Mon Sep 24 11:28am EDT
Having spent a good deal of his junior hockey career injured, Gregg Sutch is finally ready and healthy to play hockey again.
And yet, the 20-year-old is still sitting around at his Newmarket, Ont., home while his Barrie Colts teammates have already started the season. With five overage players currently in tow, the Colts told Sutch before the start of trading camp they would be trying to trade him. That was some six weeks ago.
"I've never been in a situation like this where the kid is literally being held hostage because of a bad trade," said Sutch's agent Murray Kuntz.
When Barrie GM Jason Ford made the original deal to land Sutch last summer from the Mississauga Majors (now Steelheads), the Colts paid a third-round pick as well as a conditional third round pick — payable if Sutch played an overage season. As a result, the Colts owe Mississauga another pick, a choice the team was trying to recoup by trading him.
"Over the summer, maybe we thought that maybe if we could get a third (round pick) that would be great to compensate for the loss," said Ford on Sunday. "But we quickly realized that we weren't going to get that third, and talking to the few teams that we've talked to (about a trade), we've never really held that as a sticking point. We'd be willing to take much less.
"We're hoping to get something done pretty soon."
As far as Sutch is concerned, a deal returning him to active duty can't come soon enough.
"I feel terrible," said Kuntz. "I keep asking (Sutch) to be patient but it gets to a point with a kid where he's saying, 'Am I ever going to get to play again?' "
The real fear is that Colts might hold on to Sutch until the overage deadline on Nov. 15, when teams across the OHL have to cut down their rosters to carry four overagers (though only three are allowed to dress in a game). In January, the teams must finalize their rosters with a maximum of three overage players.
"I've had teams reach out to him offering picks and different players. The thought is that (Ford) is just going to hold on to him until Nov. 15 when everyone has filled their OA spots," said Kuntz. "That way he doesn't have to pay the third (-round pick)."
With everyone in the league knowing the Colts have too many overagers, there's little chance the team will get fair value for their players.
"Teams know that Barrie has too many overagers so they're going to have to put them on waivers eventually," said Kuntz.
Ford said that under normal circumstances, putting Sutch on waivers would have been an option, but because they'd still owe Mississauga the third-round pick, they'd have to think about it.
"That's something you want to use as a last resort, obviously," said the GM of using the waiver wire. "That's something we'd have to talk about and see if it gets to that — I'm optimistic we can get something done this week with somebody."
Even without Sutch on their roster the Colts are still carrying four overagers, meaning at least one more player will have to move before the OHL trade deadline in January. This weekend veteran defenceman Chris Buonomo sat out the team's first two regular-season games.
"We've got to see, we have to find a home for one of them," said Ford. "Buonomo is the one that isn't playing this weekend, so he's one that we've been talking about with some teams as well."
Last season with the Colts, Sutch scored nine goals and 12 assists in 57 games after suffering a shoulder injury. His previous years with Mississauga his season were also cut short by various injuries. In 2010, the 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward was a fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, though he is currently a free agent.
"He's a solid third-line, second-line winger that can put some pucks in the net," said Ford. "Unfortunately he's had some injury problems over his four-year career which hasn't helped — moving him, that's always a question that arises. But he's a great kid and we're hoping we can work something out for him and get him playing."