By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Many Oshawa Generals fans may have a few questions following the Jan. 10 OHL trade deadline that saw their first place club trade away two of its best players. And while some of those worries may not be alleviated by the acquisitions of rookies Allan McShane and Ian Blacker, or veteran Mason Kohn from the Kitchener Rangers, GM Roger Hunt wants to assure fans that there is a greater vision at work here.
“I’m not trying to sabotage our season,” he says. “We want to give our fans the best possible team going forward and as much as it pains me to say goodbye to those kids that we traded out, it quickly moves to excitement of new guys coming in.”
Prior to the deadline, the Generals were quiet, only moving fourth-year Stephen Templeton to the North Bay Battalion in return for a draft pick (Templeton didn’t report to North Bay and was then dealt to the Hamilton Bulldogs). The Generals also picked up defencemen Matt Brassard from the Barrie Colts in return for a set of picks.
However, following weeks of swirling rumours, the announcement came hours before the deadline that captain Anthony Cirelli and star defenceman Mitch Vande Sompel would no longer be Oshawa Generals, with Cirelli finding his way to Erie in return for McShane and draft picks while Vande Sompel returns to his home town London Knights. Rookie defenceman Ian Blacker and another series of picks came in his place.
And despite a last-minute deal that saw defenceman Daniel Robertson traded to the Windsor Spitfires in return for a 3rd round pick, the focus was on the former captain and veteran defencemen.
“If this was the NHL, we would have signed them both to five-year extensions, but it’s the nature of the beast and they’re going to be moving on,” Hunt admits. “At the end of the day, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Anthony Cirelli are playing pro hockey next year and that’s what they need to do.”
Hunt says he’s happy with the deals he made, despite how hard it was to see them go.
“I can sleep at night knowing that we did the best thing for our organization and the outgoing kids,” he says.
However, while getting value for his top players while he still could was a priority, it’s clear a large driving factor behind the trades was an attempt to bolster the club’s roster for the 2018 season and the team’s Memorial Cup bid. Hunt admits that the decision may have a negative impact in the short term.
“Are we weakening our team here now with Vande (Sompel) and Cirelli and Robertson out? You know, we have, for a little while, and our team is going to be sucker punched and it will take a little bit to gather its feet, but at the end of the day, this was done for the bigger cause.”
The club will be making their bid presentation on Jan. 25, where they are up against the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Regina Pats to host the 100th running of the tournament. A final decision is expected next month.
Hunt says that even if the club is unsuccessful in being awarded the tournament, the decisions made on Jan. 10 will be a boost to get the Generals back to a Memorial Cup in the coming years, whether they are the host or not.
“We’ve got a good nucleus here, we’ve got a good core of players,” he says. “If we were unsuccessful, I want this team to be at a Memorial Cup within the next couple years.”
Seeing the impact that the 2015 Memorial Cup victory had on the city is a motivating factor for Hunt.
“We saw how energetic and how much of a boost to the city this was in 2015,” he says. “What better way to repay those fans than to have them just come down to their local arena?”