AMHERST, N.S. – The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers could be active as the clock ticks down to the Maritime Junior Hockey League trading deadline.
Coach and general manager Jeff LeBlanc said his team has “several irons in the fire” and will pull the trigger on a deal if the right one comes along.
“As I’ve said from the very beginning we’re always looking to upgrade and hoping to do so without it costing us too much,” LeBlanc said. “The fact is to upgrade is going to cost us a lot. It’s a sellers’ market with everyone bidding on the same players.”
One of the key targets in the league, Grand Falls defenceman Brennan Bornstein, may have been the first puzzle piece to fall on Wednesday when the Rapids sent him to the Campbellton Tigers for Lucas MacAulay, the rights to Evan Jackson, a first round pick in the 2019 draft acquired from Amherst and future considerations.
LeBlanc said he was in the mix for Bornstein, but the Rapids opted to move the former Moncton Wildcats’ defenceman to Campbellton.
The deadline is 7 p.m. After that, no trades are permitted, although teams can sign uncarded players until Feb. 10.
As much as he’s working to improve the lineup, LeBlanc said he likes his team a lot and is looking forward to it getting healthy heading into the final months of the regular season, the playoffs and the Fred Page Cup it’s hosting May 1 to 5 at the Amherst Stadium.
LeBlanc said defenceman Alex Wynter, injured last Friday night against the Valley Wildcats, will be out of the lineup for two to three weeks while he addressed speculation about Matt Green’s status.
Green, who was injured in mid-October, had a setback with his recuperation from an upper body injury, but he will return to the lineup sometime in early February.
“He had a setback during his first couple of ice times, but we got him into see a very good doctor in Halifax and it now looks like he’s two to three weeks away from returning,” LeBlanc said. “When he gets back it will be like adding a player at the deadline. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Knowing it’s hosting the Fred Page Cup, LeBlanc said the team doesn't want to rush players back from injury, knowing it could risk their availability in the playoffs and at the eastern Canadian tournament in May.
And as much as he wants to put the best team possible on the ice for the rest of the season, he isn’t going to sell the farm to make it happen. He said he wants to ice a competitive team every year, not go all in for one year and then not make the playoffs the next.
“Selling the farm or giving up four, five or six pieces – which seems to be the asking price right now – is not worth it,” LeBlanc said.
Still, he said, he’s prepared to make a move to improve the team if he can make a deal.
Influencing the market right now is the fact none of the teams, maybe with the exception of the Valley Wildcats and Grand Falls Rapids, are prepared to sell because they still have a shot at a playoff spot.
The Ramblers did make a trade earlier in the week, picking up the rights to Victoriaville Tigres defenceman Dominic Cormier from Grand Falls for future considerations and a fourth round pick in the 2019 draft.
LeBlanc said Cormier is still a member of Victoriaville, but if something happens before the signing deadline he would provide a key upgrade on the blueline.