January 09, 2014
For the second consecutive year, the Saskatoon Blades have been one of the busiest teams around the WHL's trade deadline. But unlike last year when they were loading up for the MasterCard Memorial Cup, they are now unloading in the first year of their rebuild.
The Blades' latest deal with the Kamloops Blazers involved a bunch of draft picks and three 17-year-olds. They acquired blueliner Jordan Thomson, forward Mitch Lipon and a 2015 first-round bantam pick for centre Matt Revel, a 2016 third-round bantam pick and a conditional 2014 second-round bantam pick.
"We're extremely pleased to add some very talented young pieces with this trade," said Blades general manager Lorne Molleken in the release. "Jordan Thomson is a former first-round pick in this league and possesses a very good skillset on the blueline. Mitch Lipon brings skill and energy up front to our team, adding to what we feel is a solid group of 1996-born players on our roster. We're also very happy to add a first-round pick in this deal as we continue to shape our roster for future years."
Thomson is ultimately the wildcard in this deal that will determine which team wins it. The Wawanesa, MB., native, who was selected fourth overall in the 2011 bantam draft, walked out on the Blazers in early November. The club painted a picture that he left for personal reasons and would return. It is plausible that the 5-foot-11, 174-pounder did leave Kamloops with the mindset that he would return and later asked for a trade. However, it seems more likely they were notified that he wanted a change of scenery shortly after he left, but kept it quiet because it would hurt his trade value. If Thomson brings focus and work ethic to Saskatoon, he should develop into a solid top-two defender. But his commitment to the game has to match his skill for the Blades to see him reach his full potential.
Update: BTN has learned Thomson won't report to Saskatoon. Instead, he will suit up for the MJHL's Dauphin Kings.
Lipon is in the midst of going through the tough transition of making the jump from midget 'AAA' to major junior, scoring two goals and seven points in 31 games along the way. He does have the potential to become a top-six forward as the 5-foot-8, 161-pounder, who is the brother to Winnipeg Jets prospect JC Lipon, put his talent on display with the SMAAAHL's Regina Pat Canadians last year by potting 20 goals and 51 points in 44 contests.
The 2015 first-round bantam pick is a big snag for Saskatoon because they don't hold a top pick in next year's draft as they dealt it last year to the Spokane Chiefs for Collin Valcourt. The pick isn't Kamloops' selection, though. It's the Kootenay Ice's choice that the Blazers originally acquired in a deal involving Tim Bozon.
It seems the Blazers landed the best player of the trade in Revel. The 5-foot-11, 177-pound centre showed flashes of elite talent last year in a limited role with the Blades. He's continued to take strides forward in his game this year, netting nine goals and 25 points in 43 games.
All in all, there's more risk on the Blades' end of the deal, but also more reward. The Blazers, meanwhile, made the best out of a tough situation with Thomson by adding pieces in the trade to land a young, talented centre.
This was Saskatoon's fourth trade within the last two weeks. They shipped their three 20-year-olds out, Nathan Burns to the Swift Current Broncos and Graeme Craig and Collin Valcourt to the Prince Albert Raiders. In return the Blades landed several draft picks, including two second-round choices.
Unfortunately for the 12-29-1-3 Blades, they won't benefit from their rebuilding season by receiving a high draft pick. They traded their 2014 first-round pick to the Vancouver Giants last year for Burns. But it seems the Giants will be swapping picks with the Brandon Wheat Kings because Molleken gave Kelly McCrimmon the right to do so in a 2012 offseason trade involving Brendan Walker. Yes, McCrimmon managed to outsmart two general managers in one trade. This is just another testament to why there are two types of general managers in the Dub - smart ones and those who return McCrimmon's phone calls.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen