Knights deal, but not for Tavares

London Knights GM Mark Hunter had nothing to say about John Tavares or that a deal was close to...

London Knights GM Mark Hunter had nothing to say about John Tavares or that a deal was close to being completed. (Sun Media/Michael Peake)

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

John Tavares isn't a London Knight yet.

But Zac Rinaldo is.

The Knights didn't put the wraps on the blockbuster deal the hockey world has been anticipating -- and the one some media outlets are already reporting -- but they did trade swift-skating forward Kale Kerbashian to the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors for Rinaldo, who adds some sandpaper to a London roster short on physical presence after Akim Aliu's sudden departure.

"We felt like we needed a bit more grit in our lineup," London GM Mark Hunter said. "We know what we gave up. It's like we told Kale -- it was probably unfair to him that he didn't get more time on the power play here, but he's going to get it in Mississauga."

Kerbashian, who made a nifty play to set up Phil McRae's game-tying goal in a win over Ottawa last weekend, will return to London with the Majors this Sunday at 2 p.m. The 18-year-old from Thunder Bay had 10 goals and 29 points, was plus-12 and proved a reliable penalty-killer in his breakout second full season with the Knights.

Rinaldo, 18, is just five-foot-11 and 180 pounds, but the Philadelphia Flyers sixth-rounder isn't afraid to drop the gloves. He racked up 191 penalty minutes last year and already has 112 this season to sit third in the OHL -- just eight behind league-leading Lane MacDermid of Windsor and 19 ahead of Barrie world junior banger Stefan Della Rovere. (Penalty minutes picked up through misconducts are not counted in totals.)

But Hunter had nothing to say about Tavares or that a deal was close to being completed. "We're talking (with Oshawa) right now," he said. "There's nothing to comment on."

Warren Rychel, GM of the front-running Windsor Spitfires, wouldn't confirm if his team was still in the running for Tavares.

"No comment," he said. "I'm just going about my business here trying to make our team better (before Friday's trade deadline at noon)."

Tavares' agent Pat Brisson told TSN the Oshawa Generals have informed him they don't have a suitable deal on the table yet for their star player. He did acknowledge the Knights and Spits were the front-runners -- but not the only suitors.

KNIGHTS

Oshawa plays in Belleville tonight and Brisson said there's a chance the Generals' No. 91, whose club visits London on Friday, will be in the lineup against the Bulls.

Knights goalie Trevor Cann has heard the Tavares-to-London talk. He knows what it's like to be dealt after four years with the same club.

"It's all you've ever known -- you're with one team eight months a year, and then, suddenly, you're in a different situation," Cann said. "It's not the on-ice stuff that takes some adjustment. It's everything else: new billets, new coaching, your school situation changes.

"The guys in here were great right away, so that's no problem. And when you come here, you know it's going to be a good team.

"The goal is the Memorial Cup."

Because Peterborough and Oshawa are rivals and divisional opponents, Cann has faced Tavares more than most goalies.

"He's so good in tight and I think there were some doubters at the start of his first year, but there weren't after he scored 45 goals," Cann said.

The Knights, who head to Erie for a midweek game tonight, were missing three players from yesterday's practice. Captain Scott Aarssen has an ankle injury.

Backup goalie Michael Zador was assigned to the St. Marys Lincolns for a Western Ontario Hockey League game against Sarnia last night. Rookie first-rounder Christian Thomas was expected back in London late yesterday after winning a gold medal with the Ontario team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni, B.C., on Sunday.

Rookie defenceman Scott Valentine, pulling double duty with the London Nationals for most of the season, is expected to play for the Knights against the Otters tonight.

Phil Varone skated hard a second time while recovering from a knee injury.

"We're waiting for Dr. (Bob) Giffin (the club's orthopedic surgeon) to make a decision on it (and Aarssen's status)," Hunter said.

The Knights worked on their power play yesterday. It is currently operating at 23.3 per cent (second in the league to Ottawa) -- a number that could jump into the 30-per-cent range with Tavares' presence.

London head coach Dale Hunter wouldn't talk about Tavares, but he did discuss his power-play philosophy, one based on the Detroit Red Wings' system.

"We're giving teams two looks right now on it," he said. "One group is the finesse and skill set and the other is trying to get two big bodies in front of the net for screens."

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KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: At Erie, 7 p.m. at Tullio Arena.

Friday: vs. Oshawa, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.

Sunday: vs. Mississauga, 2 p.m. at the JLC.


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