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Moncton Wildcats ante big for Phillip Danault, highlighting QMJHL’s deadline day

Blackhawks prospect Phillip Danault (The Canadian Press)

If this doesn't work out for the Moncton Wildcats, well, the imaginary SAT for QMJHL fans might include a question about Phillip Danault being to the 2012 trade deadline what Brad Marchand was in 2008.

With the Saint John Sea Dogs unable to find a buyer to take a flier on Florida Panthers-bound (for good?) Jonathan Huberdeau, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Danault who became the most highly sought after 19-year-old forward at the Quebec League deadline earlier Tuesday. Coach Danny Flynn's Wildcats, who are seventh overall in the league, landed Danault, but a prevailing reaction seems to be that they paid a heavy price to get an all-around centre from the Victoriaville Tigres.

Four seasons ago, the Halifax Mooseheads made made one of the more infamous trades in recent major junior history. Giving up six draft picks to get Marchand didn't pay off in a trip to the President's Cup final, let alone a championship. (At least they thoroughly bottomed out well enough to draft Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon in 2011.) Moncton coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn's ante for Danault is fairly steep, if not vas much.

It's a brassy move by Moncton, especially if highly touted 17-year-old Ivan Barbashev changes teams following the season. Danault, just based on the assets that earned him a place on Team Canada (please don't forget he almost made the team as an 18-year-old) should be a good complement to the 'Cats stable of scorers such as Alex Saulnier, Allain Saulnier and St. Louis Blues prospect Dmitrij Jaskin.

This is, however, the kind of move that is finals-or-bust. Moncton now has veteran scoring, which should have a lot of currency during the grind of the QMJHL playoffs. Danault probably gives Moncton a better matchup than any of their current centres would if they meet MacKinnon and Halifax in the playoffs. It's certainly not impossible that the 19-year-old could an impact similar to current Ottawa Senators farmhand Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who went from Gatineau to Chicoutimi last season and helped the eighth-seeded Saguéneens reach the semifinal before running into stacked Saint John.

Typically, the efficacy of a big trade might have less to do with the player and the team around him. Moncton's one question mark is goaltending, where 18-year-old Alex Dubeau (3.12 average, .883 save percentage) has had the bulk of the duties. How well Moncton can contain opposing offences might decide how the deal is remembered.

The other highlights of deadline day involved two former top-10 picks changing cities.

— League-leading Halifax brought 6-foot-5 defenceman Matt Murphy home to the Maritimes from Val-d'Or, hoping he can live up to the potential that made him the No. 5 pick in 2011. Halifax gave up 19-year-old defenceman Randy Gazzola and two first-round picks, although the second it received that was originally Sherbrooke's will be no lower than 20th overall.

— Baie-Comeau coughed up two players its next two first-rounders to Chicoutimi for Jérémy Grégoire, who was chosen right after Murphy two summers ago, and 19-year-old goalie Francis Desrosiers. It is obvious even to an Ontarian that Baie-Comeau GM Steve Ahern, thanks to the return from the summer 2011 trade of MacKinnon, had the assets to make the move.

Grégoire has not been able to improve on his promising 16-year-old stats. Like Matt Murphy, this is an obvious change-of-scenery challenge trade for a player in his draft season. How he responds to Drakkar coach Eric Veilleux should be a neat storyline for the rest of the season.

— Meantime, what the deadline might be most memorable for was Huberdeau's rights staying in Saint John. It only comes into play if the two-time Team Canada forward does not stick in Florida. It would quite a spectacle for the one-time MasterCard Memorial Cup MVP to end up playing out the string with a rebuilding team. One might give Sea Dogs GM-coach Mike Kelly some benefit of the doubt for knowing it's slim-to-none that happens.

Apologies for the overdue post; that's what a bad case of the flu will do to ya.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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