Knights covet big names in OHL trade

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

There will be some big names moving before 6 p.m Wednesday, the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline.

But whether any of those names wind up on a London Knights' roster is another matter entirely.

Make no mistake about it, general manager Mark Hunter would love to see them wearing the Knights head.

The three big names who will definitely move include Peterborough Petes Steve Downie and Daniel Ryder as well as Windsor Spitfire defenceman Mike Weber.

Saginaw Spirit, already a contender in the OHL, just got stronger with the acquisition of former Spitfire Mitch Maunu. Maunu was released by the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League and signed with the Spirit.

Hunter has talked to anyone who is dangling a good player and that includes the Petes for Downie and Ryder. The competition for those players is stiff and the price for the pair as a package is high. The reported frontrunners are the Kitchener Rangers and Sudbury Wolves.

Weber, a defensive defenceman, is what's needed for the Knights ailing blueline but there's a big market for the player. Hunter must weigh how beneficial it would be in the long run for his team to make a run at any top player.

"I would love to add any of them," Hunter said. "But I still have a product to put on the ice next year and the year after. We have to look at the future of the team as well. If the trade is there and it doesn't impact us for a long time in the long run, we'll make it."

Hunter said he still believes a lot of teams are evaluating what they want to do. He believes things will begin to move on Monday.

"Everything changes on a daily basis," Hunter said. "One day you're talking and you think you have a deal and the next day things change."

There may be a flurry of activity once a big deal is made. If a contending team comes up with a top player, other contenders may feel the need to react.

There's also a reticence on the part of some teams to part with players who may help them into the playoffs especially in a league where there is a competitive balance. While a team may not be a title contender, the idea of a few packed houses for playoff games is attractive to ownership.

Last week, the idea of making the playoffs was so attractive to the Spitfires they were thinking of hanging on to their assets to do just that. "We're not going to waste the assets we have for the sake of a couple of playoff games," Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel said. "We aren't going to make a lateral move but if a deal is good for our team we're going to make it.

"We've already taken a few risks by playing Weber a couple of weekends."

The idea of Downie coming to London seemed like a long shot. But if the package is right, the Petes would move Downie and Ryder to different teams. Downie is a forward but by getting him, it would make the Knights deeper up front and they wouldn't need as big an upgrade to their backline.

Downie is a player the Knights like. Right now, he's at the 2007 world junior tournament playing for Canada.

The Knights are in an awkward spot when it comes to deal or no deal. They have plenty of young talent but may not be deep enough to win an OHL championship. The fact they are at the top of the OHL may seduce people into thinking with a few adjustments, they could make a run at a title.

Hunter isn't about to blow the entire wad this year.

He will fine-tune his team. He made a deal Tuesday that brought the Knights centre Justin Taylor from the Kingston Frontenacs for a fifth-round pick in the 2008 OHL draft. Taylor, 17, was the Frontenacs sixth-round pick in the 2005 draft from the London Junior Knights. Taylor is second on the Wellington Dukes and 16th in the Provincial Junior A Hockey League scoring race with 52 Points in 37 games.

"We've always really liked him," Hunter said.

But Hunter has never been afraid to pull the trigger on a bigger deal if he thinks the price is right.

The Knights play in Peterborough tonight against the Petes and Hunter will be making the trip. It should make for an interesting night of conversation.


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