Offers were made, but none that Prince George Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson took seriously. So, Alex Forsberg -- the richest card the Cougars had in their deck leading up to Thursday's WHL trade deadline -- wasn't dealt.
Some may say the Cougars should have traded the disgruntled forward so they could at least get a WHL-quality player and/or draft picks in return. But, not involving him in a transaction could actually pay bigger dividends down the road.
By not granting Forsberg his wish to play for a different WHL team, Thompson made a statement to future players, something akin to, "If you're thinking about walking out on us, you might want to think twice." Future Cats, even if they're unhappy for one reason or another, may not be so quick to defect. Maybe, just maybe, they'll do a little self-evaluation and work harder to achieve individual and team goals instead.
The Cougars will retain Forsberg's WHL rights but will give him permission to finish the year in the Tier 2 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. On his Twitter account on Thursday, Forsberg -- who is from Waldheim, Sask., -- indicated he'll be playing for the Humboldt Broncos.
Really, the Cougars were under no pressure to trade Forsberg, the top selection in the 2010 WHL bantam draft. The Cats may not even make the playoffs this season, so it's not like they needed to add a body or two to help them contend for a championship. Now, they can try to trade him in the off-season, which will give them plenty of time to get the best deal possible.
Forsberg bolted from the Cougars after a Dec. 16 home game against the Vancouver Giants. At CN Centre that afternoon, it was Teddy Bear toss time and he scored the goal that brought the stuffies out of the seats. The Cats won 2-1 and went into the Christmas break on a high. The goal was Forsberg's ninth of the season and his 24th in the last two years -- way below expectations for a first-overall draft pick.
Forsberg would have been wiser to return to the Cougars after Christmas and quietly request a trade if that's still what he wanted. That way, Thompson wouldn't have been operating from a position of weakness and may have had a chance to swing an appropriate deal for a Forsberg who would have been doing his best to showcase himself to potential suitors.
The other element in all this is that Forsberg is in his NHL draft year. And, now that he's going to be playing in the much weaker SJHL, it will be a miracle if any NHL club takes a chance on him in June. Not only will he have to establish himself as a dominant player in the league, he'll have to convince NHL scouts he's not a quitter or a guy who puts himself ahead of the good of his team.
In the meantime, the Cats will soldier on. They gave a couple gutsy performances against the powerful Portland Winterhawks this week and will now take on the Kamloops Blazers tonight and Saturday at CN Centre. The Cougars are five points out of a playoff spot and have 31 games left to try to pull themselves into the top eight in the Western Conference.
That's certainly something they can do, even without the fruits of a Forsberg trade in their lineup.