Kabanov to Lewiston: The day after

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Somewhere along the back roads of Eastern Quebec on Thursday, my phone started blowing up. Of course, without a plan that allows for ease of access to data downloads in Canada, my phone was blowing up silently — read, it was turned off.

After crossing the border and restoring power to my radioactive life necessity, it really did almost blow up. Buried in more than 100 missed emails and messages were a series of notes regarding Kirill Kabanov.

The Lewiston Maineiacs crossed and dotted all of the letter in a trade with the Moncton Wildcats in the afternoon, paving the way for the Maineiacs to acquire the Russian sniper.

In a blog post on Tuesday, I had already discussed the possibility of the transaction, and in that post, I was resigned to the fact that the Maineiacs, if they wanted to acquire him, they would need to spend a first-rounder and/or a young player from the lineup.

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They did neither, and still managed to get him.

Kabanov is an assessed risk. He has a documented history of taking some missteps, and making some poor decisions.

Name me one 18-year-old who has not, at least once or twice in his or her life, done the same? Granted, Kabanov is (and probably should be) held to a higher standard, given that at one time, he was mentioned in the same paragraph as Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall and other first-round NHL draft picks.

Higher profile = higher responsibility.

But perhaps he just wasn’t mentally mature enough to handle it.

I do not know first-hand the circumstance behind his untimely departure from the Moncton Wildcats in the playoffs last season. Nor do I know why he was late to a team function or two with the New York Islanders this summer, and I most certainly do not know the exact circumstances of his brief trip home this fall for family reasons.

But all of that happened. And they happened to a teenager with undeniable high-end hockey skills.

The risk is that this 18-year-old hockey player will grow and mature physically, but will remain an 18-year-old hockey player between the ears. Possible? Sure. But with everything he has at stake? Not likely.

I am told by a team source that Kabanov wants to be in Lewiston, and that his agent and the Islanders organization want him in Lewiston. He’s closer to the team, easier to keep an eye on and scout, and as far as his desire to be here, he joins a list of players who do love it here.

To the end of what it cost for the team to acquire Kabanov, there are many fans and media members across the QMJHL landscape in disbelief, saying the Maineiacs “overpayed,” that Moncton clearly “won” this trade.

That’s all a matter of perspective.

Moncton certainly received quantity: a second rounder, two fourth-rounders and a first-round European selection, along with a 17-year-old keeper in Jordan Kennedy who needed a second chance after losing his spot on the Lewiston depth chart. A good haul, for sure, and one that should make Moncton folks very happy.

But it’s possible that the benefit to Moncton is on the large side, while the impact on the Maineiacs is at the same time small.

By not giving up a rostered player, the Maineiacs remain intact, and get deeper. In addition, if you look at the future of this franchise, and its stated goal of gunning for a run in 2011-12, the possibility exists that only four players on the current roster will need to be replaced next season.

Lewiston will lose its three 20-year-olds — Nick Champion, Olivier Dame-Malka and Antoine Houde-Caron. And it will lose one of the team’s four 19-year-olds — Pierre-Olivier Morin, Etienne Brodeur, Cameron Critchlow and Sam Finn.

But that’s it.

In addition, expect players like defenseman Brayden Wood, goalie Antoine Bibeau and defenseman Jay Kourkoulis to be major factors in picking next year’s squad.

So where, exactly, would a second-rounder picked next year as a 16-year-old fit? It will be hard enough for the Maineiacs’ first-round pick next season to make the team, never mind a second-rounder. Or a fourth-rounder.

Essentially, the Maineiacs used their second- and fourth-round picks in the 2011 draft to select Kabanov, and they attain his services in November, 2010 instead of in September, 2011.

The European selection was a moot point. With goalie Andrey Makarov and Kabanov, the Maineiacs would not have room to draft another European player, so it is a minimal loss.

Kennedy is a good kid who was thrust into the spotlight way too quickly, and it might have hurt his overall development. That said, this could well be the fresh start he needs. He will continue to play close to home this season, and will practice with the Wildcats when they are in town. Next year, he will go to camp with Moncton, and see where that takes him.

With three goalies ahead of him on the Maineiacs’ depth chart, there was little room for him in Lewiston.

I fail to see where the distinct advantage for Moncton comes in. I think both teams addressed needs.

Lewiston added scoring depth and a flashy player that will add to the team’s point total and also help at the box office and help energize the crowd.

Moncton adds to its draft pick coffers, and those picks may or may not turn into other players in future trades, or the Wildcats may even use them to help rebuild.

Moncton gets more, tangibly, in this transaction, but the overall benefit, especially if Kabanov gets things churning on the ice, is just about even.

Justin Pelletier is the assistant sports editor, online. His e-mail is jpelletier@sunjournal.com

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