Even when it didn’t seem possible, the Moose Jaw Warriors got a little younger at the WHL trade deadline Thursday.
The Warriors traded 18-year-old forward Andrew Johnson to the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft.
Earlier in the day the Warriors called up 16-year-old defenceman Dallas Valentine from the Leduc Oil Kings in the Alberta midget AAA league.
“We’ve had some young guys move past Andrew in terms of where the team is at. I don’t think Andrew is a fourth-line player and that’s how it was going to filter out here with the way our young guys were playing,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar.
“I think a fresh opportunity is something Andrew would like. It will be good for him and we get a reasonable asset in return.”
Johnson learned of the trade after Thursday’s practice and was emotional when he talked about the only home he has known in the WHL.
“It’s tough, especially leaving behind the guys in the room and everybody off the ice. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s definitely hard right now,” said Johnson who was taken in the second round, 23rd overall, in the 2009 WHL bantam draft.
“I’ll miss every guy. It’s a tough day,” added Johnson. “It’s been awesome playing here. I loved it. I have nothing but good things to say about it. I’m going to miss it here, that’s for sure.”
Johnson looked to be living up to his potential in the first half of last season when he scored 10 goals and had 26 points in 34 games heading into the Christmas break. He finished with 13 goals and 37 points last season after battling through injuries in the second half. He has five goals and 15 points in 42 games this year and is a team-low minus-20.
“I only have myself to blame for how I’ve played this season,” said Johnson who has 27 goals and 68 points in 159 career WHL games. “Seattle said they were interested in me and maybe a fresh start is what I need right now. It opens new doors.
“A fresh start is the best thing, even though right now it’s hard to see that.”
With defenceman Morgan Rielly at his first NHL training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs and defenceman Reid Jackson out for the season, the Warriors decided to call up Valentine to bolster their defensive depth.
Valentine has scored three goals and had nine points in 27 games this season in Leduc.
“With the Rielly situation, the uncertainty of his status ... we couldn’t run the risk of being stuck here with six D. We didn’t see a deal on the horizon that would put a body in our lineup, that made sense compared to bringing Dallas Valentine in and bringing our own player here to develop and get better,” said Millar.