LETHBRIDGE – On the eve of the Western Hockey League Trade Deadline (Wednesday, Jan. 10 at 3 p.m. MT), the Lethbridge Hurricanes completed a blockbuster deal with the Swift Current Broncos.
In a move that instantly changes the face of the club, the Hurricanes sent captain Giorgio Estephan, goaltender Stuart Skinner and forward Tanner Nagel east to the second overall Broncos.
The return includes standout 16-year-old forward, Logan Barlage, who was the fourth overall pick by Swift Current in the 2016 Bantam Draft. The 6’4, 201-pound forward has seven points (1g-6a) and 17 penalty minutes in 37 games this season with the Broncos, after putting up 76 points (37g-39a) in 44 games last season for the Prince Albert Mintos in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
Barlage will be joined by 17-year-old forward Owen Blocker, 20-year-old goaltender Logan Flodell and 19-year-old defenseman Matthew Stanley. The Bronocs also sent a first-round draft pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, a third-round pick in 2020 and a conditional second-round pick in 2021.
“[Barlage] is a premier player as a 16-year-old, and we believe [he] is going to be a big, big piece of the Hurricanes going forward, and has a real good chance to be an outstanding pro,” said Hurricanes General Manager Peter Anholt. “That is the future, but also the present, because we believe that he can contribute right now.”
While clearly working to keep his emotions in check, Anholt discussed the players he had to ship out to make the deal happen.
“I've always said that Nagel was a key piece in last year's team. Obviously with Giorgio, I know he's going to leave here as one of the all-time greats, as will Stuie. So, tough day.”
Anholt also acknowledged the fact that the move leaves the club with a leadership void, but says it’s one he’s confident the team can fill with the players still on the roster.
“Obviously, you take three key pieces out of our room. But, it gives other guys an opportunity to step-up and take charge of the room and take ownership of the room,” he explained, before addressing a question about naming a new captain. “There's a group of guys that jump out at me, but, you know what, [head coach Brent Kisio] and I will have some discussions about that, and you know, you're almost passing the torch in a lot of ways, so there's going to be some serious consideration.”
The outgoing Hurricanes captain also spoke to the media, putting on a strong show, despite showing signs that the news had deeply impacted him.
“It’s terrible. There’s only one way to put it. It’s home,” said Estephan, when asked how it felt to be leaving Lethbridge after playing in the same place since first breaking into the league during the 2012-13 season.
Saying the trade left him speechless, Estephan still found the words to express how he feels about his now former teammates.
“Nothing but good-luck and well wishes, and I mean, it's a bond that you have with teammates that surpasses anything, and that's what we have here.”
This being the second trade of Nagel’s hockey career, he was more prepared for the change in scenery. While he expressed excitement at a chance to play on one of the best teams in the WHL, he also shared his disappointment at having to leave his teammates.
“That'll be the hardest part, is leaving these guys,” Nagel said. “A bunch of great guys here, and when I came in last year I got really close with everyone. This year, starting over with the new guys coming in, too, we got really close. That'll be the hardest part, is leaving them for sure.”
Finding the lighter side of an emotional day, Skinner pointed to the Broncos next visit to the ENMAX Centre on Feb. 2, as a game he’s already looking forward to.
“I'm hoping that the fans only bring out Skinner stuff, and Estephan and Nagel posters, and that's it, no one else… I'm hoping to beat you guys," he said with a wide smile. “It's going to be crazy. I don't think I'm going to chirp the guys, I don't know though, I might just to be funny. It'll be a fun night.
“All the memories that I made with the guys here, nothing's ever going to take that away from me. I love every single one of those guys in there,” Skinner continued, motioning to the Hurricanes’ dressing room. “Everyone in there is my brother, everyone in there is my family. So, it's pretty crazy that you kind of have to say goodbye to your family today.”
All four incoming players from Swift Current – along with Brad Morrison who was acquired on Monday, Jan. 8, from Vancouver – are expected to play Tuesday night, as the ‘Canes host the Red Deer Rebels.
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