The Epicentre of QMJHL Trade Activity

I’ve never had the honour or privilege of travelling to La Baie, Quebec for the CCM Challenge. From what I’ve heard it’s a great place and tournament, but for now like every year La Baie is the epicentre of QMJHL trade activity.

Obviously, by now the most significant deals are already locked and loaded, but the CCM Challenge provides an unique window of opportunity for late trade partners to strike up some last minute deals.

“Let’s make a deal” takes on an entirely new connotation when those trade talks happen in person. Scouts talk, but when every organization’s brain trust are in attendance things get done and finalized.

If all the shocking trades have already been made and awaiting league approval, the aftershock of “minor trades” could prove to be very intriguing.

There’s a sense that there will be a “shit ton” of movement this time around and the price of doing business is extremely high like it is every year.

Twenty? Twenty?

A lot of teams are already set with their 20’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some teams decide to go in a different direction which is incredibly difficult. It’s extremely difficult seeing overagers being traded. Obviously, it’s just the business side of the game, but it’s still an extremely tough time of year for every veteran player and their families .

Obviously, every “20” have given their heart and soul to their team and have taken on a massive leadership role. The best organizations and GM’s keep an open and honest dialogue which is imperative, but some don’t include the veterans in any of their plans. Some organizations treat their 20’s just like any other asset and that’s the toughest aspect of all of this.

Can you imagine being with an organization that has plans to go on a run only to find out that they are shopping you on the open market after three and half years? Well, that happens, that’s part of the business side of the game which is incredibly difficult for these players to understand.

One can only imagine how these character veterans feel.  The agony, the disappointment and the devastation obviously takes a long time to subside, but many overagers report to their new teams and take on leadership roles with them almost instantly while playing out their final months in the league.

Before getting angry and upset at the Major Junior teams for parting ways with the player, many team officials go out of their way to broker deals with other organizations across junior hockey to ensure they have a place to play in the second half, but it’s still brutal to think about these decisions and discussions going on behind the scenes especially at this time of the year.

Clearly one shouldn’t envy those people in the game making all the tough hockey decisions, but you have to think about the player who was potentially promised a spot for the championship run. You see that’s where transparency and honesty have to reign supreme.

Hockey decisions have to be made, it’s how they are conducted that matters most.

At the end of the day it’s a business and trades are part of it, but we should never ever overlook the value, resiliency and character overagers bring to a major junior team day in, day out. Quality 20’s leave a lasting impression on organizations well after their time as come to move on. Leadership and character can put teams over the top when it comes to championship aspirations that’s why 20’s are so highly sought after.

No Shortage of Key Assets

Who’s buying? Who’s selling? Who’s restocking the shelves? Who’s standing pat?

We all know the answers to those questions heading into this version of the trade period, but clearly the biggest surprise of the season so far is the Victoriaville Tigres. The 2020 President Cup Champions are ready to pounce once again and try their luck at what they hope is a long championship run. They have already made a significant move landing William Veillette from the reigning President Cup Champions the Shawinigan Cataractes. The real question remains will they try to acquire another veteran or two to solidify their backend. Will they want to further modify their 20-year-old situation even more? It’s evident they believe they can compete with all the top contenders. When the Tigres came through the Avenir Centre  a few weeks back it was clear that they definitely possess the depth, skill and grit to contend. Ironically, one source told me that as of three or four weeks ago the brain trust wasn’t sure what they were going to do, which is completely understandable. Nevertheless, that could inevitably put them on the outside looking in when it comes to landing key assets.

There’s no shortage of key assets this year within the circuit at every position. There’s no question the Tigres will be the busiest team during the CCM Challenge. They will have to play catch up and any trade partner with the Tigres will definitely have the upper hand when it comes to asset return based on the timing of their decision to go for it.

Heading off the Island

Jim Hulton and the Charlottetown Islanders are going to be in tough in the second half of the season with so many key pieces set to leave the island. This trade period is vital for the organizations rebuild. Hulton and his scouting staff have done a phenomenal job drafting, developing and identifying players to build around, this trade period will be no different. They will get an awesome return for their quality assets. One thing you can count on when in fact acquiring any Islander player this year is that they will be driven to win after losing to the Cataractes a season ago.

Minor or Major?

This is the time of year where you can make a minor or major deal and see absolutely zero benefit or one that could put you over the top.

Sometimes the major deals don’t pan out.

Sometimes the minor deals can change the entire dynamic of a team.

“Sometimes the best trades you make are the one’s you don’t make,” said one former QMJHL executive a few years back.

We see all the trades and multiple draft picks moving back and forth, but what about the trades that aren’t made? Unfortunately, those “would be” trades are never talked about for obvious reasons.

Wouldn’t it be great to hear from QMJHL General Managers about the trades they didn’t make that they either regret or celebrate. Clearly none of them would ever discuss the behind the scenes inter-workings of the trade period, but I’m sure they could tell some stories.

You see those stories are revealed countless years after the fact at the 19th hole or while having a few drinks with scouting staffs either at the draft or team functions.

Trust me, I’ve heard a few of those discussions over the years, but I don’t care to share….for obvious reasons. There’s countless sides to any trade period and believe it or not, GM’s are human to.

It’s an extremely difficult time of year for them as well.

At the end of the day it’s a business and they have to do what’s ultimately right for their organization, but that doesn’t mean they don’t regret or feel awful about moving kids.

They could never come out and say it publicly because they would lose their job, but emotions definitely run high when these types of decisions have to be made and when it comes time to talk to their players and their families. From the outside looking in, we often see the stoic, rigid and business like persona from GM’s at the rink, but behind close doors these extremely passionate hockey minds are trying to do what’s right for the player and the organization.

Their job is a dream job, but it can also be a nightmare.

One can only imagine the stress and pressure they feel from ownership and every other facet of the game. In many ways GM’s are like coaches they are also hired to be fired.

Minor or major? Well I guess we will have to wait and see!

“Sometimes the best trades you make are the one’s you don’t make.”

The QMJHL have some amazing hockey minds at the helm of their franchises, but first and foremost they have some great people that really care about the players, their organizations and most importantly the game.

La Baie, Quebec is the epicentre of potential QMJHL trade activity.

I’ve never been there, I hear it’s a great place and event, I’ve also heard a lot of the deals get finalized at the “Challenge,” however the real challenge for every QMJHL team this time of year is to make the right ones.

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