John Tavares will soon be a member of the London Knights.
Though both the Oshawa Generals and Tavares’ agent Pat Brisson said no deal was final, two sources tell Sportsnet.ca that, barring a complete breakdown in negotiations, the 18-year-old star will be dealt from the Generals to the Knights prior to the Ontario Hockey League’s trade deadline this coming Friday. League rules prohibit any trades being announced while the world junior tournament is going on and Tavares is part of Team Canada that plays Sweden in Monday night’s gold-medal final in Ottawa.
It’s believed that in return for Tavares, the package would include Knights forwards Phil Varone and Christian Thomas, defenceman Scott Valentine, as well as an undisclosed draft pick and cash considerations.
Knights general manager Mark Hunter couldn’t be reached and the Generals issued a statement denying that Tavares had been traded. The Windsor Spitfires were also believed to be in the running for the offensively gifted Tavares.
Tavares is the projected first overall pick for the upcoming National Hockey League Entry Draft. He, along with Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman, will be vying for the top spot this June in Montreal.
Tavares will be representing Canada in the gold medal game against Hedman and Team Sweden later this afternoon in Ottawa. He was a member of the gold medal winning team a year ago when Canada upset the upstart Swedes in overtime in the final. Tavares leads the world junior tournament in scoring with eight goals and six assists for 14 points in five games.
Tavares is the most dominant offensive threat in the Ontario Hockey League. The OHL granted him the exceptional player status so that he could play a year early in the league. As a 16-year-old, he broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for goals in a season with 72. He is currently third in OHL scoring with 25 goals and 52 points in 31 games.
One year after becoming a seller at the trade deadline, the Knights are back in contention for the OHL championship. London won the OHL and Memorial Cup in the 2004-2005 season and have been one of the strongest teams each season the last few years.
Ever since Tavares joined the Generals, Oshawa had big plans for the 2007-2008 season. The team opened the doors to their new rink and made a bid for the Memorial Cup last season but their bid was beat by the Kitchener Rangers. Oshawa lost several players to junior graduation last season which prompted the Tavares speculation during the summer.
In a previous interview, DePiero denied the team placed their most valuable asset on the trade market. With the Generals likely not able to contend for the OHL title this season, the plan to rebuild by trading Tavares seems to have been put in place.
This is the second such instance where Varone was traded at the deadline. Last year he was traded from Kitchener to London in the package which also included Nazem Kadri (who joined London after the season’s conclusion) for goaltender Steve Mason. Mason suffered a season-ending injury in the second round of the playoffs and the Rangers lost in the Memorial Cup final to the Spokane Chiefs.
Varone is a steady and reliable, two-way forward with offensive ability. Varone is a constant on the penalty kill and has produced this season at a point-per-game pace. He is eligible for the draft this summer.
Thomas was a first round pick by the Knights last summer, taken 13th overall. As per OHL rules, 16-year-olds are only allowed to be traded between Jan. 1-10 and only if they were first round picks in the priority selection. Thomas won the gold medal with Team Ontario in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last night in Port Alberni, B.C. in a 5-1 win over Team Pacific.
Valentine is a physical, stay-at-home defenceman. The 17-year-old has a reputation for always finishing his checks along the boards and playing with a nasty edge to his game. He is eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.