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Mooseheads likely to be quiet at trade deadline

Halifax Mooseheads centre Elliot Desnoyers and goalie Brady James celebrate a goal during a Nov. 6, 2020 game against the Charlottetown Islanders at the Scotiabank Centre. (ERIC WYNNE/Chronicle Herald)
Halifax Mooseheads centre Elliot Desnoyers and goalie Brady James celebrate a goal during a Nov. 6, 2020 game against the Charlottetown Islanders at the Scotiabank Centre. - Eric Wynne

This year might just be a little too complicated for Cam Russell to dive too deep into the trade market.

The Halifax Mooseheads general manager has until next Monday to make moves but doesn't sound all that eager to shake up his roster. Part of that is the unpredictability of the pandemic but the other part is his satisfaction with what he already has.

"I think if you look at the makeup of our team, we're pretty happy with what it looks like right now and where we're going," Russell said. "We've got a nice mix of a few skilled, older guys and some great leaders, and a nice group of skilled, younger players coming up. It's kind of nice to have those older, experienced players around the younger guys to help groom them and bring them along.

"So I don't foresee us doing a lot during this trade period. We haven't done anything so far and it's also a crazy year just to be able to make a trade because of all the unknowns. But the bottom line is we like our team right now."

To understand why Russell has arrived at this perspective, it's worth remembering all the wheeling and dealing he did a year ago. During the 2019-20 QMJHL trade period, the Mooseheads unloaded a number of key veterans in exchange for high draft picks and a handful of blue-chippers, like Zachary L'Heureux and Elliot Desnoyers.

After using those picks to add the likes of Markus Vidicek, Jordan Dumais, Bobby Orr, James Swan and Jake Furlong over the summer, the Mooseheads put a new core in place. Almost all of the young players excelled during the first half of this season so there really isn't a big need in Halifax to add more pieces to the puzzle. That is especially true after top American defenceman Stephen Davis unexpectedly joined the team in December and import forwards Senna Peeters and Attilio Biasca finally got approval to enter the country two weeks ago.

"That's something we were hopeful for with the Europeans but we weren't sure it would happen at all," Russell said. "It was almost like landing three news players. And two of them are 18 years old and one's 17 so they're guys who are going to be able to step in and contribute right now but also will be here for a couple more years."

So what might the immediate future look like in Halifax? Everyone accepted this would be a building season with its share of growing pains but the Mooseheads managed to post a respectable 5-6-2-3 record in the first half with the young players producing ahead of the curve.

While no one would confuse them with a leading contender to win the league title this year, there might be enough there to make them a darkhorse to make a little noise down the stretch and in the playoffs. If they were able to do that, the young players would gain valuable league experience that would help them mature even more effectively next year and beyond.

"Like I said, I like the makeup of this team," Russell said. "I like the idea of letting this group grow together."

Otherwise, there is no update yet on when the Mooseheads will be able to resume games but they were at least able to get back on the ice on Monday. About half of the players were in isolation for two weeks but are now cleared for practices.

"It's a start," Russell said. "I know the guys were all happy to get out of quarantine and get back together and get back to skating and practising. Now we'll just wait for word from the league and the government about when we can have games again."

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