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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 15:46

Who’s next? Trading is all about building a better team

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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Now what? On the surface, the Swift Current Broncos’ Oct. 19 trade of defenceman Graeme Craig to Saskatoon for forward Brent Benson seemed to create more questions than answers.


For starters, it left the Broncos with six active defencemen.
The swap of 19-year-olds didn’t make them any younger either, a direction they’ll need to go eventually as they continue building for next year and beyond.
One theory to consider: This is merely the tip of the roster-overhaul iceberg.
With eight 19-year-olds — four NHL draft picks and an early contender for goalie of the year among them — this year’s Broncos have a lot of promise.
Making the playoffs is considered a must.
Winning a playoff series is a real possibility.
And it’s not out of line to suggest the Broncos could upset their way to an East Division or Eastern Conference title.
But there’s a catch.
Head coach and general manager Mark Lamb has been selling a long-term building process and the idea of becoming a consistently elite franchise since trading Cody Eakin in January 2010.
If he means what he says, then this year can only be about this year to the extent of making the playoffs and the Broncos will be saying goodbye to at least one top-end player in the next few months.
As things stand today the Broncos can return 14 players from this year’s roster in 2013-14, including just three of those eight 1993-born players. (See: Benson, Adam Lowry, Reece Scarlett, Graham Black, Richard Nedomlel, Eetu Laurikainen, Daniel Dale, Josh Derko.)
That means at least three legitimate WHL defencemen and three WHL-ready forwards need to come into the fold for next year.
As successfully as the Broncos have drafted under Lamb, it’s pretty far-fetched to expect a half dozen reliable Western Hockey League players to emerge from the pipeline — any team’s pipeline — over the next 12 months.
So they’ll need to look to the trade market, and will probably give up a core player or two to do it right.
The good news for the Broncos is that they’re dealing from a position of strength.
Most likely to be dealt are the players the Broncos may lose for nothing after the season — over-agers (Chance Lund, Ryon Moser, Dalton Reum) in their final year of junior, and 19-year-old NHL draft picks (Black, Lowry, Scarlett, Nedomlel) who could very well spend next season in the pro ranks.
While the market for over-agers is always tiny, those four NHL picks are four very different types of players. This will increase the number of teams interested in dealing with the Broncos as the season progresses which, in turn, will allow Lamb to drive up the cost of doing business with him.
It also appears this year could see a glut of buyers — teams attempting to keep up with Kamloops (Tri-City? Portland? Spokane?), teams attempting to live up to preseason expectations (Edmonton? Lethbridge? Prince Albert?) and teams hosting the Memorial Cup (Saskatoon) to name just a few — as the Jan. 10 trade deadline approaches.
Benson’s addition first allows the Broncos to better withstand the loss of another top six forward, and second creates insurance for next year’s over-age group in the event Black, Lowry, Nedomlel and Scarlett are all lost either to other teams or the next step in their careers.
The Broncos will be hard-pressed to justify a third straight season out of the playoffs, so trading all four of them is not practical.
But as 2013-14 draws nearer, trading one or two will become a necessity.
Who’s next?

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