Monday, 8 January 2018

TRADE TREE: Deadline deal paves way to 'Canes '97 title run

The WHL trade deadline provides fans with a barometre of what's to come for a team. Are they buyers for a coming playoff run? Are they sellers with the future in mind? Or will the status quo allow for a future plan to continue?

Going into January 1995, the Lethbridge Hurricanes were on the bubble and they had some assets. Then the news...

"The deal is done," Trevor Kenney wrote in the Lethbridge Herald. "Rumoured for weeks and inevitable in the eyes of many, the Lethbridge Hurricanes completed what will amount to a nine-player trade with the Saskatoon Blades."

The Blades were a front-runner in the East Division, but were in a hotly-contested race with Brandon, Prince Alert and Moose Jaw. All knowing that Kamloops was hosting the Memorial Cup, so they had a good chance of joining the Blazers in the spring.

So GM Bob Bartlett dropped the bombshell. Gone were overage fan favourite Mark Szoke, bruising 19-year-old Lee Sorochan and fellow 19-year-old Dmitri Markovsky. The Hurricanes got six players back, including overager Steve Roberts, three 17-year-olds, and two players to be named at the end of the season.

Roberts put up nine points in ten games to round out the season. But the centrepieces of the deal were two of the three 17-year-olds. Forward Kirby Law and defenseman Mike O'Grady turned into major pieces to the puzzle for the Hurricanes' 1997 WHL Championship run. The other 17-year-old, Doyle McMorris, played at total of 43 games with the Hurricanes.

"All four players were regulars with the Blades this season, something the Hurricanes said was key to the deal," Kenney wrote in the January 31, 1995 edition of the Herald. "Mainly because they still feel a playoff spot is up for grabs in the East Division."

As history will indicate, the Hurricanes missed out on the playoffs. But they ended up winning in the long game, as the Blades would be ousted in the second round, while Lethbridge's return gave them a championship two short years later.

READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 1
READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 2
READ MORE: "The Trade" - Part 3

In case you're wondering about the two "players to be named later," they became overagers Chris McAllister and Trevor Hanas. McAllister went to Syracuse in 1995, while Hanas put up 35 points and 111 penalty minutes in his final year of junior hockey.

Now, where this turns into a trade tree is with Kirby Law. After a couple of solid years with the Hurricanes, he ended up being traded to Brandon for his overage year, right after the Memorial Cup run. The Hurricanes received Jason Boyd in return.

Boyd was later traded to Medicine Hat in one of those rare Highway 3 deals for Curtis Huppe. Huppe was sent to Tri-City with Andrew Guindon for Nathan Barrett and Ryan Jorde. And to finish things up, Jorde was packed up with Colin Johnston back to the Americans for Adam Johnson and Ryley Layden.

To put the footnote on the end of this one, ahead of the 2002 season, Layden faxed a letter to the Hurricanes saying for personal reasons, he was done with the Hurricanes. Layden ended up with Red Deer while the Canes grabbed Mike Wirll from Prince George for Tyrell Moulton to solidify their overager situation.

Could another major deal be in the cards in 2018? Will the Hurricanes be buyers, sellers or be content with the roster, sitting just five points up on 4th place Calgary? We'll see how all the ducks line up after Wednesday's deadline.

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