Portland goes big

Everett’s U.S. Division rival, Portland, swung for the fences today by acquiring the rights to 19-year-old defenseman Mathew Dumba from Red Deer. The kicker is that Dumba isn’t playing for the Rebels, he’s currently with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, so he won’t be joining the Winterhawks in the immediate future, if at all.

This trade is still something of a mystery. First, we don’t know if Minnesota will even send Dumba back to the WHL. Second, all the bantam draft picks involved are conditional, and we don’t even know how many would be headed Red Deer’s way. On top of that, Portland doesn’t have any first rounders until 2018 because of the league-imposed sanctions from last year. Nevertheless, it’s a big move for Portland as Dumba would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Winterhawks, and he’s as good as it gets for filling that need at the blue line. Alan Caldwell has a good dissection of the trade on his blog.

So Portland is going for broke. That’s no surprise, as the Winterhawks have been to the league finals three straight years and have the team to make it four straight. The question I have is: What dominoes fall next?

The U.S. Division is full of teams with good records and visions of being contenders. Seattle already went out and picked up 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie, and with the makeup of its roster one would think the T-birds believe this is the season to try and make something happen. Spokane and Tri-City have solid records, but appear to be more than one or two players away from contending, so it seems unlikely either would make a huge splash, especially given they’d have to pass three other teams just within the division.

But what about Everett? The Tips set a bar for improvement this season, but that bar is pretty low, with the guarantee to season ticket holders of finishing at least sixth in the Western Conference. Right now Everett has essentially the same record as Portland, so the Tips have to think they at least are in the contention ballpark.

However, Everett’s situation is a little odd. The Tips had next season targeted, as the guarantee bumps up to fourth in 2014-15, and they still have one of the youngest rosters in the league. Yet Everett appears to be a year early. Do the Tips do something in the trade market this season that may pay off now, but hinder their chances next season and beyond? Everett has good balance between its age groups right now, and any kind of blockbuster would likely upset that a bit.

And what exactly would Everett do? The Tips don’t need help in goal or on defense. What Everett could use is some dependable secondary scoring so the team isn’t as reliant on the Joshua Winquist-Manraj Hayer-Tyler Sandhu line. But are those type of players available? Looking at the teams that may be sellers, the veteran WHL scorers who may be available are pretty much all overagers, and Everett isn’t going to be swapping out any of its 20-year-olds. It’s also possible to the Tips believe the likes of Jujhar Khaira and Ivan Nikolishin, who are just now hitting their strides in their first seasons in the WHL, will be able to provide that secondary scoring without the need of reaching outside the organization.

The trade deadline is Jan. 10, so this will all be resolved in a month. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

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