By Kevin Chambers
The trade 2012-13 trade period has come and gone and the Saint John Sea Dogs, as expected, were very active on the trade front as they begin their rebuild after three exciting seasons. Below is a more in depth look at the trades and returns that happened during this year’s annual holiday tradition (no, not the world juniors).
Saint John kicked off their trade period with a bang by moving long time Sea Dogs defenseman Kevin Gagne to the Rimouski Oceanic along with a 6th round pick in 2014.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Gagne dealt after an excellent 1st half of the season and he has continued that success since joining the Oceanic. Gagne is currently leading all defensemen in goals and points with 13 goals & 43 points in just 37 games.
In exchange, Saint John acquired Rimouski’s 1st and 6th round picks in 2013 as well as a 4th round pick in 2014 (Cape Breton). A very good return for Gagne given the market for overage players this season, especially given most had suggested maybe a 2nd round pick would be good value for Gagne at the start of the season.
Consider this a win for both the Oceanic and the rebuilding Sea Dogs. With Rimouski’s young but talented defense core Gagne will be an excellent addition for not only this season but will have a lasting effect on the young defense as their develop. With Rimouski being such a young and talented team they could afford to trade the picks and the good news for Saint John is this draft is expected to be one of the better drafts in the previous few years. So despite the pick likely being late in round one the Dogs can still expect a good player or possibly move up.
The Sea Dogs next transaction was acquiring Michael Abbott from the Gatineau Olympiques. Abbott was drafted in the 4th round by the PEI Rocket then traded to Gatineau for a 4th round pick followed by his trade to Saint John for - you guessed it - a 4th round pick (2015). The 18-year old Abbott was getting limited ice time with Gatineau and the Sea Dogs had a void to fill after trading Kevin Gagne.
As everyone was getting settled in for 2013 Ryan Tesink began packing his bags getting ready for another shot at a championship with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (I’m gonna stick with calling them the Armada). After being drafted by the Sea Dogs in the 1st round of the QMJHL draft, Tesink has enjoyed back-to-back championship seasons with Saint John and he has a good chance to win his 3rd straight President’s Cup trophy with the Armada.
Despite the pressure of playing in front of the home town crowd, Tesink thrived and embraced the challenge and was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues.
In exchange for Tesink the Sea Dogs acquired their own 1st round pick which was previously used to acquire the services of Charles-Olivier Roussel last season. Saint John really wanted this pick back from the Armada as it’s expected to be a top five pick in the 2013 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Aidan Kelly / Jeremy Doucet
The second trade of the day on January 2nd also involved a local player as Aidan Kelly was dealt to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in exchange for 17-year old defenseman Jeremy Doucet.
Kelly was drafted by his hometown Sea Dogs in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. Kelly accepted his role within the team over the past few seasons and with a good work ethic was able to help the Sea Dogs win back-to-back titles. Kelly has had a good start to his career with the Titan picking up 3 assists in his first 4 games including a fight.
In Jeremy Doucet the Sea Dogs have added more youth and size to their defense core. Doucet was originally drafted in the 5th round by Bathurst. Doucet, like Abbott, was getting limited ice time and will get a new opportunity with Saint John. In limited viewing Doucet seems to be more defensive and has had no problems with dropping down to block shots for his team. Nothing flashy should be expected but adding another young blueliner will help the team this year and in the years to come.
Stephen MacAulay is another player, like Kevin Gagne, that Sea Dog fans have come to truly appreciate for his tireless work ethic, leadership, and commitment not only to his team but the community in general. After being drafted in the 3rd round in 2008 by Saint John and going on to play 255 games for the Sea Dogs (4th all-time), MacAulay was dealt to the division rival Halifax Mooseheads.
MacAulay will undoubtedly bring all the things to the Mooseheads that he brought every night when he played for the Sea Dogs. MacAulay, who is most notable for the defensive aspects of his game, was a major reason for the success of the Sea Dogs over the past three seasons. MacAulay was often tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top players and had great success in doing so.
In exchange for MacAulay Saint John acquired a 4th round pick in 2013 as well as a 2nd round pick in the 2014 draft as Saint John continues to unload and rebuild the Dogs.
A day before the deadline the Sea Dogs made a bit of a surprise move by trading 18-year old defender Benjamin Hade to the Sherbrooke Phoenix. GM Mike Kelly later mentioned that they wanted to give Hade the opportunity to get more ice time and not have to alternate nights sitting in the stands. Hade was originally drafted by Saint John in the 4th round of the 2010 draft.
In exchange Saint John added another 4th round pick, this one in the 2014 entry draft, adding to their growing stable of picks in the coming drafts.
On the final day for trades there was very little action from the Sea Dogs camp although they did make one minor deal involving the acquisition of Brett Malone for a 10th round pick in 2014. Malone was drafted by the rival Moncton Wildcats in the 3rd round. Malone was later traded to Cape Breton before being claimed off waivers by another rival in the Shawinigan Cataractes who traded him to Saint John.
Ian Saab & Maxime Villemaire
During an active trade period the Sea Dogs also managed to bring back a couple familiar faces to Harbour Station and add some much needed toughness with the return of Ian Saab and Maxime Villemaire.
Saab had been playing in Austria with Salzburg EC where in 8 games the physical defenseman picked up 41 penalty minutes. Saab will add some much needed toughness to Saint John’s backend. Saab had 164 penalty minutes during his last stint with Saint John.
Villemaire was playing in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators where he picked up one assist along with 43 penalty minutes in 15 games. We can only hope that all the proper documentation is filled out before he plays a game.
After thought …
After winning back-to-back championships and a Memorial Cup, parting ways with some of the character players that helped win these titles seems a little tougher. One thing is certain - we as fans find it difficult to see our favorite players move on to their new teams but we all wish them continued success in whichever path their lives take these young hockey players. And remember - once a Dog, always a Dog!
Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation