The price too high for Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

Some of it was a refusal to pay exorbitant prices for the players available.

Some of it was inadequate resources so they couldn't pay exorbitant prices to entice other teams.

The bottom line amounted to the same thing. The London Knights did some tinkering with their roster but were unable to land a player who will make a major impact on the rest of the season.

If the Knights are going to be successful this year, they'll have to do it with the team they've had for most of the season.

"I like our team," Knights general manager Mark Hunter said.

He'd better, because there isn't much he can do about it now.

It wasn't as if Hunter didn't try though. He went after Peterborough's Steve Downie and Daniel Ryder and missed on them. He went after Windsor's Mike Weber and missed on him.

Hunter probably could have had any of them, but he refused to overpay.

The teams that obtained those players without a doubt overpaid. Plymouth got Ryder yesterday but had to give up John Armstrong, their first-round pick in 2004, as well as three draft picks.

Kitchener obtained Downie for Yves Bastien, a good young player, plus three second-round picks.

Saginaw wound up with forward Cody Bass and veteran defenceman Andrew Hotham. The Spirit gave up two players and three draft choices.

No one needs to tell those teams they paid a premium. Kitchener, Saginaw and Plymouth, along with London, believe they can win an OHL title. You overpay to not only ensure you get the players but because it keeps those players from joining your opponents.

Kitchener, Plymouth and Saginaw were good teams before the trade deadline. They have all improved, at least for this year. In order to make a run at another OHL title, the Knights will most likely have to beat at least one. That's why Western Conference teams did so much wheeling and dealing.

Hunter didn't say much when asked if he was worried the top teams in the Western Conference had all made significant roster moves.

"We'll have to see," he said.

The Knights were at a disadvantage. They didn't have as much to offer when it came to paying the price for those players.

The Knights were willing to deal draft choices and some players, but this was a year when teams wanted draft choices and young players.

Virtually every major deal involved draft choices and players who have at least two years left to play in this league. Short of key players who are untouchable, such as Sam Gagner, Pat Kane and Phil McRae, the Knights didn't have the type of young player other teams desired.

Jordan Foreman, Adam Perry, Josh Beaulieu could help any team but they only have a year left. Teams who are dealing established stars are looking to maximize the return on their assets. Even if dealing for a younger player comes with a bit more risk, the returns can be far greater.

Such is the nature of junior hockey. Saginaw, Owen Sound and other teams who are planning to make a run have mortgaged a significant part of their future for this year.

When the Knights made their run to a Memorial Cup two years ago, they made trades that involved young players and draft choices. That's one reason they couldn't sweeten their offer for players such as Downie and Ryder. They don't have enough young, impact players they can part with.

"We haven't had a second-round draft choice in two years," Hunter said.

The Knights are fortunate they've been able to entice players such as Gagner and Kane to play in the OHL or the cupboard would be really bare.

The Knights lack of activity at the trade deadline doesn't mean they are dead in the water. If they can stay away from injuries to their core of quality players, they will still be a difficult team to play against.

They've also left themselves with something to work with for next year.


Videos

Photos