On Thursday afternoon, the Ottawa 67’s officially announced they have made a pair of trades. The first one saw goaltender Will Cranley going to the Flint Firebirds in exchange for a conditional 15th-round draft pick in 2026, while the second saw Russian import forward Vsevolod Gaidamak heading to the Niagara IceDogs in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2023.
For some, both of these trades may come as a surprise. However, there are a handful of reasons why both trades make sense for the franchise, both in the immediate future and from a long-term viewpoint. Going through both, here’s why they make complete sense for general manager James Boyd.
Cranley to the Firebirds
Around Christmas time in the 2021-22 season, this trade would have been nearly unfathomable. The prospect of trading Cranley, while he was performing as one of the best goaltenders in the Ontario Hockey League (although his numbers never really showed it), was crazy. But as the season progressed and Cranley lost the starting job to Max Donoso, it seemed to become less of a possibility, and more of an inevitability.
In the 2021-22 season, Cranley played 41 games with the Barber Poles, finishing with a goals-against-average of 3.81, a save percentage of .873, and a record of 13-22-1-2. To the naked eye, those numbers don’t seem all that impressive, but they don’t tell the whole story. Dave Cameron was forced to ride Cranley heavily, and during December when the 67’s won just two games, Cranley gave them a chance night in and night out.
On a team as young as the 67’s were in 2021-22, there was little expectation that the numbers from any of their goaltenders would be particularly great. That’s typically how things go in junior hockey. The second half of the season was what allowed Donoso to overtake Cranley and become the team’s starter in the playoffs. Cranley showed some signs of fatigue, and couldn’t be that difference-maker he was at the start of the season, although he still allowed the Barber Poles to be competitive.
With how the season ended, it’s likely that Donoso will retain the starting role when the 2022-23 season kicks off in October. He’s a year older and coming off an incredible rookie campaign, and in his time in Ottawa, he was given Dave Cameron no reason to think he isn’t capable of being a full-time starter. That’s a problem for Cranley, and could even be a problem for his NHL club, the St. Louis Blues. At this stage of his career, Cranley needs playing time, and if that time was going to be limited in Ottawa, neither the player nor his NHL club would be overly thrilled about it.
That’s one of the reasons, but there is also something more direct to the 67’s themselves that helped to expedite the process. That, of course, is the overage status of Cranley heading into the season. Overage players play a critical role in the success of your hockey team, and there is no better example of that than the 67’s in the past three seasons. In 2018-19 when they were a 50-win team, they had Tye Felhaber, Kyle Macksimovich, and Lucas Chiodo, and in 2019-20 when they won 50 games once again, they had Noel Hoefenmayer, Austen Keating, and Joe Garreffa. All six of those players played massive roles for the Barber Poles, and ideally, you would like to have that again this upcoming season.
This trade on the surface looks like Cranley in exchange for a pick that, if conditions aren’t met, will likely never become anything, but that’s thinking like a checkers player. Think like a three-dimensional chess player for a second. Now, this trade opens up avenues to bring in a 20-year-old at an impact position that can be a difference-maker for the club next season. Boyd would clearly rather take a loss on a return for a starting calibre goaltender than waste away his final junior season on the bench, especially while Colin MacKenzie pushes for a bigger role on the team.
Gaidamak to the IceDogs
Gaidamak’s trade comes in a very similar situation compared to Cranley’s. At the start of the season, Gaidamak looked like one of the 67’s top forward options and burst onto the scene. He was scoring in bunches and was impressing Cameron, who was responding by giving him more minutes. But suddenly, that production halted, and Gaidamak couldn’t buy a goal for some time, eventually going on a streak of 20 games where he couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the 2020 CHL Import Draft, the 67’s used the 57th picking the first round on Gaidamak, but the 2021-22 season was the first time he stepped onto the ice for the Barber Poles. Considering it was his first season in the league, his 16 goals and 17 assists weren’t horrible, but with his production tapering off, Cameron struggled to find a spot for him on a nightly basis. After the new year, Gaidamak managed just two goals, and only added another 10 assists, finding himself left as a healthy scratch a few times. While the ceiling is probably still pretty high for Gaidamak, there are complications that make keeping him around far riskier than any other player.
In the CHL, teams are allowed to play a maximum of two import players. Those import players can often play key roles, and you can set yourself ahead by quite some margin with a successful day at the CHL Import Draft. In the past, the 67’s have had big seasons with Nikita Okhotyuk and Marco Rossi serving as their import players, and with Vinzez Rohrer already taking up one of those slots, Gaidamak’s production needed to be more consistent.
With Niagara looking to replace the production they will lose when Daniil Gushchin almost certainly moves onto the American Hockey League next season, Gaidamak was a good fit for them. The fourth-round pick is well worth the potential upside, and for the 67’s, the chance to hit the reset button with a younger import player was too tempting to pass up. With the spot now liberated, Boyd and the rest of the 67’s decision-makers can make a pick at this year’s Import Draft on Friday morning. They hold the 24th pick overall, and the seventh pick among OHL teams.
Once again, the return for the player being traded is more than the assets that come back. But the draft pick coming back to Ottawa in this trade could prove to be valuable later this offseason, or even into the season. Boyd has built up a nice cabinet of draft capital that he can use to bring in more help when he needs it, and with that overage spot opening up, he’s added another pick to his arsenal that he could make a splash with.
It goes without saying that moving both Cranley and Gaidamak is an unfortunate part of junior hockey. Both are good players, and it’s unfortunate that they can’t continue their hockey journeys in Ottawa, but both should be afforded a greater opportunity than they would have in the nation’s capital. They are moves where everyone is happy. The players are going somewhere where they will play more minutes, the IceDogs and Firebirds are getting players that can help them win hockey games now, and the 67’s open themselves up for different opportunities. If they play their cards right, there’s every chance that they could be a highly-competitive team come October.
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