The Western Hockey League trade deadline passed Thursday with goaltender Griffen Outhouse assured to end his career as a Victoria Royal.
Considering the prohibitive price paid this week for goaltender Joel Hofer by the Portland Winterhawks, that was never a sure thing. Nor was anybody deemed safe in Victoria after the Royals traded franchise all-time top-five points leader Dante Hannoun to the Prince Albert Raiders last week.
When asked if there were trade offers on the table for Outhouse, Royals GM Cam Hope answered: “For sure.”
Hope rejected them all and didn’t pull the trigger.
The Winterhawks certainly did and sent their 2019 and 2021 first-round, 2020 second-round and 2019 third-round WHL bantam draft picks to the Swift Current Broncos in exchange for Hofer, the fourth-round 2018 NHL draft pick of the St. Louis Blues. Portland also tossed in their 2020 fourth- and fifth-round bantam picks for good measure.
Likely limiting Outhouse’s appeal is that he is 20, and will age out of junior after this season, while Hofer is 18.
“We were in a good position where we were fielding calls with some key pieces in our dressing room that other teams were considering for long playoff runs,” said Hope.
“We were prepared to listen and thought long and hard.”
Ultimately, Hope feels the Royals are poised for a playoff run of their own, and they have the goaltender to do it. Outhouse is 13th on the all-time WHL career list with 103 regular-season wins and trails by 17 wins the all-time league record of 120 shared by Corey Hirsch and Tyson Sexsmith.
“Griffen Outhouse is arguably the best goalie in the [WHL] Western Conference and among the best in junior hockey in Canada,” said Hope.
“And we are awfully glad to have him for the rest of his career here.”
With the deadline passed, Hope had time to reflect on making one of the two big trades with the Hannoun and Hofer deals making the biggest headlines in this WHL trade season.
The 20-year-old Hannoun, who was in his fifth season with the Royals, was an integral part of the Victoria team.
“You get to know the young man since he was 15 and it’s strange not to have him putting on the No. 19 Royals jersey,” admitted Hope.
“But from a colder, asset point of view, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. It was a win for [Hannoun] as well. He wants an opportunity to turn pro next season. His best opportunity is a long post-season run in front of plenty of scouts with the top team in the country [Prince Albert].”
Victoria received forwards Kody McDonald, 20, and Carson Miller, 18, in return from Prince Albert. McDonald and Miller are 3-0 with the Royals (21-15-1). McDonald especially has made an impact, scoring twice in Wednesday’s 5-3 home victory over the Kamloops Blazers and the shootout winner in a 3-2 win in Red Deer over the Rebels.
This year’s WHL trade season, however, was muted after the frenzy of last season.
“It was much quieter,” said Hope.
“That’s mostly a product of the make-up of the league this year. Last year, a lot of teams felt it was their year to make a run, including us [with trade-deadline deals for now-departed Tanner Kaspick, Noah Gregor and Lane Zablocki]. In that case, the arms race continued. This year was more cautious and surgical. And that’s for the better. We’re a development league and it doesn’t help with enormous moves every season.”
Meanwhile, tonight’s visiting Blazers made the final move before the trade deadline passed Thursday by sending forward Carson Denomie to the Moose Jaw Warriors for a seventh-round bantam draft pick. But it was Kamloops that kick-started trade season Nov. 26 by shipping impact veteran defenceman Nolan Kneen of Duncan to the Saskatoon Blades for defenceman Jackson Caller and second- and third-round bantam draft picks in 2020.
Not that the Blazers come into tonight’s game bereft of Island talent, even sans Kneen, with blue-liner Sean Strange out of Saanich and goaltenders Dylan Ferguson from Lantzville and Dylan Garand of Victoria. Ferguson is a 20-year-old Las Vegas Golden Knights prospect. Garand, a standout with Canada Red last month at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in St. John’s, N.L., is only 16 and considered the heir presumptive to the veteran Ferguson in the Blazers’ crease.
But Kamloops (15-20-3) rolls into the Memorial Centre tonight with issues, not the least of which is an 11-game road losing streak. That’s not to mention Victoria is on a 7-0 run against the Blazers on Blanshard the past two seasons and are 13-2 at home against Kamloops since the 2015-16 season.