Connor Bedard is in the bright lights this week. The 2023 draft sensation is a part of the Canadian team competing at the 2023 World Juniors in the Maritimes.
The star of the WHL’s Regina Pats is ripping it up this year, leading the league in points with 64 and assists with 37. He is averaging over a point per game for the third consecutive season, solidifying his spot as the top prospect in the draft class.
There have been some rumors of a potential trade with Bedard and the Pats. Regina isn’t one of the top teams in the WHL and Bedard could be moved as a rental to another club looking to make a deep run in the postseason. The return for a player of Bedard’s caliber would be huge for Regina’s future.
On paper, a trade makes sense, but the likelihood of one happening appears bleak at this point. Regina coach and general manager John Paddock shut down trade rumors earlier in December, pointing out Bedard’s no-trade clause in his contract that would complicate a deal, in addition to the desire of the team to keep him.
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“It’s been said what’s done,” Paddock said during the team’s trip to British Columbia. “We’re not doing it and Connor has the final say. He wants to be a Regina Pat and finish his career in Regina, clear?
(Bedard) has a no-trade clause, he does not want to be traded, he’s not going anywhere, we don’t want to trade him and he doesn’t want to be traded, it’s simple.
While Paddock vehemently denied that a trade would happen, it wouldn’t be the first time a front office goes against a previously stated plan. And with the WHL trade deadline looming ahead on Jan. 5, there is still time for Bedard to potentially change his mind about him.
The Sporting News makes the cases for and against the Pats trading Bedard.
Why the Regina Pats should trade Connor Bedard
Like in the NHL, the WHL also has a trade deadline. Teams that aren’t going to make the postseason can trade away players in order to get players and picks back. Typically, teams will move high-profile players if they can’t or are not expected to come back to the juniors the next season. It’s kind of like moving a free agent—you trade them so that they don’t walk away for nothing in the offseason.
Right now, the Pats are seventh in the Eastern Conference and would make the postseason if the season ended today. However, once the holiday break is over, they are going to have to navigate the next two weeks without Bedard while he’s on loan with Team Canada and that could drop them in the standings.
Bedard isn’t going back to the WHL next year, so he’s a prime candidate to be moved if he chooses to. With the trade deadline just five days after the World Juniors ends, it would be a quick turnaround for Bedard and Regina if he does change his mind.
With that said, for Regina, the return for Bedard would be massive. Outside of him, there aren’t a ton of promising young players within the organization besides 16-year-old Tanner Howe. The Pats could get a haul for Bedard if he did agree to trade, one that would see multiple players and draft picks come back their way.
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Looking at previous deals made in Canadian major juniors, John Tavares, Leon Draisaitl and Brayden Schenn all were traded as rentals that returned a king’s ransom. Tavares was traded alongside Michael Del Zotto and Daryl Borden for three players and six draft picks. Draisaitl went for two players and three picks. Schenn was acquired in exchange for two prospects and four draft picks.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek said on his podcast that a return for Bedard would be “a trade package the likes of which the Western Hockey League has never seen and completely set (the Pats) up for the next however many years.”
Why the Regina Pats shouldn’t trade Connor Bedard
There are two simple words as to why Bedard won’t be traded — no-trade clause.
It isn’t up to Regina if the team moves the player or not, it’s up to Bedard. With his no-trade clause, the team has no ability to move him unless Bedard agrees to a deal, which his agent has already said he has not asked for.
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Regina can also still make the postseason and make a run at a WHL championship. You wouldn’t want to have the potential of making the playoffs and earning that revenue, only to trade away your star player too early and miss out on the postseason as a result.
And let’s make one thing clear — if the Pats trade Bedard, they aren’t making the playoffs. Regina is a borderline playoff team even with Bedard in the lineup. An early end to the season is in store if they trade him away.
There is also something to be said about the long-term positives of keeping Bedard in Regina. When he gets called at the 2023 NHL Draft, the GM that drafts him is going to announce, “From the Regina Pats, forward Connor Bedard.” There is something special about having that connection with a high-profile player like Bedard.
When you think of the players mentioned above that were traded during their CHL careers, what junior teams do you think of? I always picture Draisaitl as Kelowna Rocket, not as a Prince Albert Raider. I think of Tavares as a London Knight, not an Oshawa General.
The Pats want to be able to reap the future benefits of keeping him around so that if he does go on and live up to the hype in the NHL, they can have that tie to him forever without any other teams in the way. That reward may be worth more for the franchise than whatever trade package they would receive for Bedard.