The Hamilton Bulldogs have made yet another deal to help their playoff push. In a trade that was speculated on since Friday, the Bulldogs acquired center Robert Thomas from the London Knights. In return, they sent rookie forward Connor McMichael as well as a second-round pick in 2022, conditional second-rounders in 2020, 2025 and 2026 and a conditional third-rounder in 2022. Most of the conditions have to do with whether or not Thomas plays in the OHL next season and one is whether or not the Bulldogs win the OHL title this season.
So in reality, it's Thomas for McMichael plus at least two 2nd rounders — and maybe 3 — and two more 2nds if he's back in the OHL next year (which London brass deem unlikely).
— Ryan Pyette (@RyanatLFPress) January 8, 2018
Thomas will make the Bulldogs’ already potent offense more powerful. In 27 games this season, he has 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points. He had one goal and five assists with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. General Manager Steve Staios had this to say about his new player:
“We are very excited to welcome Robert Thomas to the Bulldogs family. He has a tremendous track record both in the Ontario Hockey League and at the international level, most recently winning a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships”
He also brings championship experience to the Bulldogs. Prior to winning gold with Canada, he had won the under-17 World Championship with Canada two seasons ago. That season he was part of the Knights team that won the OHL Championship as well as the Memorial Cup. For the Bulldogs, who are trying to achieve that same goal, Thomas’ experience is going to be invaluable. He was also the captain of the Knights, so he brings even more leadership to the team.
The Bulldogs are going for it this season with no regard for next season. With that in mind, they have traded away a lot of picks but not many players. Connor Roberts was sent to Flint in the deal that brought the Bulldogs Nicholas Caamano and Ryan Moore because he wasn’t performing the way the Bulldogs had expected. The Thomas trade signals the team’s all or nothing mindset.
McMichael was the Bulldogs’ first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2017 OHL Draft. He was set to be a big piece of the Bulldogs’ future, along with their second-round pick Arthur Kaliyev. With McMichael gone, a part of that future is gone. He has five goals and five assists for 10 points this season and has been improving throughout the season. Staios had this to say about the rookie:
“The Bulldogs would like to thank Connor for everything he has done for the organization. He is a tremendous young man with high character… He has been a great teammate and has a very bright future. We wish him all the best in London.”
McMichael represented Canada at the under-17 World Championship, scoring one goal and four points in six games. His development will continue with the Knights, a team that looks to be retooling for the future while still trying to contend. Dealing Thomas, Cliff Pu and Max Jones in the past couple days sends that message.
While it seems unlikely, it would really help the Bulldogs for Thomas to return next season. He is eligible to return and he wouldn’t be an over-ager. With a Bulldogs team that is going to be gutted in the offseason, having Thomas around would be a coup. However, there is a good chance he plays in St. Louis next season
What makes this more interesting is that the Bulldogs’ next game is Friday in London, so it won’t be long until Thomas and McMichael face their former teams.
If the recent trades are a sign, it is going to be a busy two days until the OHL Trade Deadline. Will the Bulldogs make any more moves to strengthen their push? More importantly, do they even have any other expendable assets left to trade?