Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thinning the Herd

The Thunderbirds announced Wednesday that they have dealt left winger Jaimen Yakubowski, along with a conditional 2016 7th round draft pick, to Moose Jaw in exchange for a third round selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. My first reaction to this is that GM Russ Farwell got a very good return in the swap. You might recall a few years back when the T-birds traded Jeremy Boyer to Saskatoon they received a 3rd round pick in return. That pick was turned into Shea Theodore. And last season's trade of Jesse Forsberg also netted them a third round pick which they used to help acquire some important pieces for the second half last season.

The Thunderbirds can do two things with that draft pick. Hold on to it and use to restock the team. When the current group of young players are graduating out of the program in 3-4 years, the player selected with that pick will just be entering the prime of his WHL career. Or, they can use that draft pick as part of a trade package to bolster the team either this winter at the trade deadline, or in January of 2016.

In any trade the hope is that the deal works out for both sides. In acquiring Yakubowski, Moose Jaw gets a gritty two-way player who has also shown the ability to score goals at the WHL level. While he potted just nine goals in 47 games with Seattle, that is partly due to the fact he was willing to accept a role on a checking line. He is just two year removed from a 30+ goal campaign. I think he can also provide them with some toughness as well as leadership. He should be a tremendous locker room guy for them as well. The one thing I learned about Yak in the short time he was with Seattle is that he is a team player and very positive guy. That should fit well with a relatively young team in Moose Jaw.

The deal is also classic Farwell in that he puts the player's best interest into the equation. By dealing him to Moose Jaw, Yakubowski gets to play his final WHL season near his Saskatchewan home.

By making the move a week before training camp opens Farwell also reduces the number of 20 year olds still left to fight it out over three roster spots. There is certainly still opportunity for another trade before camp begins but as of now the remaining candidates for those three spots are goalie Taran Kozun, defensemen Adam Henry and Evan Wardley and forwards Justin Hickman, Sam McKechnie and Connor Honey. It is still possible that a couple of those players could make the final decisions easier by signing pro contracts, such as Hickman and Wardley. Until that unknown becomes a known, I would expect all six of those players to be at camp for the duration, that is, of course, unless some WHL team makes an offer for one of those players the T-birds simply can't refuse.

Additionally, with Shea Theodore most likely getting a longer look at camp with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks then he got last season, it makes sense to hold on to one, if not both, of Henry and Wardley until Theodore is returned to the T-birds in October.

In summary, this is a good deal for Seattle. It reduces the number of players fighting for those three spots but not to the point there isn't any competition. No one has been handed a roster position. They still have to go out and earn it.

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