In the past week, the Moose Jaw Warriors have pulled off four trades, adding five forwards to their roster and a few picks to their arsenal.
The WHL Trade Deadline came and went on Tuesday with plenty of action around the league as teams made ten trades before the deadline hit at 4 p.m. Sask time.
After making two major deals in the lead up to deadline day, the Warriors stayed busy by pulling off two more deals before the deadline hit, including adding Moose Jaw product Branden Klatt.
“I feel real good about this deadline in terms of the type of players that we were able to bring in, quality people, character, players that committed to playing the game hard and committed to playing the game the right way,” said Warriors’ general manager Alan Millar. “Khomenko, Almeida, Foster, Klatt and Bast, we’re through the roof with them and feel that we’re more complete, more balanced and we have a real good room right now.”
The Warriors have been able to put together a stellar first half of the regular season, but Millar felt that there was still something left in the tank for the team. He wanted to see a more sound defensive game with all five players on the ice working as a unit over all 200 feet of the ice.
He feels like these trades have been able to address that without spending too many assets.
“There was a lot of nights that I didn’t like the way we played,” said Millar. “I compared us to the Russians, everything had to be fancy, I wanted more grind, I wanted more 200-feet game, I wanted more trusting players and more responsibility.
“There was certain things in our game personnel-wise that I didn’t think were going to help us win in March, April and May, so that’s how we moved forward on the plan that we wanted to do and we believe we’ve done that with the depth and five guys that we’ve added.”
The first trade, way back on Jan. 5, saw the Warriors send Nikita Popugaev to Prince George for Justin Almeida, Yan Khomenko, a fifth round pick in 2017 and a second round pick in 2018.
Both players have looked strong in their first three games with Moose Jaw.
The Warriors than flipped those two picks to Vancouver on Sunday, along with 17-year-old forward Brayden Watts in exchange for 20-year-old forward Thomas Foster, a 2017 eighth round pick and a 2018 fifth round pick.
On Deadline Day, the Warriors added 18-year-old forward Branden Klatt – a Moose Jaw product – from Edmonton for a 2018 fourth round pick and a conditional 2019 sixth round pick.
“Klatt is a guy that, going back to his time with the Generals, we’ve always had time for, we know what a quality kid he is and how hard he works,” said Millar. “He’s a big heavy guy and that’s something that we were looking for in the completeness of our forward group.”
In his second WHL season, Klatt had four goals, nine points and 28 penalty minutes this season with the Oil Kings before the trade.
Moose Jaw finished their moves by acquiring 19-year-old forward Spencer Bast for a 2018 eighth round pick. Bast has ten goals and 23 points in 93 career WHL games.
“(Bast) had some offensive upside in midget, he had moved down the lineup in Kamloops with some of the moves that they’ve made, he was available, he’s a right shot, plays the game simple and the right way and we felt that he’d be a real good addition to compliment our group and he can chip in offensively if need be,” said Millar.
In total the Warriors brought in five forwards and two picks at the deadline, while sending out two players, two picks and a conditional pick, while the Cougars’ two picks were moved in and out.
The team got slightly older, but also more experience and deeper.
“The decisions are tough, it’s not easy to make trades, they’re big decisions even if you’re giving up an eighth round pick,” said Millar. “We look at our program three years out whenever we’re doing a trade and I feel real good about this deadline.”
Heading into the past week, the Warriors already featured a deep offensive group and many fans on social media were hoping for an upgrade to the team’s defensive group.
When it came down to it however, Millar felt for the defencemen that were available, the prices were too high to pay.
“The reality of the D market is that there was no D and we weren’t paying for (Aaron) Irving or (Josh) Mahura, that wasn’t where we were going at this deadline, they were at a premium and prices were real high,” said Millar.
“Our back-end is maturing and some of the things we were struggling with early on aren’t going away. Jett Woo is just 16, Josh Brook is 17 and Colin Paradis is getting his feet wet as a guy playing every night.
“You’re always looking to improve, but really the trade deadline is dictated by the market and the market didn’t bare a lot of defencemen.”
The Warriors will take their newly adjusted roster and head out on the road for the next three weeks. They open a six-game, ten-day road trip in Vancouver against the Giants on Friday night.
Around the WHL Trade Deadline
There was some very significant moves around the Western Hockey League on Trade Deadline Day, especially in the East Division.
The Division-leading Regina Pats pulled off the biggest deal of the deadline by adding 18-year-olds Josh Mahura and Jeff De Wit in exchange for 18-year-old Lane Zablocki, 16-year-old Dawson Barteaux, two first round picks and a conditional third round pick.
That move leaves Regina without a first round pick on their team for five straight years.
The Swift Current Broncos also went big just before the deadline by adding 20-year-old goalie Jordan Papirny and a fourth round pick in 2018 for defenceman Kade Jensen, 19-year-old goalie Travis Child, a 2019 second round pick and a 2018 fifth round pick.
Brandon brought in 20-year-old Russian defenceman Dmitry Osipov in exchange for 19-year-old defenceman Jordan Wharrie and a 2019 second round pick.
After trading for Popugaev, the Prince George Cougars continued to load up and now have 12 19-year-olds on their roster.