The Ottawa 67's, like the Vancouver Giants, have held their own as strong junior hockey franchises which vie for attention in a NHL market.
It's just a coincidence, but the NHL lockout, which many people assume puts more of spotlight on major junior, came while each was more 'ebb' than 'flow' insofar as the burgeoning talent on their roster is concerned. The Giants became the first team in the WHL to fold their hand on this season when they dealt their best player, Edmonton Oilers high second-round pick David Musil, to the Edmonton Oil Kings two weeks ago.
One league to the east, Ottawa, which is an uncharacteristic second-last in the OHL after committing what Don Campbell called a "customary dismal opening period" on Sunday against Belleville in a third consecutive home loss, is not starting its rebuilding with as big a move. But sending overage defenceman Jake Cardwell to the Belleville Bulls, within the East Division, for draft picks, is as clear as a radio signal late at night. Ottawa, whose goalie Keegan Wilson is last among the league's starters in save percentage (.894), also added 19-year-old goalie Clint Windsor from Mississauga.
From Aedan Helmer, writing prior to the trade(s) becoming official:
The Belleville Bulls may have skated out of Scotiabank Place on Sunday with more than a 3-2 win, as rampant rumours around the rink had overage defenceman Jake Cardwell traded to the Bulls in the first of what could be several moves for [coach-GM Chris] Byrne and his management team over the coming weeks.
Byrne confirmed Cardwell, a healthy scratch for the past two games, had requested a trade and that a deal was imminent once paperwork could be filed with the league.
Richard Mraz, the seldom-used 19-year-old import winger, will also be returned to his native Slovakia, said Byrne, with both player and coach agreeing the OHL was not a fit.
"(Cardwell) is a player that has done a great job here for us. Right now, we're lining up some options for him. We have some things we're looking at and we'll figure things out," said Byrne, who hinted he may not be done dealing. (Ottawa Sun)
That hinting is probably the jumping-off point for wondering what Ottawa, which is six points behind seventh-place Kingston and four back (with two games in hand) over eighth-place Sudbury in its conference, will do with its most tradeable assets. (Yes, there's always a shudder when teenaged hockey players are described assets, but that's the business we've chosen.)
The 67's are keeping their head just above water thanks to a cadre of holdovers from last season's league semifinalist such as Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci, OHL goal-scoring leader Tyler Graovac, 18-year-old NHL draft prospect Sean Monahan and two-way wing Taylor Fielding (who's managed to post a +11 plus/minus rating through 19 games while every other forward is in the red).
The situation with Ceci, the 30-minute-a-night workhorse, is delicate. He's a marquee player as the top pick of the 67's temporary landlord, the NHL Senators, and as a hometown player. He is also, depending on how long the Niagara IceDogs have Dougie Hamilton in the fold, at worst the second-best defenceman who could be moved before the Jan. 10 trade deadline. (Of course, no player can be traded while he is away for international competition.)
It calls to mind how Niagara IceDogs owner Bill Burke was reluctant to trade franchise defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, a two-time Team Canada player, in 2009-10. Pietrangelo was eventually dealt to the Barrie Colts. The IceDogs fetch a 16-year-old named Ryan Strome in return. And now you know the rest of the story; Strome is leading the OHL in scoring.
In contrast, that season the WHL's Regina Pats held on to hometown world junior hero Jordan Eberle at their league's trade deadline. The Pats missed the playoffs and have been mid-table in their conference ever since.
Regarding Ceci, he more than rates a chance to win a championship in his final junior season after bringing Ottawa to within three wins of a berth in the final in 2012.
Graovac, who's more a long shot for Team Canada than either Ceci or Monahan, could be an ideal fit for a contender seeking depth at centre. Monahan ought to stay put for his draft season.
The 67's (6-11-0-2, .368 point percentage) have had growing pains through all three position groups. Wilson
has not provided did not offer a quick fix in goal. Bringing in the 19-year-old Windsor, who is moving on to his fourth team in the past 12 months, is one of the small fixes that could improve the lot of a young team. Nov. 12 is too early to give a goodbye kiss to Ottawa's string of 17 consecutive playoff appearances. When a team sheds an overage and an import in the same week, it feels like a distinct possibility.
The scoring-starved Bulls, meantime, now have a 20-year-old defenceman with some scoring touch. Cardwell had 16 points in 17 games for Ottawa although he was a league-worst minus-20. Belleville cleared an overage spot for him by moving Jason Shaw to the Saginaw Spirit, who were in need of a 20-year-old defender because Brandon Archibald is facing shoulder surgery that will keep him from playing this season.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.