The Canadian junior ‘A’ hockey trade deadline came and went quietly Monday, with the Surrey Eagles choosing to make just a single move.
On Monday, the BC Hockey League club sent 19-year-old forward Tio D’Addario to Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, in exchange for future considerations. D’Addario, who is from Montreal, was in his second season with the Eagles – he joined the team in the 2020 off-season, and played 18 of the team’s games during last spring’s 20-game ‘pod’ season, scoring six goals and adding three assists.
This season, he suited up for 15 games, scoring once and adding an assist.
Cam Keith, the Eagles’ head coach and associate general manager, said the move – and the fact that they did not receive an asset in return – had less to do with D’Addario himself and more to do with the club’s desire to create some roster flexibility over the course of the next month, in case players from major junior leagues or U.S.-based teams shake free.
“It was our plan all along. One thing Blaine (Neufeld, the team’s general manager) said to me was, ‘Let’s make sure we have an open roster spot.’ We have a lot of local (affiliate players) too, if we need them, and worst-case scenario, if we aren’t able to fill that last spot, we can use these APs,” Keith explained.
“We’ve got a couple really good players who are doing really good in junior ‘B’, so this creates a little bit of space for them, too (potentially).
Though the trade deadline was Jan. 10, junior ‘A’ teams have until mid-February to ‘card’ a player and finalize rosters. Each season, junior ‘A’ teams are provided with 35 player registration cards, with which sign players.
There are no new signings imminent, Keith noted, adding that he does have his eyes on a few specific players who may become available.
“It’s a wait-and-see thing right now. You can forecast that certain guys may become available, but in hockey, it’s a day-to-day business,” he said.
Keith said the lack of any big blockbuster moves – not just with his team, but across the league – was a result of how close teams are in the standings, as well as the fact that eight of the nine Coastal Conference squads will make the playoffs.
“Because of how the (playoffs) are set up… not a lot of teams were selling off their older guys in the hopes of getting younger players back for next year. Everyone was pretty much in a holding pattern,” he said.
“I talked to most teams and even some of the teams that are lower in the standings kept their older players with the hope that, because the season started later this year, and because there’s so much season left, it’s really hard to say that your team doesn’t have a chance (to win) this season, because everyone kind of does.”
The Eagles, for example, reeled off a stretch of nine wins in 10 games prior to the BCHL’s Christmas break, and has two wins in three games since the schedule resumed.
With regard to his team, specifically, Keith said “we just really like what we have,” and neither he nor Neufeld felt the need to make a blockbuster trade to bring in an established veteran or otherwise shake things up.
“And one one was selling those players anyway, so it made the decision (to stand pat) pretty easy. But we’ve decided to stick with this group, and they’ve earned that.”
This year’s relatively quiet deadline was in stark contrast to last January’s, which was not only busier, but also just flat-out strange, considering teams were faced with having to make deals without ever having played a game; by that point, the season had been delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and wouldn’t get underway until the ‘pod’ season a few months later.
Most deals made at or near the ’21 deadline were done to find soon-to-be-graduating 20-year-olds a place to play before their eligibility ran out. Similarly, BCHL teams at the time needed to acquire players to fill multiple roster spots in the event the season did hit the ice, after dozens of players – especially American-born ones – left for U.S. leagues that, unlike the BCHL, were playing.