The Nelson Leafs are hoping the risk-reward nature of their latest trade goes in their favour.
Their third trade in a month saw defencemen Max Daerendinger and the rights to Austin Anselmo sent to the VIJHL’s Campbell River Storm in exchange for blueliner Austin Steger.
Steger, who turns 20 next month, had four goals and 10 assists in 13 games with the Storm last season after being traded from the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, where he had three goals and four assists in 18 games. He came alive in the playoffs with three goals and three assists in 13 appearances.
“He’s a very offensive defencemen. He’ll be a top veteran defenceman in our division,” said Leafs general manager Sean Dooley. “He’s got a lot of offensive upside to him and he’s physical. … He’s definitely going to be a big asset on our back end.
“Building the team going forward, it seems like we’re getting a lot of the pieces in place and the one piece we really needed was that veteran presence on defence as a 20 year old.”
If the trade seems lopsided, that’s because Dooley and head coach/director of player development Mario DiBella weren’t sure if Daerendinger and Anselmo would return to Junior B hockey next season.
Daerendinger, 18, was a regular on the Leafs’ blueline with two goals and 15 assists in 37 games. Anselmo, 19, scored six goals and added 13 assists in 26 games last season.
Anselmo was traded to the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles in January, and Dooley said Daerendinger has received plenty of interest from Junior A teams in the off-season.
“We’ve had offers from just about everyone for Max. Earlier on there was no way we were going to move him,” said Dooley. “He was easily one of our top defencemen going into next season, but over the course of the summer he’s had a ton of Junior A teams inquiring about him and even some roster spot offers in Junior A. He’s got a few options that he’s looking at right now.”
Dooley said he and DiBella knew they were likely losing a long-term player in Daerendinger, who still has three years eligibility in junior hockey. Daerendinger’s inevitable progression to Junior A forced their hand.
“Max, like most kids his age, really sees himself in Junior A. That’s his No. 1 goal and that’s what it should be. He’s Junior A focused,” said Dooley.
“We’re getting a veteran D-man who’s very good, very offensive, puts up points. [Steger] is going to be very strong on our back end for sure.”