By Andrew McGilligan
You’ll have to forgive a few Saint John Sea Dogs fans for not wanting the NHL lockout to end….at least until well into the New Year.
Should the labour unrest continue, Saint John fans will get to watch Jonathan Huberdeau apply his talents in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Then there’s the Christmas trade deadline. The Sea Dogs are a team rebuilding after an unprecedented three-year run which brought numerous championships and accolades to the Port City.
This rebuilding process could be hastened with a trade of the league’s premiere talent for a combination of players and draft picks. While there’s no guarantee the Sea Dogs will trade Huberdeau and the looming possibility of the NHL getting back-to-business makes this a hypothetical exercise, but it’s worth asking: What is Huberdeau worth?
There’s no need to debate his credentials or his character, he’s the total package at this level. He would improve any team that could acquire him.
The next question is who might want his services?
The Quebec Remparts and the Halifax Mooseheads are the likeliest candidates as both are expected to challenge for the President’s Cup. Both teams would be happy to see Huberdeau skating on the top line alongside the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin in Halifax or Adam Erne and Anthony Duclair in Quebec.
So, Huberdeau would be a welcome addition to any championship contender, the best trade piece available in the league and it would stand to reason the Remparts and Mooseheads would be interested.
So what could the Dogs get in return for Huberdeau? The biggest trades at the Christmas deadline of the past few seasons involved two defenceman and one forward. The Moncton Wildcats sent Brandon Gormley to the Shawinigan Cataractes last season for the rights to Michael Matheson, Yannick Veilleux, Jonathan Racine, Alex Dubeau and second-round pick in 2014 (The original deal involved more picks which were sent back to Shawinigan at the 2012 entry draft for Veilleux, Racine and Dubeau).
Morgan Ellis fetched a couple of players (Bronson Beaton, Justin Haché) and second round pick in 2012 for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles from the Cataractes. Two seasons ago, the league’s top scorer, Philip-Michael Devos, was dealt from Victoriaville to Gatineau for David Laliberte, a first-round pick in 2011, a second-round pick in 2011 and Philippe Halley.
Of those trades, Gormely would seem to be the closest in value given both players stature as future NHLers and cornerstones of potential playoff runs given past successes.
The team holds the rights to the Sherbrooke Phoenix first round European selection in 2013 which should be high given the tough first few seasons of most expansion teams. The Mooseheads also hold the rights to the Remparts 2014 first-round pick as part of the Erne deal. A combination of those picks along with some players such as Luca Ciampini, Brent Andrews and a defenceman (the players most likely coming at the 2013 draft in return for some picks) and we’re somewhere in the vicinity of Huberdeau’s potential trade value. It’s hard to figure exactly what combination Sea Dogs head coach and general manager Mike Kelly would want, but there are plenty of options.
It should be noted that you can never rule out Patrick Roy’s savvy when it comes to trades. Roy often pulls off blockbuster deals and gets a third and fourth team involved to get the right fit.
Some fans would no doubt want players such as Drouin, Zachary Fucale, Duclair or Erne included in any package. It seems unlikely either team would include those players as they’re likely to return to junior hockey next season (although the way Drouin is playing you never know).
A dark horse in the mix is the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, another top team in the league and based near Huberdeau’s home of St-Jerome. The squad would no doubt make a push for the services of the Sea Dogs star, it’s a question what comes in return. A package heavier on draft picks would likely be the way to go with the Armada.
However, as it stands today, the Dogs could speed up the clock on the rebuild with a Huberdeau deal and the Moose look like a good place to start.
Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation