, he put up 39 points, including 18 goals, in 30 games.
Eakin, whose father, Grant, and uncle, Bruce, both played in the WHL, was in his fourth season in Swift Current. The sixth overall pick in the 2006 bantam draft, Cody had 195 points, including 100 goals, in 212 regular-season games with the Broncos.
The Ice, meanwhile, is 27-12-3 and holds a two-point edge over the Red Deer Rebels atop the Central Division. According to Chynoweth, the fact that his team is competitive forced his hand.
“We identified at the start of the year four or five players that, if we were competitive and these players were available, we would look at stepping up to the plate to make a good offer,” he explained. (Chynoweth admitted that the Ice was one of the teams involved in serious talks involving C Brayden Schenn of the Brandon Wheat Kings.)
The other thing that figured into the equation was that the Ice holds Vancouver’s first-round pick from a deal prior to last season in which D David Musil moved to the Giants.
“If we didn’t have that (pick) we wouldn’t have done this,” Chynoweth said. “There was no way. We’re a small-market team and we have to be very careful what we can do.
“We knew it was going to cost a lot when we saw the Carter Ashton deal and then the Craig Cunningham deal. But we felt there were still a couple of players out at that time that were worth it to pay that price.”
On Dec. 10, the Regina Pats dealt Ashton, a 19-year-old forward, to Tri-City with the Americans getting two players and three draft picks, including a 2011 first-rounder.
On Dec. 28, the Portland Winterhawks acquired Cunningham, a 20-year-old forward, from Vancouver for two players and two draft picks, including a 2011 first-rounder.
One other thing that came into play for Chynoweth was that his brother, Dean, knows all about Eakin.
“(Dean) coached Cody Eakin and just raved about his work ethic and his compete,” Chynoweth said. Dean, now an assistant coach with the New York Islanders, was the GM/head coach in Swift Current before Lamb.
As for his willingness to pay such a steep price for a player whom he may only get 30 or 40 games out of, Jeff Chynoweth said: “I want the best player right now. Prospects, whatever . . . we’re looking for the best player right now to make the Kootenay Ice a better hockey club.”
Still, Chynoweth admitted, there are concerns, and they would have been there had the Ice ended up with Schenn rather than Eakin.
“You’re always leery when you make a deal of this magnitude,” he stated. “How much is left in the tank with either player? They’re both signed players. That’s always a concern.”
At the moment, they both are injured, too, and you can bet that also is a concern.
One other thing that came into play with this deal is that the Ice — along with a whole bunch of other WHL teams — feel that the 2010 draft, in which 1995-born players were selected, was tremendous. The Ice feels it got some great depth out of that draft, something that allowed it to include Cave and Myland in the Eakin trade.
At least one blockbuster deal is expected to be announced prior to the arrival of today’s trade deadline. (It gets here at 3 p.m. Calgary time.)
Centre Brayden Schenn, 19, of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who was a teammate of Cody Eakin’s on Team Canada, is likely to be dealt to the Saskatoon Blades.
Despite a whole lot of rumour and speculation on the Internet on Sunday, the Schenn deal didn’t get done Sunday. Sources tell me that the holdup may have been no movement clauses in the contracts of some players whose names have come up.
That should be cleared up today and the deal then will be announced.
Schenn returned to his Saskatoon home from the World Junior Championship with a shoulder injury that could keep him out for a couple of weeks. Assuming the trade gets done, he certainly won’t play Tuesday when the Wheat Kings are in Saskatoon.
As for big trades in WHL history, a couple spring to mind.
One, in August 1983, had Brandon send C Blaine Chrest to Portland for F Ray Ferraro, D Brad Duggan, F Derek Laxdal, F Dave Thomlinson and F Tony Horacek.
Ferraro, of course, went on to set the WHL single-season goal record in 1983-84, when he counted 108 times in 72 games. (To put that in perspective in the dead-puck era, the Calgary Hitmen have scored 105 goals and the Everett Silvertips 103, both in 42 games this season.)
Jeff Chynoweth admitted that while this deal was coming together he couldn’t help thinking of another deal he made with the Broncos.
On Dec. 4, 2001, the Ice dealt F Jason Jaffray, D Aaron Rome, G Jeff Harvey and a 2002 first-round pick to the Broncos for F Duncan Milroy, G B.C. Boxma and a 2004 fifth-round pick.
In another monster deal, this one a 6-for-1 swap completed Jan. 11, 1981, the Saskatoon Blades dealt F Rocky Trottier, who had asked for a trade, to the Billings Bighorns for F Pat Rabbit, F Dave Brown, D Brad Duggan (the same guy who was in the afore-mentioned Chrest trade), D Dave Chartier, F Al Acton and F Lyndon Byers. (The Blades turned around and dealt Byers to the Regina Pats for F Todd Strueby.)
In another Sunday deal, the Vancouver Giants dealt F Mark Reners, 18, to the Edmonton Oil Kings for a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft. Reners had three points in 11 games with the Giants. He was acquired Dec. 9 from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a 2012 fifth-round pick. . . . If you missed it earlier, the trade deadline is today at 3 p.m. Calgary time. Why Calgary time? Because that is where the WHL office is located. . . . F Kyle St. Denis, 20, who was released earlier this season by the Kelowna Rockets after a series of concussions, has yet to play this season, From Trail, he has said he would like to play for the BCHL’s Smoke Eaters. However, his rights belong to the Victoria Grizzlies. I’m told a deal was all but made Thursday, only to come apart when the terms changed.
A final note on the acquisition of C Cody Eakin by the Kootenay Ice on Sunday . . .
While Jeff Chynoweth wouldn’t talk about it, you have to wonder if there isn’t a message in this deal for the hockey fans of Cranbrook and area. He said that all he wanted to do with this deal was make the Ice better.
According to the WHL Guide, the arena there seats 4,264. The Ice’s average attendance, through Jan. 3, was 2,463. that is down 147 from the same point last season.
This franchise has put up seven 40-victory seasons in its 12 years in Cranbrook. It has won two WHL titles and one Memorial Cup. Each of its last four head coaches has gone on to the pro ranks.
In its first season in the new arena (2000-01), the Ice average 3,635 fans per game, but attendance has fallen off since then.
It isn’t likely that the Ice is going to pick up and move — Chynoweth and the City signed a 15-year lease two years ago — and Chynoweth said yesterday that the “City has been outstanding.”
He also admitted that he has heard the talk, that he wants to leave Cranbrook, but he said that just isn’t true.
“I love it here. I really do,” he said. “It’s a great place to raise a family. People kill me when they say I don’t want to be here.”
It will be interesting to watch the attendance in Cranbrook over the next couple of months now that Chynoweth has proven he is willing to live dangerously.
One more final, final note on the Eakin trade . . .
I spoke with F Killian Hutt of the Broncos late Sunday night. He hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on Dec. 10 in Kamloops.
If you don’t know how big Eakin is in Swift Current, Hutt has the answer.
“That’s kind of like the Gretzky trade, to be honest,” said Hutt, 19. “He’s an icon in Swift, that’s for sure.”
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