Why are the First Place Oshawa Generals Selling at the Trade Deadline?

By Tom Hunter (@PuckDontLie)

When hockey fans think about the trade deadline, they will often think in terms of which teams are buyers and which teams are sellers. Conventional wisdom suggests that if you’re in a playoff spot – specifically near the top of your conference – your team is a buyer. The sellers then come from teams at the bottom of the standings looking to re-build. While this thought process holds true for the NHL, it’s not always the case when it comes to the trade deadline in junior hockey.
The Oshawa Generals are a good team leading a terrible conference. The only other team in the east with a winning percentage higher than .550 is Peterborough, and they’ve been riding elite goaltending from Dylan Wells – he’s been playing at a level that may not be sustainable.

The Generals are good, but when you look over at the Western Conference, there are at least three great teams. Sault Ste. Marie, London and Erie are all teams with Memorial Cup aspirations and are behaving as such. They are elite teams that have been stocking up on talent in order to get even better.

This is why the Generals are sellers.

As good as they have been this season, they are not on that elite level. Like London two years ago – when they sold off veterans despite being in a playoff spot – Oshawa is prepared to take one step back in order to take two or three steps forward next season.

As a franchise, the Generals end goal this year is to win their bid to host the 100th Memorial Cup in May of 2018. The selection committee will be making their decision within the next month and showing off a roster that looks like it is poised to contend will be a huge positive for the organization.

Anthony Cirelli and Mitch Vande Sompel would not be around next season. They’re both destined for the AHL – so if the Generals could move one or both of them for a group of younger assets, they were always going to do it.

Now it looks like they have found this trades.

Nothing is official yet, but at the end of last night’s game (a game in which MVS and Cirelli were the first and second star respectively), both players took a little extra time to hug teammates and reflect on a building that they helped raise a Memorial Cup banner in. The team then held a closed door meeting, during which it is believed management explained that their two leaders would be moving on.

While Anthony Cirelli was at the World Juniors representing Canada, word broke that the Generals captain would likely be moving to Erie to join fellow Team Canada members Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh. It has been confirmed this morning that the return was being built around rookie centre Allan McShane.

McShane, who will be 17 next month, was Erie’s first round selection – 19th overall – in last year’s OHL draft. With 23 points in 33 games, McShane has shown an ability to contribute offensively – though his calling card is his two-way game. He is pretty close to being a younger version of Cirelli and as a 2018 NHL draft eligible player, he should be a big part of any success the Generals have over the coming seasons. Along with McShane, the Generals received five draft picks, two of which have conditions on them.

As well as Cirelli, the Generals are moving defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel to the London Knights. The New York Islanders prospect has always been a high-end offensive threat from the blue line, but over his career in Oshawa, he has turned into one of the best all-around players in the OHL. There is no word yet on a return, but it is expected to be huge. The Knights have a bunch of high-end youngsters that would do the trick. It appears as though defenseman Ian Blacker is the player going back to Oshawa along with a load of picks. Blacker was once a top prospect who dropped in the OHL draft thanks to his NCAA commitment. He has been underwhelming since joining the Knights but Oshawa is likely hoping he can excel in an expanded role.

The trade between London and Oshawa is a direct mirror of what the two teams pulled off back in 2015. London sent veterans Michael McCarron and Dakota Mermis to Oshawa – both were key figures in the Generals Memorial Cup win that season. Going the other way, the Knights received Cliff Pu -among other assets – who was young and raw at the time but is it leading the team.

For fans in Oshawa, the trade stings for two reasons – it signals that the team is willing to bow out early in this year’s playoffs, but more importantly, Cirelli and Vande Sompel are the last two remnants of the 2015 team that restored greatness to the franchise.

These are moves that may seem odd to those used to the NHL trade deadline, and upsetting for fans who want to see their Gennie succeed this season, but they make a ton of sense for the franchise and GM Roger Hunt hopes you’ll see why as early as next season.


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