Ethan McIndoe arrived at the Spokane Arena as usual Wednesday morning, but when head coach Manny Viveiros ushered him into the general manager’s office, McIndoe suspected it wasn’t going to be a usual day.
“Right away, I knew,” McIndoe said.
Western Hockey League rules mandate that teams have to get down to three 20-year-olds by Oct. 15, so McIndoe was dealt by the Chiefs on Wednesday to the Edmonton Oil Kings for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.
General manager Scott Carter said the uncertain status of 19-year-old defenseman Ty Smith was a factor in the team’s decision to bolster its back-line depth by keeping two 20-year-old defensemen, Noah King and Filip Kral. Smith, a first-round NHL pick, is still with the New Jersey Devils, but it is unknown whether he will be sent back to the Chiefs or stay with the Devils.
With forward Jake McGrew back from his preseason stint with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, there just wasn’t space on the roster for the 20-year-old McIndoe, who has played 263 WHL games, all of them with the Chiefs, since they selected him in the third round of the 2014 Bantam draft.
“You never wanna see one of your best friends leave,” said McGrew, who shared an apartment with McIndoe. “But I know it’s a good opportunity for him.”
In one sense, McIndoe is going home. He is from Camrose, Alberta, a little more than an hour’s drive from Edmonton.
Carter said he could have received more yield had he dealt McIndoe to a different team, but it was important to him to send McIndoe to a good situation.
“Getting him close to home and putting him on a competitive team was important,” Carter said. “He’d been a real good player for us, a real good kid for us, and wanted to make sure that the bad news at least had a softer landing.”
McIndoe said he appreciated that.
“It’s pretty ideal going to a good team and a good organization, close to home,” he said. “It says a lot (Carter) was looking out for me in that way.”
Viveiros said Wednesday that having four talented 20-year-olds was a “luxury,” and during the preseason he said that outside factors would ultimately make the decision for the team as to which three they would keep. Had the Sharks sent McGrew to their American Hockey League affiliate or the Maple Leafs made a similar choice with Kral, a spot would have remained for McIndoe.
“A bit of a tough day,” Viveiros said. “It’s certainly a real difficult decision, no question about it. He’s been here for such a long time, and he means a lot to the organization, and more important, to those guys in the room. He’s a guy who was a leader, a great hockey player and a great person.”
McIndoe, an assistant captain last year, was coming off his most productive season with the Chiefs, with 16 goals and 24 points in 63 games in the 2018-19 regular season. In four regular seasons, he had 62 goals and 61 assists. He also scored eight goals and added nine assists in 23 playoff games.
The Chiefs (1-0-1) host the Tri-City Americans (1-1-0) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in their home opener. They play the Oil Kings once this year, at Edmonton, on March 4. Edmonton is 2-0-0 to start the season.
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