At what cost to nab Tavares?

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

The betting is that sometime in the next few days, probably as early as today, a General will become a Knight.

The London Knights appear most ready to pay the price the Oshawa Generals are asking for John Tavares, the most prized junior hockey commodity in recent years.

It's going to be a stiff price. Not as ridiculous a price as rumours circulated by those who got it from the barber of a friend who knows the friend of a billet of a hockey player. But it will be stiff, nevertheless.

There is no sure thing in junior hockey. Deals have a way of falling apart at the last minute, when one party gets greedy or the other party begins to get sober second thoughts about the price they have to pay.

Yesterday, sportsnet.ca broke the news that Tavares had been traded to the Knights for players, money and draft picks.

"I don't have a deal done," Knights' general manager Mark Hunter said vehemently when told about the rumour around 4 p.m. "We're talking. I just called the league when I saw the story and told them there was no deal."

Tavares is only going to be around this league until the end of this season. There are possibly four teams with a chance at getting him, teams which would benefit long term from his addition -- Brampton, Belleville, London and Windsor. The ones with the most to offer are the two Western Conference teams, London and Windsor.

Windsor is in an awkward situation. Already the best team in the OHL, do they deal some of their future for Tavares even though they don't need another forward? Or do they take their assets to bring in something they really need, like goaltending insurance or a front-line defenceman?

Sometimes, you have to make a deal to keep a key player out of the hands of your main opposition. Right now, the only team that seems to have any chance at knocking off the Spitfires is London.

The Knights have stockpiled draft picks (two more with the trading of Akim Aliu on the weekend) and have some good young talent, not as much as the Spitfires but enough to put together an attractive package.

They also have bags of cash available to further entice the Generals to come to the table. A $100,000 or $200,000 price tag can't play left wing for you, but it eases the pain of not advancing as far in the playoffs once Tavares is gone.

"No cash. I don't deal that way," Hunter said.

But the Knights also have a tough decision to make. Even with the addition of Tavares, do they have enough to win an Ontario Hockey League championship? They are good enough now to get to a Western Conference final against the Spitfires, but will Tavares put them over the top? If he doesn't, the Knights are no better off than they would be without him.

Knights' general manager Mark Hunter has never been shy about rolling the dice. He knows he needs another big-time goal scorer to have any chance of winning. That's why he'll do whatever is reasonable to bring Tavares here.

It's a hot topic around the rink. The buzz making the rounds is the Knights have already asked one of their billets if they are prepared to handle a high-profile addition.

It has become ridiculous. One reported offer had the Knights trading a front-line player, two young players, three draft choices and $500,000. All that was missing was a partridge in a pear tree.

The most attractive players the Knights can dangle are Jared Knight and Christian Thomas. Both have no-trade contracts, but Thomas might be convinced to make a move because he isn't getting as much ice time as he would like. Defenceman Scott Valentine's name has come up repeatedly, as has forward Phil Varone.

Varone has the kind of leadership qualities that a team like Oshawa needs and he'll be around for a while. He is also the kind of player the Knights need.

If you're looking for something real, look for a few young players -- Thomas included -- and multiple draft choices.

Don't forget a part-owner of the Generals is former Kitchener Ranger coach and general manager Peter DeBoer.

Even though DeBoer is now coaching in Florida, he paid a premium to Hunter when he traded for goaltender Steve Mason. Mason wound up getting hurt and didn't play a role in the Rangers playoff run. DeBoer may want to extract a little extra if he can.

"The only thing I'm going to say is we're talking and nothing has been decided," Hunter said. "I'm not going to tell you the players, the number of draft choices. I don't know if it's going to happen."


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