Raiders add size and leadership to blue-line in deal with Blades

Andrew
Andrew Schopp
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Raiders

The Prince Albert Raiders have upgraded their blue-line, striking their second deal in a week with the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday. 

The Raiders announced on Wednesday a deal with the Blades shipping defencemen MacKenzie Johnston, Tyler Dea and a pair of draft picks to Saskatoon in exchange for Blades defenceman and captain Graeme Craig and a pair of Bantam Draft picks.  

Raiders GM Bruno Campese said the spirit of the deal was after upgrading the team up front in a series of deals last Saturday, adding experience, size and leadership to their defensive corps.

“We did what we did with our forward group up top and we were looking to add a d-man,” Campese said on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s deal swaps one overage defenceman for another in Craig who in 44 games with the Blades this season has tallied four goals and 20 assists.

The draft picks in the deal include a 2014 seventh round pick and a 2016 fifth round selection to the Raiders. Heading in the Blades direction is a third and fifth round pick in the 2015 draft.

Johnston, who was acquired by the Raiders earlier this season from the Kelowna Rockets after defenceman Evan Morden suddenly departed from the team, has tallied 12 points in 36 games for the Raiders this season.

MacKenzie has been good for us, we just feel that this is something that we needed to do,” Campese said. “The deal also provides Dea an opportunity to play. He wasn’t getting a lot of time so to give him an opportunity to play is a good thing.”

The rookie Dea has appeared in just 11 games this season, posting a pair of assists.

As the Jan. 10 trade deadline looms, Campese said the team will keep their eyes on the market, but for the most part the trading post is closed at Raiders HQ. 

“We’ll still be paying attention to what’s going on but we are not necessarily active in the market,” he said adding that the Raiders are not in trade talks with any WHL clubs.

As the Raiders currently cling to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 21-18-2, Campese hopes the pair of deals with the Blades and one with the Calgary Hitmen will spark a playoff push. 

“We are anxious to get Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey back and integrated with the new guys we’ve brought in,” he said. “We’ve got 31 games left, it’s a push and drive to really try and earn a post season spot, that’s our goal.”

Campese added he is pleased with the way the team is taking shape.

 “We like our group,” he said. “We like the makeup of our team here and we think we can be competitive and make a push.”

The new-look Raiders will be back in action as they take on the Brandon Wheat Kings in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday at the Keystone Centre.  

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