The last deal was the biggest deal.
Josh Paterson — who had been the longest-serving player on the Saskatoon Blades — was traded Thursday to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for fellow 19-year-old veteran forward Ryan Hughes on the final day prior to the WHL trade deadline.
The Blades also gave up a second-round WHL Bantam Draft pick in 2020 and a fourth-rounder in 2021. The second-round pick originally belonged to the Swift Current Broncos.
The dynamic 5-foot-8 Hughes is an established WHL scorer who has 17 goals and 40 points in 36 games this season.
“We went out and targeted Ryan,” said Blades general manager Colin Priestner. “He was something we didn’t have right now … Hughes is a guy who has given (Blades coach Mitch Love) fits over the years and he’s always loved him. To get him is huge.”
On Thursday afternoon, Hughes switched teams but hadn’t yet switched team jackets when he left SaskTel Centre with Blades captain Chase Wouters and Max Gerlach.
“It was probably the most awkward deal we’ve ever had,” admitted Priestner. “Their bus came here at 2 o’clock and they pulled him off the bus, just walked him across the hall. Both guys are four-year players so it was definitely a surreal kind of day for both of those guys, but they’re both professionals and handled it great.”
Although the deal wasn’t finalized until after midnight Wednesday, and the two players weren’t informed of the deal until Thursday afternoon, the two clubs had been toying around with the idea of a potential trade for months.
When both Paterson and Hughes got off to a slow start this season, Priestner and Portland GM Mike Johnston talked about the possibility of swapping the two players.
“It’s been in the works for quite a while,” explained Priestner.
“Over the last few weeks, we were really identifying what we wanted. When talking to our coaching staff each day about what we thought we wanted and needed and it was really that dynamic, playmaking scoring left-winger who can really skate, think the game and play the game with pace and that’s what Ryan Hughes is all about.”
Hughes also has 27 games of WHL playoff experience in the tough U.S. Division, collecting four goals and eight assists.
“We had added a lot of playoff experience in the back end, but we didn’t have a ton up front,” noted Priestner. “This is another guy. He’s been battle-tested there.”
The good-natured Paterson shrugged off the shocking news and welcomed his new team.
“It’ll be a good opportunity and I’m looking forward to it,” said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Paterson, who had 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 41 games this season with Saskatoon.
“I’m just seeing what I can bring to the team. It’s a little unexpected to end up in Portland, but change is sometimes for the better and I’m looking forward to a new opportunity.
“It’s a great organization and I’m just looking forward to the start of the next chapter of my life. I’d like to thank Saskatoon for everything they’ve done for me over the last four years.”
Paterson, who was originally drafted 25th overall by the Blades in 2014, suited up for 246 career regular-season games as a Blade.
“I love Josh,” said Priestner. “Josh is the first player who ever signed with me, the first player I ever drafted. I really care for Josh and his family. He’s been awesome.
“He hasn’t been able to be drafted or attend an NHL camp yet, which is a crime, and he’s had some really good years here. A change for him, now to a different conference to spread his wings a little bit, may be really good for him. Both players are going to really great situations. I would not have done it if it wasn’t a great situation.”
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