Scott Bonner’s slipping. The Vancouver Giants didn’t announce a trade on Saturday.
Considering the way things have played out of late for the WHL club and its general manager, no news was big news. In the three days leading up to weekend, Bonner made a hat trick of swaps that saw the Giants part with a trio of veterans with a combined 464 regular season games played in Vancouver garb.
Bonner could have waited until closer to the Jan. 10 trade deadline to move the likes of first-line centre Nathan Burns or No. 1 defenceman David Musil. Their values could have risen, with pressure snug around the collective necks of the contenders. On the flip side, there will be even more sellers looking to deal off their last-year guys at that point.
Once the Vancouver braintrust came to grips that the club was best off giving more ice time to their younger players and building for the future, Bonner went into action and may have set the trade tone for the rest of the league for the rest of the year.
He found trade partners looking for a quick reboot. He sent Burns, 19, to the Saskatoon Blades, this year’s Memorial Cup hosts who went into action Saturday with the 18th best record in the 22-team WHL, with their 7-9-0-0 start.
In return, the Giants received centre Travis McEvoy, 18, who could become a key contributor in Vancouver if he’s as good on face-offs as advertised, as well as a first-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft and a 2013 third-round choice.
Burns has shown flashes of being a legitimate first-line talent. He might burst out offensively in a new setting. The fact is, though, he has 34 goals and 42 assists in 187 regular-season games in Vancouver. First-round picks usually bring certainties, not coulds and shoulds.
Blades general manager and coach Lorne Molleken told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: “We know what we thought he was worth. Obviously the price of poker is high this year because of the Memorial Cup. We were willing to do that.”
And Burns, when asked about the pressure of the trade, explained: “I’m just going to come in and play my game, not really thinking too much about everything else.”
Musil, 19, does have a flashier resume, considering he was a second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2011. The Oilers own the Edmonton Oil Kings, and it’s a safe bet there were some conversations there that helped lead them to obtaining him from Vancouver for defenceman Mason Geertsen, 17, and a 2013 first-round pick.
The Oil Kings, the reigning league champions, were just seventh overall, at 9-4-1-2, going into Saturday and they continue to miss defenceman Martin Gernat, 19, to a shoulder injury.
Musil could flourish playing behind the likes of Griffin Reinhart, 18, rather than being an all-everything man in Vancouver, but Edmonton will have deal with him going to world juniors and possibly with him taking part in Oilers training camp if the NHL resumes. Those are some potent potential distractions that could have hurt his value by the Jan. 10 cut-off.
Bonner will surely have more trades, but, for now, it looks like he’ll have some scouting to do. In his other trade last week, he sent disgruntled centre Austin Vetterl, 18, to the Kootenay Ice for a pair of 17-year-old prospects playing in the Alberta Junior A league, forward Douglas Morris and defenceman Kyle Krabben.
He’ll also have to check out some bantams sometime soon, too. Through a variety of trades, Vancouver has two first-round picks, two seconds and three thirds in this year draft, as well as having two firsts next year.