Friday was a difficult day for Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, who had to disregard his personal feelings while dealing highly respected team captain and defenceman Dawson Barteaux to the Winnipeg Ice.
In return, the Rebels got a boatload of bantam draft picks, including a second-rounder in each of the next four years, a fifth in 2021 and a conditional third-round selection in 2023. Red Deer also gave up a fifth in 2020 and a sixth in 2023.
“I had to set my feelings aside and do what I thought was right for the organization, which is continuing on the path to where we want to get to in the future,” Sutter told Rebels director of broadcasts and media Cam Moon, in reference to the WHL trade deadline transaction.
“We’re trying to build a contender, a team that can eventually win the league again. We were able to acquire lots of picks in this deal to help us move forward and continue to build around the core that’s here.
“Unfortunately it’s a tough thing to do. Barts was a really good player for us but he’s an even better person than he is a player, so it’s been a tough trade for everybody.”
Sutter acquired Barteaux from the Regina Pats at the trade deadline in 2017 and the 19-year-old was in his fourth season with the Rebels.
The Foxwarren, Man., native, drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2018 and signed to a three-year-entry level contract in September, contributed seven goals and 23 points in 39 games for Red Deer this season. He’s expected to turn pro next fall.
In other Rebels trades of note this season, overage forward Brett Davis was dealt to Lethbridge for a fourth-round draft pick, and more importantly, Sutter acquired promising centre Ben King from Swift Current.
“We’ve made some deals this year to help us for not just right now but for down the road,” said the Rebels boss.
Friday’s trade, however, was extremely difficult to make.
“Barts carries himself so well and he’s such a great team guy and tremendously coachable,” Sutter told Moon. “He’s been a Red Deer Rebel since he was 16 and as far as we’re concerned he’ll always be a Red Deer Rebel.
“He’ll play the rest of this season and the playoffs with Winnipeg, but in our mind he’s a Red Deer Rebel. That’s just the way it is and the way it will always be.”
The Rebels stand to lose just two players off their roster next season — current 20-year-olds Cam Hausinger and Ethan Sakowich.
“With these picks we have other things to work with now and we also have good young players coming up,” said Sutter. “It’s exciting . . . the process and the steps you have to do to build. But there are hard times through that and today was one of those days.”
Barteaux was “emotional, devastated” when told of the last-minute trade, said Sutter, who took some solace in the fact his former captain will close out his WHL career with a team pretty much guaranteed of being in the post-season.
“Barts gets a chance to finish his major junior career on one of the top teams, and that had to work into it (the trade),” said Sutter. “Look at what we got back in the deal, it’s a great deal for our organization . . . to use those picks to continue to build our team.
“From a GM’s perspective it’s something I had to do. But it was hard.
“Like I told him, one day I want to see his banner hanging from the rafters in the foyer of the Centrium (along with other former Rebels who graduated to the NHL).