Thursday, 9 February 2017

'The Trade' - Part II

“You never think it's going to happen but we just kept pounding away and pounding away and finally, we made the deal happen." It's not every day we get to talk about a blockbuster deal, in particular in the WHL. I think back over the past few years and the Brayden Schenn deal to Saskatoon Blades Hockey Club and the Cody Eakin move to Official Kootenay ICE Hockey Club certainly come to mind. That's part of the reason why looking back on the 9-player deal between the Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club and Prince Albert Raiders in 1997 fascinates me. But believe it or not, then-Hurricanes GM Bryan Maxwell says it wasn't something you saw a lot back then, either. LISTEN: Bryan Maxwell chats with Joe McFarland about ‘The Trade’ Discussions with the Raiders had been going on for weeks about Chris Phillips, who everyone knew was bound for the NHL after the season. The Raiders were fielding offers from a number of teams. Despite a very strong start to the season, Maxwell felt the Hurricanes were a couple of pieces away from making a big run. He targeted Phillips and sniper Shane Willis from the onset, but knew he would have to give up some future pieces. The talks went on for weeks. "It was kind of back-and-forth and back-and-forth to make it happen," Maxwell said. It was during league meetings at the WHL All-Star Game in Prince George where the two teams finally able to come up with something they could agree to. The Hurricanes acquired Phillips, Willis, defenseman Dylan Kemp and goaltender Blaine Russell for forwards Cam Severson and David Cameron, defenseman Richard Seeley, prospect Ross Lupaschuk and a second-round bantam draft choice. Maxwell admits Russell was the real find in the trade, as he took the reigns between the pipes late in the season and turned in a stellar performance in the playoffs, as did the other three. But it came at a cost for the future. "We ended up moving some players we didn't want to move but that's always the case, I guess, when you're dealing with elite players," Maxwell said. He looks particularly at the youngster Lupaschuk, who he believed was going to be an asset for years to come. "We told them that he was the one guy we didn't want to move and probably shouldn't have said that," Maxwell said about how Prince Albert really pursued Lupaschuk, making him an integral part of the deal. Looking back, Maxwell remembers one conversation he had, which really set a high expectation after the deal. "I'll never, ever forget Al Tuer called me, he was in Moose Jaw at the time, and he said 'I don't know how you did it Maxy but I'm picking you guys to win,'" he said. And win, they did.

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