With the exception of one minor last-minute deal, the Halifax Mooseheads stood pat on QMJHL trade deadline day.
General manager Cam Russell sent a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Bathurst Titan for defenceman Alexis Sansfacon for some insurance on the blue line on Sunday but said he was comfortable with the rest of his lineup for the long haul.
“It’s a roster of depth,” Russell said. “When you look at our lineup, when everyone’s healthy you’ve got four very solid lines that are all capable of scoring, you’ve got a great group of skilled defencemen that can all skate and move the puck and defend, and we’ve got two goalies that we feel very comfortable with who have played very well this season.”
Russell has a track record of staying comparatively quiet during the mid-season trade period, preferring to mould his roster over a longer period. His significant additions came several months ago when he traded for forwards Antoine Morand, Samuel Asselin and Ostap Safin, while putting on the finishing touches several days back when he acquired Maxim Trepanier and Keith Getson to round out his forward ranks.
“This is something we’ve had our eye on the last couple of years and we slowly put our team together through the draft and we’ve made some calculated trades that we first started at the draft this past June,” Russell said. “I’m not a big fan of bringing in too many guys during the trade period. I like to get our guys together as quick as possible and let them gel and get to know each other. We felt the moves we wanted to make, we pretty much made them a while back, except for the two we made around Christmas and this one today.”
With that said, Russell said he still kept his ear to the ground right up until the last minute but was never close to making any other significant additions. Even the pressure of building a team to host the Memorial Cup didn’t push him too far from his usual practices.
“There’s always that temptation but there’s a fine line there,” he said. “You’re trying to win and you’re trying to put together the best team possible, but you’re also trying to run a hockey team and not jeopardize your future. We want to make sure we give our fans an exciting show to watch every night. I think we’ve got a tremendously skilled hockey team that can compete with anyone in the league and the nice thing is we didn’t touch any of our youth moving forward.”
While other contenders structured blockbusters around players going to another team after the season as future considerations, Russell did not pursue that strategy. Anyone who is with the Mooseheads now will remain their property at the end of the year.
“There are no futures in any of our trades,” Russell said. “All our players are coming back next year so, for us, that was very important. We made the moves we wanted to make and we’re happy that we have our group ready for now and moving in to next season.”
As for Sansfacon, he is a 19-year-old who will give the Mooseheads some extra insurance on the blue line. He is a big, no frills kind of defender who will only move into the starting lineup if there are injuries or suspensions to the regulars in the top six.
“We’ve been carrying seven defensemen and obviously we know we’re playing for another five months so we wanted to have that depth and we wanted to have a guy we know is capable of playing in the league,” Russell said. “Sansfacon has been in the league for three years so he seemed to be the perfect fit.
“The important thing is he’s a player who will know what his role is and accept it. We know he’s a good teammate so that’s another reason we felt he was the perfect guy for that role.”
And now that the excruciating tension of playing for a team that is trying to load up to host the Memorial Cup has passed, the players can all exhale.
“It’s not a fun time for anyone,” Russell said. “I remember going through it myself. We kind of lose track of the fact we’re dealing with teenaged kids and … it can be really stressful for them.”
The Mooseheads’ next game is on the road on Tuesday against the Titan.