Deadline day is here
Kamloops Blazers’ general manager Craig Bonner did his wheeling and dealing well before today’s (Jan. 10) Western Hockey League trade deadline, leaving members of the Blue and Orange to focus less on trade rumours and more on hockey.
“We’ve made our deal with [Joel] Edmundson a little earlier and now adding Kale Kessy, unless something comes up that makes a lot of sense and doesn’t result in us having to move a key roster player, I think we’re pretty much done,” Bonner said on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
If the Blazers do make a deal before today’s 2 p.m. deadline, the details will be found right here at kamloopsthisweek.com.
The Blazers’ four most-recent acquisitions have at least one thing in common — size.
Defencemen Edmundson and Sam Grist are both six-foot-four and weigh more than 200 pounds.
On the front end, Kessy is six-foot-three and tips the scales at 202 pounds, while Joe Kornelsen is listed at six-foot-one and weighs 197 pounds.
The deals were all made with the post-season in mind, said Bonner, noting size is critical in long playoff series.
“The mandate going into the year was we needed to get bigger,” Bonner said. “With the four new players, we’ve definitely added size and grit and toughness and we’ve addressed our needs.”
Kessy fills the third 20-year-old spot, after Jordan DePape was forced to leave the Blazers in November with a shoulder injury and the Charles Inglis experiment failed in December.
Forwards Brendan Ranford and Dylan Willick are the other 20s.
Ranford will have made it through six trade deadlines with the Blazers, should he not be moved in an unexpected last-minute deal after KTW’s press time.
The Edmonton product has never felt like he was on the block, but he was quickly introduced to the ruthless nature of the trade deadline upon arrival in the Tournament Capital.
“When I was 15, I remember I came in and it was close to deadline time and three guys got dealt right after the game,” Ranford said.
“It was an eye-opener for the first time I was called up.”
Defencemen Ryan Bender and Victor Bartley and centre Brock Nixon were sent packing that day.
Blazer D-man Jordan Thomson is experiencing his first deadline this season.
“It’s sad to see guys go,” said Thomson, whose former teammate and friend, Tyler Bell, was shipped to Moose Jaw in the Edmundson deal.
“You’re all good friends here and you’re all family and it’s sad to see people go but, at the same time, it’s what the coaches and organization needs to have a successful team this year.”
Blazer fans and brass alike will not get a look at the full post-deadline lineup until later this month.
Right-winger JC Lipon, who played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Ufa, Russia, is not expected to be back with the team until this weekend, when the Blazers play the Cougars in Prince George on Friday, Jan. 11, and Saturday, Jan. 12.
Defencemen Marek Hrbas, who was playing with the Czech Republic at the world juniors, and Tyler Hansen, who has been battling an illness, were expected to return on Wednesday, Jan. 9, when Kamloops hosted Tri-City (Click here for a game summary).
Hansen played, but Hrbas sat out. He will be in the lineup this weekend.
Centre Aspen Sterzer is recovering from an upper-body injury and a date for his return has not been set.
“The trouble right now is we haven’t really seen our team with a full lineup yet, but I think we have as good a chance as anybody to compete for a title,” Bonner said.