With OHL Trade Freeze Set to Lift, Barrie Colts Face Tough Decisions
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)
With the trade freeze set to lift in the Ontario Hockey League Wednesday, August 1st, many OHL teams are getting set to make changes and finalize their rosters heading into the season, which starts in September.
Many teams are facing a lot of uncertainty, especially with a potential NHL lockout impacting some of their decisions. Though players could still play in the AHL, some NHL teams would rather have their prospects go back to the OHL if they’re not playing in the NHL. Obviously if there is a lockout, the prospects won’t be given a chance to earn a spot on the NHL team that owns their rights.
With all of that said, no team faces more uncertainty than the Barrie Colts.
In the OHL, teams can keep five overage players until November, then they have to cut down to four until the deadline and teams can only keep and utilize three overage players after the trade deadline in January. While getting under the five limit isn’t a problem for most teams, the Colts make for an odd exception.
As of right now, the Colts have nine players eligible to return as overagers. Winnipeg Jets prospect Ivan Telegin, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Reid McNeill and Los Angeles Kings prospect Tanner Pearson headline the group and are all expected to make the jump and turn pro this year. Along with those three overagers, the Colts also have Buffalo Sabres prospect Gregg Sutch as well as Steven Beyers, Chris Buonomo, Ryan O’Connor, Derek Hartwick and Mathias Niederberger.
Let’s assume whether a new CBA gets worked out or not, McNeill, Telegin and Pearson all turn pro. That would be the best case scenario for the Colts in terms of trimming down to the maximum of five overagers, but the Colts still have to move at least one of their overage players before the season starts and another one by November. That means at least two guys need to be moved within the next few months.
I expect Sutch and Beyers will stick around as the Colts likely don’t want to lose any more offense than they already are in losing Telegin and Pearson up front who combined for over 70 goals and 150 points last season. That said, nothing is set in stone.
That would leave three defenseman in Buonomo, Hartwick and O’Connor as well as their 2011 starter in Niederberger.
Buonomo had a pretty good season last year but given the fact he hasn’t earned an NHL contract anywhere, he’ll want to play big minutes this season. With Alex Yuill and Aaron Ekblad expected to take even bigger roles and the Colts already having a lot of depth on defense, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was moved to play more elsewhere. That said, I’m not sure how much value he has around the league and it may be best for him and the Colts if they just give him a top-four role on defense.
I expect Hartwick to be moved out one way or the other. Some teams looking for depth on defense who can take on an overage player may give up a later draft pick, but if that’s not the case I expect him to be waived. I don’t expect him back with the Colts this year.
The Colts gave up a fair bit for Ryan O’Connor at the trade deadline last year, so I don’t think they would be to anxious to give him up. He’s experienced and is one of the better puck movers on the team, so they may just keep him. With that said, if a team offers up a good package for him, he could very well be on the move again.
Lastly, we have Niederberger who started for the Colts last year. He was very good for them in the regular season and exceptional for them in the post-season, but given the fact the Colts would have to use one of their overage spots and an import spot on him, he may be tough for the Colts to make room for. As I said, he’s a good goaltender but given the fact the Colts have a very good young goaltender in Alex Fotinos, who appears ready for a starting role, I wouldn’t be surprised if Niederberger was let go or traded. Some OHL teams could definitely use him as an upgrade in goal, but given the fact he’ll take one of the overage spots and one of two import spots on any team, it may be tough to find a spot.
As you can see, the Colts have some tough decisions upcoming that they’re going to have to deal with. They have to move at least one overager before the season and another one by November, so you could see some movement with them in that regard sooner than later. In the event an NHL team decides they would rather have their prospect, whether it be Telegin, Pearson or McNeill in the OHL rather than in the NHL or AHL, the Colts would obviously welcome them back. They would have to make more moves to clear spots for them, though, so either way the Colts will be faced with tough decisions.
Whatever route the Colts decide to take, they’ll have moves to make. Moves that can be made August 1st.
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