The Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats put its East Division rivalry to the side to make a major trade that benefits both clubs. Brandon acquired Calgary Flames first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk from Regina for 2015 NHL draft prospect Jesse Gabrielle.
The Wheat Kings, who hold a 28-7-3-1 record, are without question contenders this year, but it wasn’t a given that they would be a big buyer because of how they seem to be built for next season. In addition, Brandon may not have as many tough obstacles in its way next year since the powerhouse Kelowna Rockets are built for this season. This move shows that GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon is willing to risk trading some long-term assets for rental players that will better his team’s chances of winning it all this year.
"A lot of people refer to our team as a team built for next year but, at the same time, it's January 2 and we've lost seven games," McCrimmon told Brandon play-by-play announcer Bruce Luebke. "I think we have to be mindful that we should have high goals for our team this year."
The addition of Klimchuk, who has 14 goals and 30 points in 27 games, solidifies Brandon’s offense as clearly the best in the Eastern Conference. Their top nine of Klimchuk, Florida Panthers second-rounder Jayce Hawryluk, New Jersey Devils first-rounder John Quenneville, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Peter Quenneville, Minnesota Wild pick Reid Duke, Richard Bukarts, Nolan Patrick, Tim McGauley and Tyler Coulter is ultimately unbelievable. Their third line is better than some team’s first lines.
There is, however, more than meets the eye to this deal than the Wheaties simply upgrading a forward. Brandon management was not happy with how Gabrielle was conducting himself off the ice and at times on the ice. There was also frustration from Gabrielle’s perspective on his relationship with the coaching staff. The trade essentially wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for these issues.
From the Queen City Kids' perspective, they will undoubtedly miss Klimchuk’s offensive production for the remainder of this season, but this move will benefit them next season and likely the year after. The 6-foot, 214-pound Gabrielle, who has 13 goals and 25 points in 33 contests, is regarded as one of the top agitators in the league with top-notch work ethic and quality offensive abilities. He seems to be the perfect fit to ride shotgun with prized 2013 bantam pick Sam Steel.
One of the best aspects of this trade for Regina is that it doesn’t knock them out of the playoff picture. It might be tough for the 23-12-2-0 Pats to stay ahead of the Swift Current Broncos in second spot, but third place should be theirs for the taking with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince Albert Raiders still appearing to be a step behind them.
This trade by Pats GM-head coach John Paddock bucks Regina’s previous trend of holding on to its star 19-year-old players in years where a championship was out of the question. The organization held on to Edmonton Oilers sniper Jordan Eberle in 2010 and Los Angeles Kings pick Jordan Weal in 2012 when Russ Parker owned the team. This is a good indication that Queen City Sports and Entertainment has a more long-term philosophy than the previous ownership group.
John Paddock says with not a lot of draft picks, the moves by old regime forced them to do this so they don't trade a star in the future
— Lee Jones (@LeeJonesCTV) January 2, 2015
Trade deadline approaching
More major trades are poised to take place before the Jan. 10 deadline. The Raiders are in the process of trading Leon Draisaitl’s rights to the Rockets. It is believed that the Edmonton Oilers would return the Germany native to the WHL once the deal is completed. In the Central Division, the Edmonton Oil Kings are feeling out the market for Pittsburgh Penguins goalie prospect Tristan Jarry while 17-year-old defender Connor Hobbs is still waiting on a trade from the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen