The OHL trade deadline has come and gone and the Windsor Spitfires’ plan to focus on the future remains firmly in place.
This season’s deadline occurred last Thursday at noon and Spitfires’ general manager Warren Rychel was busy working the phones. Rychel, who has built three Memorial Cup champions since 2008, has never been one to shy away from making deals to help his club. While he made moves to build a winner in 2016-17, last season was all about the rebuild and this deadline was much of the same.
He made his first big splash earlier in the season when he dealt star goaltender Michael DiPietro to the Ottawa 67’s for several draft picks. During deadline season, which started after the Christmas break, Rychel continued his push by making a handful of deals to help the club in the future. Let’s take a look at each deal, in chronological order, and see how it plays out for all the clubs involved.
Rychel Re-Shapes Roster
1. Spitfires Deal Forward to the Flint Firebirds – Jan. 1
To the Firebirds – forward Cody Morgan
To the Spitfires – Flint’s second-round pick in 2020, Flint’s fourth-round pick in 2021
What the Firebirds get – After starting 0-16, the Firebirds, led by new coach Eric Wellwood, are slowing finding their way. They get Morgan, a 17-year-old forward who was a former first-round pick by the Kingston Frontenacs. Despite just nine points this season, he could flourish with the right line and ice time. Dealing picks is a risky idea for the Firebirds but Morgan could more than pay off for them.
What the Spitfires get – While Morgan had talent, he was passed by other teammates on the Spitfires’ depth chart. This saw his ice time reduce and it was time for a change. Rychel loves his draft picks so getting a pair of higher picks to use down the road will only help the Spitfires. This was a deal that really suits both teams.
2. Spitfires Release Kutkevicius and Starikov, Sign Campbell – Jan. 1 and 5
Why the moves were made – Saying goodbye to 20-year-old forward Luke Kutkevicius was a necessary move. He had 16 points in 30 games but was often injured and they simply weren’t getting enough to justify keeping him around. Rychel felt there were other overage players who were more suited to the team’s style and the two sides parted ways.
Losing 18-year-old Lev Starikov was a tough one. Rychel chose him in the 2017 CHL Import Draft and expectations were high. After 13 points in 2017-18, the 6-foot-7 200-pound defenceman couldn’t get going with just four points in 32 games this season. While still on NHL radars for the 2019 NHL Draft, it was time for a change. The Spitfires are now down to six defencemen, so all get ample playing time and they have 16-year-old Dylan Robinson in LaSalle Jr. B for seasoning.
Signing 20-year-old Chase Campbell was key because he used to play for head coach Trevor Letowski while with the Sarnia Sting. While just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Campbell has been around the OHL and provides leadership, speed and defence up front that will help the Spitfires for the rest of the season. He was released by the Kitchener Rangers at the end of December.
3. Spitfires Deal Winger to the Erie Otters – Jan. 9
To Otters – forward Mathew MacDougall
To Spitfires – Erie’s fourth-round pick in 2022 and fifth-round pick in 2021, Sault Ste. Marie’s sixth-round pick in 2021
NEWS: Otters acquire Mathew MacDougall from @SpitsHockey in exchange for three draft selections.
— Erie Otters (@ErieOtters) January 10, 2019
What the Otters get – Like Morgan, MacDougall needed playing time but he was passed on the depth charts. The Otters get an 18-year-old forward who has plenty of speed and oozes offensive potential (17 goals in 2017-18). He just needs to use his shot more and develop a consistent offence. If he can find consistency, he’ll be a big help to the Otters’ young roster.
What the Spitfires get – In June 2017, the Spitfires got MacDougall from the Barrie Colts for a fourth-round pick in 2020. With the most recent deal, they got a fourth-round pick back, plus two extra picks, which Rychel could use down the road. It’s also a chance for 16-year-old forward Kyle McDonald to get more playing time, which will only help him in the future.
4. Spitfires Acquire Depth from the Hamilton Bulldogs – Jan. 10
To Spitfires – forward Ben Garagan
To Bulldogs – conditional 15th-round pick in 2022. The pick becomes a fifth-round pick if Garagan plays his overage season (2019-20).
— Jim Parker (@winstarparker) January 10, 2019
What the Spitfires get – With Morgan and MacDougall traded over the last week, Garagan gives the Spitfires some depth up front plus a potential overager in 2019-20. He has just eight career goals, so expectations are low but the depth could come in handy in case of injuries or suspensions.
What the Bulldogs get – The Bulldogs are rebuilding and didn’t have room for Garagan. Getting a pick for him is never a bad thing.
5. Spitfires and Otters Swap Depth – Jan. 10
To Spitfires – rights to goaltender Jackson Bernard (LaSalle Jr. B)
To Otters – rights to forward Reid Russett (Smith Falls – CCHL)
What the Spitfires get – Bernard is the backup goaltender for the LaSalle Vipers who play just 25 minutes west of the WFCU Centre in Windsor. It’s insurance for the Spitfires should something happen with Kari Piiroinen or Colton Incze. Bernard was the Otters’ 15th-round pick in 2017.
What the Otters get – Adding another young forward gives the Otters some options should they get a chance to sign him. Russett was the Spitfires’ second-round selection in the 2018 OHL Under-18 Draft in April.
With these roster moves, the Spitfires can now focus on developing their youth in hopes of winning a couple of playoff rounds next season and making a run in 2020-21.