There’s more to the Saskatoon Blades’ situation than just the final game of their U-S Division road trip Tuesday night in Seattle.
The Bridge City Bunch are 2-2-0 on their “American Adventure”…11-14-3 overall, just two points behind Prince Albert for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference…something the Blue and Gold haven’t qualified for since 2013. However, the feeling outside of the Blades’ office is that Saskatoon should be a seller before the January 10 trade deadline and get assets back for forwards Cam Hebig and Braylon Shmyr, along with defenceman Libor Hajek.
"We've, obviously, talked a lot to teams. I've spent a lot of time on the phone the last two weeks with, I'd say, 14 different teams," said Saskatoon general manager Colin Priestner. "Different deals up and down. We're assessing everything. There's three players (named above)...those guys are all very well thought of around the league. It would be very difficult to move them and if we did, after a lot of contemplation, it would be for what we would consider to be, 'home run' trades."
"I believe we are a playoff team, but probably the bottom playoff team," chimed in Blades' majority owner Mike Priestner, who feels the Blue and Gold are in a tough situation this season. "So, we're going to look at everything and make some decisions...they're very tough decisions. Whatever we do, if we do something, we still want to make the playoffs. That's the plan, to make the playoffs. If we move one or two guys, and that's a big if, we've got to get to the playoffs. But, I'm not going to trade the playoffs and not help the future."
The Blades could escape the East Division basement with a win over Seattle and a regulation time loss by Prince Albert in Swift Current Tuesday night. Because of that, and with the W-H-L trade deadline still five weeks away, Colin Priestner says he’s not looking to make a decision as to whether Saskatoon is a buyer or seller just yet.
"We're assessing every day how things go up and down," said the Saskatoon G.M. "I can assure you we won't be making any deals that are just for draft picks or anything like that. If someone wants to go after one of our big guns, then they're going to have to bring a big-name weapon…either 16, 17 or 18 (years old) to help us.
"We're definitely committed to making the playoffs," continued Colin Priestner. "I think the seven games we play against P.A. are going to determine whether we do or not. I really believe five teams will make (the playoffs) out of our division and we've got 14 points up for grabs with P.A. the rest of the year. I think who wins that series will probably make it."
As for the finale of their U.S. Division road trip, following his WHL first career shutout, with 48 saves Sunday in Portland, Nolan Maier takes a 79:03 shutout streak into his eighth consecutive start. The defending league-champion Thunderbirds are minus several key forwards from that team while young goaltending sensation Carl Stankowski has yet to play this season because of injury. That means the T-Birds are last in the U.S. Division at 12-13-3, but they do occupy the last Western Conference playoff spot. The broadcast on 92-9, THE BULL begins at 8:30 with the play-by-play at 9 p.m.