When Nikita Scherbak inevitably returns to the WHL from the Montreal Canadiens organization, he won’t be heading back to the City of Bridges for a second season. The Saskatoon Blades have announced that they’ve dealt the Russian sniper to the Everett Silvertips.
In their second year of a major retool, the Blades made the right long-term decision to cash in on the 1995-born talent for future assets. Saskatoon acquired a nice return of a 2015 first-round bantam pick, a 2016 second-round bantam pick and 1997-born goalie Nik Amundrud. The Blades are now in good shape for the 2015 draft with two first-round picks (the other being Kootenay's from the Kamloops deal involving Matt Revel) even though former GM Lorne Molleken traded their top pick to the Spokane Chiefs for Collin Valcourt when loading up for the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The addition of Amundrud, which led to the release of overage goalie Troy Trombley, also makes them younger in net.
If Saskatoon didn’t trade Scherbak, they would have been forced to release one of their other two imports (Russian forward Nikita Soshnin or Sweden blueliner Amil Krupic) because the CHL doesn’t allow teams to trade European players in their rookie seasons for just reasons. Therefore, the move was a bit of a no-brainer when considering their circumstances and the enticing package that was offered.
"We certainly thank Nikita for all he did for us," Saskatoon GM-head coach Bob Wood said in the press release. “But the excellent play of our two new Europeans, Swedish defenceman Amil Krupic and Russian winger Nikita Soshnin, forced us to seriously consider other teams' proposals. League rules prevent us from trading the Euros we just drafted so we would have to outright release one of them to get down to two imports if we were going to keep Scherbak. The only option we had in terms of realizing any kind of return was trading him.”
With Scherbak gone, the post-season is ultimately a pipe dream for the Bridge City Boys. The young and inexperienced Blades lost their clear-cut best player as he led them in points by a wide margin last year with 28 goals and 78 points in 65 games. They, however, might be able to improve on their previous 16-win season because of the additions of 19-year-old centre Alex Forsberg, 17-year-old forward Wyatt Sloboshan and 18-year-old blueliner Jordan Thomson. The trio added notable raw skill and depth to Saskatoon’s roster.
It appears the Silvertips’ decision to acquire Scherbak shows that they have been given the heads up from the San Jose Sharks that they don’t intend on sending Switzerland blueliner Mirco Mueller back to junior for his 19-year-old season. Everett’s two import spots are now full with Scherbak and Russian centre Ivan Nikolishin, who potted 18 goals and 59 points in 72 games last year.
It is surprising to some degree that Everett was willing to part with two high draft picks for Scherbak’s last major junior season because they appear to be a step behind the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds on paper in the U.S. Division. So trading valuable future assets for an import in a year where they aren’t a contender seems like it could come back to haunt them down the road. But in junior hockey when cash is sometimes king, the Silvertips had some financial motivation to bulk up their roster. The organization has guaranteed returning season ticket-holders a $100 per-seat refund and $50 per seat for partial season-ticket holders if the team doesn’t place as high as fourth in the Western Conference this year. When considering the Winterhawks, Thunderbirds and Kelowna Rockets are practically locks to finish in the top four, this trade could make a big difference in Everett's year-end balance sheet.
The guarantee then takes another step up for the 2014-15 season. If Everett doesn't finish as high as fourth that season, renewing season ticket holders will receive the same $100 or $50 refund. (Everett Herald)
The $100 refund is approximately 20 percent of the price of an average season ticket.
The guarantee was informally announced during last week's town hall meeting with season ticket holders.
"This isn't so much for people coming on new as much as for the people who have been with us since day one, or even the past season," Silvertips assistant GM Zoran Rajcic said. "We're saying we're going to be a better hockey club. They're starting to see small signs of it, but this is more of a long-term thing."
It appears Scherbak may have seen the last of the Blades. When Saskatoon and Everett square off in the City of Bridges on Jan. 3, there is a good chance the 6-foot-2, 194-pound winger will be representing Russia at the world junior championship in Toronto and Montreal.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen