Trade a 'shocker' for Stamps

Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps makes a catch during practice at the Commonwealth Stadium field house...

Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps makes a catch during practice at the Commonwealth Stadium field house in Edmonton, Alta., Nov. 16, 2011. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

EDMONTON - Fred Stamps finds it difficult to envision catching passes from someone other than Ricky Ray next season.

The Edmonton Eskimos receiver, and one of Ray’s favourite targets, had trouble wrapping his head around the news that general manager Eric Tillman traded the face of the franchise on Monday.

“I had heard something about it, but you never really pay attention to it until it actually comes true,” said Stamps. “It’s a shocker. Ricky has been my quarterback since I’ve been in Edmonton. It’s tough, but I guess the coaches and the general managers that’s what they get paid to do, make tough decisions like that. They must know something that we don’t know.”

Ray was traded to the Toronto Argonauts for quarterback Steven Jyles, local kicker Grant Shaw and the second overall pick in the upcoming CFL draft.

According to Tillman, the Argonauts pursued Ray aggressively and eventually offered the Eskimos a deal he felt worthy of moving the club’s heart and soul.

Jyles is expected to challenge for playing time next season with Kerry Joseph, Eric Ward and Matt Nichols.

“Steven’s one of my best friends, we got way back since college,” said Stamps. “You never can replace Ricky Ray. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Steven is a good quarterback as well, he can come in and make a lot of plays. Only time will tell. I’m still in shock about the whole situation and I don’t have much to say about it.

“It’s tough. Ricky is a playmaker, he’s a baller, so wherever he goes he’s going to make plays and have success.”

Ray spent nine seasons with the Eskimos, leading the team to a pair of Grey Cup championships. He leaves as the team’s all-time passing leader with more yards and touchdown passes than any other quarterback in the storied history of the franchise.

“Obviously they feel like this is a good move for the club. The Canadian content is something that you always have to keep an eye on,” said former Eskimos receiver and now head scout Ed Hervey.

“The athleticism that Jyles will bring will open up the running game a lot more and increase Jarome Messam’s production.

“I’m a little bit biased, because I played with Rickey. He’s a friend and like anything dealing with football, when you do things in the locker room and you play with players a long time, no one ever wants to see anybody else go. That’s the passionate side of knowing that you’ve won with that particular individual.”

The move caught Eskimos fans by surprise, but considering Tillman’s history for trading big-name quarterbacks in the past, it was perhaps not unexpected.

Under his leadership, the Eskimos had a turnaround campaign this season, making it to the Western Final before bowing out to the eventual Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions.

“As far as the move is concerned, it’s all business and you have to live with those decision,” Hervey said. “Both teams will benefit from this move, our hope is to remain competitive and continue our quest to win another championship.

“For Toronto, it gives them a player they can market, a player they can rally around, fill their seats hopefully and know that they’re getting a quality individual that’s going to help them win games from the onset.”

In time, Hervey believes Eskimos fans will accept the fact Tillman traded Ray believing it was in the best interest of the club.

That will be especially true if the Eskimos go on to win the Grey Cup before the Argonauts do.

“This fan base in Edmonton lived to watch Wayne Gretzky leave,” Hervey said. “I’m not comparing the two because Wayne Gretzky is a worldwide icon. However, this is a fan base that is used to big-time moves. And we also understand that we may not get the results today. Time will tell when the team hits the field in the next couple of years and the impact of this trade will prove at that time. Until then, we all have to wait and see.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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