The Red Deer Rebels got their guy.
Sunday morning, Brent Sutter and the Red Deer Rebels officially announced that they had acquired forward Jake DeBrusk from the Swift Current Broncos.
News of the trade was first beoken by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek late Saturday night and finalized a move that the Rebels had long been rumored to be trying to make.
In exchange, the Broncos received 18-year-old forward Lane Pederson, a 2017 first-round draft pick as well as a 2016 third-rounder.
DeBrusk was one of the big trade chips on the table this year and his acquisition by the Rebels announced they’re going all in. While they give up two valuable draft picks and a promising player, they get a 40-plus goal scorer to bolster the lineup as they try to break the logjam at top of the Eastern Conference standings and prepare to host the Memorial Cup.
Red Deer finds itself in a dogfight for the Central Division crown with the resurgent Calgary Hitmen as the WHL’s holiday break ends. The Rebels are tied with Calgary for second in the division, two points behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes. With five teams within five points of the conference leading Hurricanes, Sunday’s move is the first salvo fired by any of the heavyweights.
The trade gives Red Deer the dynamic goal scorer needed to complete its offensive attack and become a real threat as the MasterCard Memorial Cup host. The Rebels had been powered by Ivan Nikolishin and rookie Michael Spacek on their top line, but still lacked the big time gun that DeBrusk now gives them.
DeBrusk had recently returned to the Swift Current lineup after suffering an upper body injury but was having a good season with the Broncos. He potted nine goals and 17 assists in 24 games this season and becomes Red Deer’s third point-per-game scorer. He’s coming off a season that saw him notch 42 goals and get selected with the 14th pick of the NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins.
Pederson is a nice player who was having the best season of his career since coming over to Red Deer from Seattle this summer for goalie Taz Burman. He had six goals to go with 21 points in his brief stint with the Rebels.
There were reportedly five other teams in touch with Swift Current to try and land DeBrusk, which may have driven the price up for Red Deer. Despite that, for a team hosting the Memorial Cup the price was not too damaging.
Swift Current won only 10 games in the first half of the season and are out of a playoff spot. Moving DeBrusk seemed like an inevitable decision for the Broncos and one that gives them the tools to start to rebuild their roster.
The move will impact the rest of the WHL as well as bring up some questions.
Is Red Deer done? Do they still want to go after a defencemen or a goalie? The Rebels have the CHL right’s to Boston University blueliner Brandon Hickey who is currently playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. There has been no word on whether Hickey is thinking of leaving college, but does the addition of DeBrusk and a looming Memorial Cup change his mind?
What do the rest of the league’s contenders do now? Will Moose Jaw make Brayden Point available? Does the DeBrusk move set a price for any moves going forward?
The races are tight throughout the WHL and the fact that six teams were vying for DeBrusk indicates that more moves could be on the way. The trade deadline is Jan. 10 and we are just getting started.