By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The 2013 Western Hockey League trade deadline became a lot less interesting for the Everett Silvertips the moment Ryan Murray went down injured.
The trade deadline arrives at 2 p.m. today, and while the Tips could still be a participant in the annual feeding frenzy, they won’t be at the center of it the way they would have if their captain and star defenseman had been healthy.
“I anticipate there still could be something done between now and the deadline,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said Wednesday on the eve of the deadline. “I’m working on one other thing.
“Any deal would be with the future in mind, but without diminishing what we’re doing now,” Davidson added. “We want to do well in the last 30 games and the playoffs. Anything done would be with an eye to the long term, but we’re not going to do anything that lessens our group this season.”
Everett is the textbook definition of a trade deadline seller. The Tips head into the deadline at 16-24-0-2 and in eighth place in the Western Conference. Their general manager is in his first full season in charge and the team, which fired its coach on Tuesday, is in the midst of rebuilding.
And there would have been no bigger trade prize than Murray. The 19-year-old from White City, Saskatchewan, was the second-overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in last year’s NHL draft, and he played for the Canadian men’s national team at the tender age of 18.
He’s a lock to play professionally next season, meaning it would have made sense for the Tips to cash in by trading him now. Everett could have received a haul, too, as recent examples of difference-making players like Murray being moved at the deadline — including forwards Brayden Schenn and Cody Eakin in 2011 — saw the selling teams receiving multiple high bantam draft picks and multiple prospects in return.
But when Murray suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder on Nov. 16 in Victoria, it not only ended his season, it ended Everett’s chances for a windfall.
Davidson’s predecessor, Doug Soetaert, was adamant last season that he would not trade Murray at the deadline, despite growing belief that Murray would play in the NHL as a 19-year-old and not return to the WHL this season. But Davidson admitted he was willing to entertain offers.
“I don’t think there’s any question that he would have been the most sought-after player if he was healthy and available to play,” Davidson said. “I would have been very busy fielding calls from contenders.
“I would have been very open to listening to offers,” Davidson added. “We are looking to the future and he wouldn’t have been back for another year. Until I’d heard the offers I wouldn’t have known whether it was something I would do or not. But past history shows players like Ryan garner a lot of value.”
Davidson said several teams inquired about Murray before the injury, but the NHL’s uncertainty prevented any serious discussions. The assumption was that Murray would be off to Columbus the moment the lockout ended. However, the longer the lockout dragged on, the greater the possibility Murray would remain in the WHL.
“It would have made no sense to make a trade early, everything would have been subject to him playing and his value would have been substantially lower,” Davidson said. “He would have been much more valuable now. But after a certain date, Columbus might have left Ryan at this level. I’m only speculating because I haven’t talked to Columbus, but would they really want to burn a year of his (three-year entry-level) contract on half a season?”
Therefore, any deal the Tips potentially pull off today is more likely to be a small ripple rather than a big splash.
Indeed, the deadline trading may be less active this season than in seasons past. There’s a shortage of impact veterans available from struggling teams, and many of those who were available already have been dealt. Among the trades completed earlier this week:
w Defending league champion Edmonton filled its vacant overage spot by acquiring forward Trevor Cheek from Vancouver in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft.
w Calgary, neck-and-neck with Edmonton atop the Eastern Conference standings, acquired 19-year-old defenseman Jesse Zgraggen from Victoria for a fourth rounder in 2013.
w Lethbridge shipped out 17-year-old forward Jay Merkley, the third-overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft, to Swift Current for 19-year-old forward Josh Derko and a third-rounder in 2014.
The biggest prize remaining is thought to be Brandon overage forward Michael Ferland, a 96-point scorer last season who just returned from the professional ranks. Also in the mix is Prince George’s disgruntled Alex Forsberg. Forsberg, a 17-year-old forward who was the first-overall pick in 2010, didn’t return from the holiday break and requested a trade.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.