The Clarenville Ford Caribous are returning to the ice after the Christmas break looking to make big changes for the second half of the season.
Veteran player Keith Delaney, an assistant captain and vital part of the team’s crop of forwards over the last several years, has been swapped in a deal with the Corner Brook Royals for two players.
Clarenville general manager Ivan Hapgood says he was sad to see Delaney go, but it’s just part of business, thanking him for years of service to the team.
“Without a doubt in any trade conversations, Keith’s name kept popping up,” Hapgood told The Packet. “We need strength on our back end if we were to have any shot at winning (the Herder).”
Delaney, the elder statesman in the Bous’ dressing room at almost 37 years old, was traded for youth and to address the holes on the blue line for the club. He had five goals and six assists so far this year, playing in 14 games for Clarenville.
In return for Delaney, the Caribous received defenceman Rodney Mahoney and forward Andrew Smith.
Hapgood feels Mahoney can play in the top four of the defensive rotation, logging plenty of minutes for the Caribous.
Mahoney is only 23 years old and previously played in the Maritime Junior Hockey League, captaining his team. He has a single goal so far this year in 14 games with the Royals.
Hapgood calls Mahoney one of the best up-and-coming defencemen in the league.
As for Andrew Smith of Corner Brook — not to be confused with defenceman Andrew Smith of Clarenville, who already plays on the Caribous — he is a versatile 25 year-old who can play as a forward or on defence, and plays with a chip on his shoulder, according to Hapgood.
Smith is a big player, with a six-foot-five frame and tipping the scales at 225 pounds. He has a total of five assists in 10 games played this season.
This big deal is perhaps indicative of the Caribous’ mantra since beginning the season of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new, getting younger while also staying competitive in the league.
“Overall, we’re not happy with our team record,” said Hapgood.
“We built this veteran team to gear up for the Allan Cup last year. As an organization we certainly felt we weren’t strong enough at that point in time to win a Herder (Cup) … (this) will help us somewhat in achieving our goal of another run. If we’re unsuccessful in that run, we brought in two players under the age of 25 for a veteran player who’s 37 years old who will probably retire when the season is over anyway.
“For the everyday fan who still looks out and says Keith Delaney is still an elite player in this league, it’s hard for them to fathom that.”
But Hapgood added this trade is by no means a “fire sale.”
“I’ve got other changes I could make to our hockey team that could improve the quality of our team tomorrow but all that comes with a price.
“If people want to look around the building and see the number of fans we’ve had this year — the corporate support has been great — this trade is by no means a fire sale but if the fan dropoff in Clarenville is any indication of what’s to come, if we want to keep a team on the ice in Clarenville moving forward, we have to go with lower-priced, younger, talented hockey players.”