One goalie out, another goalie in
Brent Sutter completed a deal with the Spokane Chiefs Wednesday, but the Red Deer Rebels crease remains crowded despite the departure of rookie stopper Dawson Weatherill.
The Rebels GM/head coach shipped Weatherill, 17, and a fifth-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft to the Chiefs in return for netminder Tyson Verhelst and a third-round selection in 2017.
With the impressive play of 18-year-old rookie goaltender Riley Lamb during the preseason and in the Rebels’ regular-season opener and with 20-year-old Trevor Martin harbouring major junior experience, it became apparent that Weatherill would not be in team’s plans this season.
“With Lammer and Marty here we had a situation where Dawson probably wasn’t going to get much of an opportunity to play, especially with Lammer playing like he has,” said Sutter. “He’s been very good for us.”
Weatherill takes his talents to Spokane, where Sutter is hoping he can develop into a front-line netminder. That wasn’t going to transpire with the Rebels, who selected the Red Deer native in the second round of the 2014 bantam draft.
“With Dawson being 17, we just thought that if we could find a good organization where he could grow and develop as a player and hopefully push to be a starting goalie inside of that organization at some point in time, that we would do something,” said Sutter.
“Spokane had shown a lot of interest (in Weatherill). Scott (Carter), their new GM, and I had a lot of communication over the last little while. At the end of the day, for me to move Dawson out I wanted to get a goalie back in return. I still want to have a three-goalie tandem early in the season.”
Red Deer’s new addition joined the Chiefs for the 2014-15 season after suiting up with the Neepawa Natives of the MJHL the year before. He posted an 11-11-0 win-loss record in his first season with Spokane, along with a 3.54 goals-against average, an .883 save percentage and one shutout.
The six-foot, 194-pound Verhelst was the Chiefs’ starter last winter, recording a 23-22-1-4 slate with a 3.16 GAA, .892 save percentage and a single shutout.
At the conclusion of the season, the 19-year-old announced he was retiring from hockey and returned to his hometown of Brandon. He had a change of heart when he learned his rights had been dealt to the Rebels.
“I communicated with him today and he’s very excited about playing again. Hopefully he can come in and be very good for us too,” said Sutter.
Carter, meanwhile, suggested the trade made sense for his club.
“We were in a situation where we had a goalie who was on the suspended list in Verhelst and we wanted to clear that up,” Carter stated in a press release. “The best option for us involved taking another goalie in return, as we feel that this is an important position for us.
“We want competition and players pushing each other. Dawson has some big upside moving forward.”
How the move will effect Martin remains to be seen. If Verhelst proves he can be at least an effective No. 2 stopper with his new team, Martin could be traded or released in favour of the Rebels landing another (third) overage player.
“We’ll see how this all shakes out and where it goes,” said Sutter.
Verhelst won’t accompany the Rebels on a three-game road trip starting Friday at Moose Jaw. He will arrive in Red Deer Thursday and will work out with assistant coach Erik Lodge while the team is away.
“He won’t play until he’s in game shape. I don’t want to set him up to fail,” said Sutter. “He’ll be here working with Erik and when we get back next week he can go full bore with us in practice.”
Sutter noted that the incoming draft pick was a big piece of the deal.
“That’s a good asset to have,” said the Rebels boss, who surrendered a number of bantam draft selections while strengthening the team which hosted the Memorial Cup tournament in May.
“That’s the management side of me as far as trying to manage the assets in the right way. We want to continue to stay strong and be a very competitive team moving forward,” said Sutter, who currently has at least one pick in every round for next year’s draft with the exception of the first.
“It falls on our scouts’ shoulders now.”
Meanwhile, forward Adam Musil and defenceman Josh Mahura were scheduled to arrive in Red Deer late Wednesday after attending NHL training camps with St. Louis and Anaheim.
Forwards Brandon Hagel and Jeff de Wit were back with the team Monday after being reassigned by Buffalo and Detroit. The eventual return of forward Michael Spacek from the Winnipeg Jets will give the Rebels a full complement of veterans.
“I talked to Winnipeg and they said they would let me know sometime this week,” said Sutter, in reference to Spacek’s return date.
The Rebels trip will also include stops in Brandon and Regina Saturday and Sunday.
“We have three games in three nights against some tough opponents,” said Sutter. “The more experience, the more impact players you can have in your lineup, the better off you are.”
The Rebels’ next home game is Oct. 5 versus the Kamloops Blazers.