The QMJHL trading period closed its doors Wednesday and the big prize of the flurry of deals snuck under the wire up to the Abitibi-Témiscamingue in black and red.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies made the biggest splash in the midnight hour, picking up San Jose first rounder Timo Meier from the Halifax Mooseheads for a first and second rounder in 2017 and a fourth round pick in 2018.
Meier, the Moosehead captain and the winner of the league’s Michael-Bossy Trophy for best professional prospect last season, was the biggest name on the move by noon Wednesday as the league closed their annual mid-season trading window. The period opened up December 19.
The Huskies, the league’s second best team after a Val-d’Or Foreur win Tuesday pushed them out of top spot, also moved out a pair of players, their first rounder last summer Louis-Filip Côté and Vincent Chapleau, recovering a trio of draft picks in return, including a first rounder in 2018.
Rouyn-Noranda added blueliner Nikolas Brouillard from the Quebec Remparts earlier in the trading period to add to their already deep defence. Côté’s move today wrapped up that deal.
Other than Meier, the biggest name on the market, reportedly, was Alaska Aces forward Anthony DeLuca, who apparently wanted to return to the Quebec league if a deal could be reached with a contender and his Q team, the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
DeLuca, who had 11 goals in 19 playoff games last season with the Rimouski Oceanic, was not moved. Dominic Ricard, the Volts GM said that DeLuca made it hard for him to make a deal, since his prized forward only made Ricard aware of his desire to come back to the league on Sunday.
Another player who was outside the league that was moved was netminder Philippe Cadorette, who moved from basement-dwelling Baie-Comeau to the contending Shawinigan Cataractes. The Drakkar made 12 trades during the Christmas trading period, second-most of any team in the two-plus weeks of player movement. They shipped out netminder Keven Bouchard, blueliners Nicolas Meloche, Guillaume Beaudry and Tobie Paquette-Bisson, and forwards Vaclav Karabacek, Nicolas Leblond and Chad Pietroniro.
The only team who made more moves were the Cataractes, who were looking to buy. They made 13 moves, including picking up Cadorette in goal, defender Jonathan Deschamps, Matt Klebanskyj and Cavan Fitzgerald, and forwards Danny Moynihan, Dmytro Timashov, Gabriel Gagné and Samuel Blier.
They sent out goaltender Antoine Samuel, defenceman Jocktan Chainey and Zachary Taylor, and forwards James Phelan, Gabriel Slight and Giovanni Fiore.
The biggest surprise in the trading period was the lack of goaltenders moved. Only Bouchard, Samuel and Cadorette were starting goaltenders on the move over the two-plus weeks, with Cadorette and Samuel moving for each other.
Only Shawinigan and the Moncton Wildcats made moves to bolster their netminders, meaning the Huskies trust their net to overager Chase Marchand, the Gatineau Olympiques are ready to move with rookies Mathieu Bellemare and Bo Taylor, and the Sherbrooke Phoenix will stick with 17-year-old Evan Fitzpatrick as their starting goalie. The Rimouski Oceanic and Sherbrooke swapped backup goalies, with Alexandre Lagacé heading to the Oceanic and Charles-Antoine Poirier-Turcot part of the package going the other way.
Rimouski didn’t move overage goalkeeper Louis-Philippe Guindon though, believed to be on some teams’ wishlists, and the Charlottetown Islanders, likely shifting their attitude from sell to buy with the return of star forward Daniel Sprong, kept hold of Team Canada WJC netminder Mason McDonald. Halifax 20-year-old goalie Eric Brassard also stayed put.
League-leading Val-d’Or made six moves, including three in the final hours Wednesday. Their biggest moves were picking up defenceman Filip Pyrochta, centers François Beauchemin and Alexandre Delisle-Houde and re-acquiring defenceman David Henley.
Not to be outdone, West Division rivals Gatineau also buzzed the phones, picking up overager Samuel Tremblay among a pair of deals on the final day, and veteran forward Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau Tuesday. They also picked up defencemen Meloche from Baie-Comeau and Guillaume MacSween from Rimouski.
The Maritimes Division leading Wildcats made a pair of moves to shape up their team Wednesday, getting forwards Joey Richard from Gatineau and Campbell Pickard from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for a pair of picks. They also acquired Bouchard and Karabacek in a pair of deals with the Drakkar, along with defenceman Cody Donaghey and netminder Julian Galloway from the Quebec Remparts in a pair of deals.
The Titan made three moves Wednesday, picking up Val-d’Or Foreur second rounder Cole Rafuse and Emanuel Aucoin from Drummondville. They reshaped their blueline with Garrett Johnston, Jason Bell and Jake Barter coming to the Titan over the trading period to try and overcome injuries to captain Guillaume Brisebois and blueliner Elijah Francis.
The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles added two more veteran forwards to the fold Wednesday, picking up Fiore from Shawinigan and Massimo Carozza from Quebec.
The Charlottetown Islanders received perhaps the best move of the whole trading period by getting star forward Daniel Sprong back from the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Sprong back in the fold, the Islanders made a trio of moves in the final days, picking up Leblond from the Drakkar, Jake Coughler from Gatineau and Alexis Vanier from Sherbrooke via Blainville-Boisbriand.
Another team in the spotlight for making moves was Sherbrooke, believed to be a contender at the start of the season and stumbling through a disappointing first half. New GM Jocelyn Thibault made six moves over the period, acquiring useful forward Anthony Chapados and netminder Poirier-Turcotfrom Rimouski on the period’s final day. They also picked up Pietroniro from the Drakkar, and defenders Matt Sartoris from the Olympiques and Nathanael Halbert from the Armada, sending out Vanier, Lagacé, Vincent Deslauriers, Mikael Sabourin and Scottie Greene.
17 of the 18 teams in the league made a move Wednesday, with only the Islanders opting out on the final day. A full list of trades is available here.