Knights seek hefty return for star goaltender

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

One thing you learn quickly about London Knights management.

They want it all.

Once you start with that premise, it makes figuring out what they will do come the trade deadline, a little easier.

General manager Mark Hunter doesn't like pulling the chute. Most junior hockey teams go through down years, years when graduation, unexpected player losses and bad luck catch up with a team. Those are years when teams make deals that will help them in the future. Those kinds of deals usually mean a team has given up doing anything significant for the year.

The Knights aren't quite there yet, at least they don't want to admit they are. They are in a tough Western Conference with a number of strong teams and despite spending the first half of the season trying interchanging parts, they are enticingly close to those other teams.

The Knights are caught in a difficult spot.

"I think we have a good team," Hunter said. "I'm going to be looking to see if I can find some players to help us but no matter what I do, I want this team to remain competitive."

The most marketable commodity Hunter has is his 19-year-old netminder Steve Mason. The acquisition of Mason would make several teams instant favourites for a Memorial Cup berth.

The Knights need at least one good defenceman and another top six forward if they re going to compete with teams like Kitchener, Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie.

This is where the wanting it all comes into play.

Hunter isn't adverse to dealing Mason but it's going to take an unbelievable package to get him. That package will have to include good young players, draft choices and players who will keep the Knights competitive.

"I can tell you that no matter what kind of trade we make, the team will remain competitive," said Knights general manager Mark Hunter. "I had phone calls from four or five teams but there's nothing that comes close."

Translation: If Mason goes, the Knights expect a goaltender who can play to come back their way.

There are rumblings that the Oshawa Generals were inquiring about Mason but the package demanded in return was just too rich for the Generals' blood.

Hunter doesn't say squat about potential deals. He won't say if there's been any advancement on a deal for Mason or any other players. He won't say who's interested. He won't even tell you if he's interested in making a deal

But he does say this.

"If there's any deal that's going to be made, it has to be a deal that helps me now and in the future and keeps me competitive," Hunter said. "Otherwise, there's no deal."

Translation: I get what I want and Mason stays here.

The big question then becomes why? Why would Hunter, knowing that Mason is gone next year, not maximize what he can get for him?

The lure of making the playoffs and getting through a couple of rounds with houses of 9,090 is too enticing.

Believing in oneself is a big deal to both Mark and Dale Hunter. Mark believes in this coaching staff. He believes his team is good enough to make some noise. He believes that when everyone gets healthy and his young players or players unfamiliar with the Ontario Hockey League, get better, the team will get better.

So Hunter is thinking if he can't get a whopper of a deal for Mason, why trade him.

Hell keep Mason, knowing that if Mason gets hot, he can carry a team through several rounds of the playoffs.

As for the other players that he still needs, it wouldn't be unusual for Hunter to come up with a forward or defenceman that no one expected would come to the Ontario Hockey League

It's amazing when you put 9,000 in the John Labatt Centre every night, how attractive education packages can be

If that happens, Hunter has one of the two players he needs and he still has Mason.

With those pieces falling into place, Hunter can then work on moving some other pieces, including draft choices, for either the forward or defenceman that's still missing.

All this is contingent on the players he has getting better. If they don't he may wind up with no future players and an early exit from the playoffs.

That's the risk you take when you always want it all.


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