It seemed as though this year’s Western Hockey League trade deadline was going to be a quiet one with high-end players such as Joel Edmundson, David Musil, and Adam Kambeitz packing their bags earlier in the year.
But with Prince George Cougars star Alex Forsberg and Medicine Hat Tigers sniper Jayden Hart asking for trades, as well as Calgary Flames prospect Michael Ferland rejoining the Brandon Wheat Kings – there should be a handful of impact players changing cities as the January 10 deadline approaches.
The news broke through Twitter on Dec. 28 that Forsberg decided to not report back to Prince George after his Christmas break.
Forsberg, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 bantam draft, was Prince George’s cornerstone in their rebuild. Obviously, his expected departure turns the 12-19-1-4 Cougars’ situation from bad to worse.
Before the Christmas break, Cougars head coach Dean Clark shared his frustration on Forsberg’s early-season struggles to Sheri Lamb of the Prince George Citizen.
“Points aren’t just going to happen. With his skills he’s going to create something but it’s not just going to happen, you have to put the effort out there all the time. Mentally he has to get a little bit stronger. If he can understand he has to come back [from the break] in some half decent shape he’ll be fine.”
Some believe these comments may have played a part in Forsberg’s decision to not return to Prince George.
Clark wasn’t off base, though. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound centre has struggled this year, only scoring nine goals and 19 points in 31 games.
Despite his rumoured work-ethic issues and scoring struggles, there should be a handful of general managers making offers to Cougars GM Dallas Thompson for Forsberg.
With Forsberg having three-years of major junior eligibility remaining after this season, the market for the 17-year-old goes beyond the league’s contenders.
Saskatoon makes senses as a destination for Forsberg. The Blades lack talent down the middle and could use Forsberg past their MasterCard Memorial Cup season. If they are willing to part with 16-year-old centre Matt Revel and their first-round bantam pick, it seems the deal is possible.
With Seattle acquiring the Waldheim, Sk., native’s brother, Jesse Forsberg, from the Cougars in the offseason after he too asked for a trade, the Thunderbirds could also be a plausible trading partner for Prince George as they have a recent history of swapping players.
However, Prince George fans that think they can get Mathew Barzal, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 bantam draft, from Seattle for Forsberg can keep on dreaming.
Sources close to the situation are adamant it is just a matter of time before Barzal inks a deal with the Thunderbirds. They also noted Seattle’s 2011 first-round pick, Ryan Gropp, could quite likely follow suit after Barzal.
Forsberg will play for the Humboldt Broncos in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League until the Cougars find a new home for him.
Hart asking the Tigers for a trade caught them off guard.
Sean Rooney of Medicine Hat News chatted with Tigers GM-head coach Shaun Clouston on the situation.
Hart made the trip to Medicine Hat on Boxing Day in order to talk to his teammates. His agent was the one who contacted the organization about the decision, which came as a complete surprise.
"We didn't see it coming at all," said head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. "It has been a real challenging stretch for Jayden, that's basically the story. He feels he needs a fresh start."
Hart has only suited up for 18 games with the Tigers this season, netting five goals and five assists in that time. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound centre missed 17 games because of an undefined illness, a sprained knee, and a sore wrist.
With Hart just turning 18-years-old a couple weeks ago, the market for him is quite wide. The Tigers should receive a handful of calls on the services of the Spruce Grove, Alta., native.
Ferland’s decision to return to Brandon after struggling in the AHL with the Abbotsford Heat could greatly benefit the Wheat Kings’ rebuild.
The 13-20-2-2 Manitoba-based club could fetch a pretty penny for Ferland. Precedents suggest the 6-foot-2, 225-pound winger is roughly worth two first-round bantam picks or a first rounder and a high-end prospect.
But one has to keep in mind Ferland's market is limited to contenders looking to upgrade one of their three overagers.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are a logical fit for Ferland. They have an overage opening and could use his tenacity and truculence in their expected Memorial Cup run.
Regina Pats winger Lane Scheidl and Kootenay Ice defenceman Joey Leach should also garner some interest among available 20-year-olds.
Scheidl, who has 20 goals and 46 points in 40 games, would be a great offensive upgrade for a handful of contenders.
Leach is one of the top blueliners in the Western Conference. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder possesses superb offensive instincts and knows how to win as he won a championship with the Ice in 2011.
Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly would likely fetch the Moose Jaw Warriors a boatload at the deadline.
However, Warriors GM Alan Millar made it clear in an interview with Moose Jaw Times-Herald reporter Matthew Gourlie that he isn't interested in trading his star defenceman.
"We can have as many inquiries as we want. Morgan Rielly will not be traded this year," said Millar. "I'm not going to go back on my word in terms of the decision that we've made on Morgan Rielly."
Millar said that the NHL labour negotiations have limited the interest in Rielly. With the potential of Rielly being called into camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs and possibly staying up with the team at a moment's notice, the interest in a deal is maybe not what some people would perceive.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen