Bobcats finalize futures deals


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June 1, 2015 3:55 PM

Goaltender Christopher Tai returns to Bobcats after spending one season in BCHL.

Bobcats get healthy return for 20-year-olds traded last season

The trades that sent 20-year-olds Tyler Kunz to Prince George, Linden Springer to Brooks and Lukas Biensch to Spruce Grove are finally complete, as the Lloydminster Bobcats announced the players who were part of the deals as future considerations, finalizing those deals.

Lloydminster is also getting back goaltender Christopher Tai, who played with the Bobcats in 2014 in the second half of the season and playoffs, before he was traded to the Coquitlam Express in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) for a future consideration, which in turn, ended up being Tai himself.

For Kunz, the Bobcats received, at the time, forward Taylor Allan from the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL. Allan played 25 games for the Bobcats last season, scoring 10 goals and 17 points. To complete the deal, Lloydminster is also receiving forward Marco Ballarin and defenceman Adam Clements as the future consideration part of the deal.

Springer was traded to the Brooks Bandits at the trade deadline and for defenceman Shane Switzer and a future, who was announced to be Bandits captain Madison Dunn.

And for Biensch, Lloydminster received Taylor Lotoski, who played in 16 games for the Bobcats, scoring two goals and four points. As part of the future considerations, Lloydminster will receive defenceman Graydon Smith and a future from the Whitecourt Wolverines.

“I’m glad to get it over with, you know the names in January and a lot changes over the course of six months, so glad to get this over with and get these guys into the fold,” said general manager Gord Thibodeau. “Now we kind of shoot them into the depth chart and make decisions based on going forward on where we go from here.”

In total the Bobcats got four forwards and three defencemen in return for the three 20-year-old players that would not be returning for the upcoming season due to age. But not all seven players will wear Bobcats’ jerseys when the season starts in September, as some of the traded players have already made school commitments in the United States, while others have a preference to play at home.

Switzer, who played 17 games for Lloydminster and added 16 points for a season total of 34, committed to Boston University and will not return for the 2015-16 season, while Dunn made a commitment to the University of Alabama-Huntsville in the NCAA Division 1, and will be playing their next season as well.

Thibodeau said Lloydminster will either receive another player from Brooks or another future for Dunn.

Clements has also expressed interest in going to school in Ontario, so the Pickering, Ont. native could be sent to the Ontario Junior Hockey League in exchange for a player. A trade could be finished for Clements in the next week.

“There is still some decision to be made on a few of the players,” said Thibodeau. “There was a risk obviously in doing the deal with both (Dunn) and Switzer potentially getting scholarships. We didn’t expect Switzer to get one so quick but unfortunately, he came over and played very well. There were questions on whether (Dunn) would play one more year of junior. Now that that has been solidified, we have an option to go back to Brooks for an agreed upon player.”

Tai returns to the Bobcats after spending one year in Coquitlam. After the 2014 playoffs, Tai made another effort to make the Western Hockey League as part of the Kelowna Rockets. After not making the Rockets and battling with illness, Tai was traded to Coquitlam for a future player or for Tai in return. Thibodeau elected to bring the 20-year-old goalie back to Lloydminster, which helps solve the gap in net he faced after Devin Green graduated after this past season.

“Devin had started so well that we made the decision that we were not going to move Devin, and in fairness to Chris, he wanted to start,” said Thibodeau on the trade of Tai. “We wanted to get him somewhere where he could play a lot of games, which hasn’t been the case for him over the course of the last couple of years.”

With Coquitlam, Tai went 19-14-1 in 36 games, finishing with a 3.70 GAA and a .899 save percentage. It was more starts then he would have received in Lloydminster battling with Green, and the decision to return the goalie means the Bobcats have a player they are already familiar with.

But with the market just opening for trades, Thibodeau isn’t cementing anyone into the lineup this early, as lots of deals could be made over the course of the summer.

“It’s a bit of a relief to know that you have that 20-year-old in your pocket,” said Thibodeau. “But there are things being thrown at you every day. You never want to turn a blind out to what is out there. That is no disservice to Chris or any player on our roster, but our job is to make our team and organization as strong as we can. It’s a situation where we know Chris can handle the load, he has proven that before, but a lot of things happen between now and August. We would never not listen to proposals out there. And at this stage of the season, those proposals are just starting.”

June 1 marked the first day players could be carded and players could be put on the trade wire. Thibodeau said the phone has been busy already and there is a lot of talk. But as he said, the talk doesn’t always lead into deals, but Thibodeau suspects based on the amount of communication Monday, the Bobcats could have some deals finalized in the next two weeks.

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