Reid Gardiner is returning to the Western Hockey League… but not as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Raiders have dealt the rights to the 20-year-old star to the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for a conditional first round pick at the 2017 or 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, a fifth round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft and a conditional fifth round pick at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Raiders and Rockets announced the deal Friday afternoon. Gardiner had been with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
The addition of another 20-year-old in the form of Gardiner put the Rockets above the league limit, spurring another deal in order for Kelowna to get down to three overage players.
In a separate transaction, the Rockets have traded 20-year-old left winger Riley Stadel to the Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for a fifth round pick at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. The Oil Kings and Rockets announced that deal at the same time as the Gardiner trade.
“We had an opportunity to acquire one of the league’s best scorers over the last few seasons. He has been playing in the AHL but will be coming to Kelowna to play for the Rockets,” said Bruce Hamilton, general manager of the Rockets, in a team release. “He’s excited about the opportunity to play for a competitive team with high-end teammates and with his brother Erik.
“For us, he brings something we’ve been missing in that he’s a pure shooter. We’re in arguably the toughest division in the WHL so he adds more depth to our roster. It was a big price to pay but we feel we owe it to our fans to compete again this year.”
During the 2015-16 season in Prince Albert, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound winger ripped up the East Division, scoring 92 points (43G-49A) over 71 games. In 262 career WHL regular season contests, the product of Prince Albert has produced 220 points (106G-114A). He also has nine points (5G-4A) in 14 career WHL playoff games. So while he may be an off-the-radar acquisition for the Rockets, there is no questioning his ability to be a major impact player down the stretch.
In 23 games with the AHL’s Penguins, Gardiner put up six points (3G-3A) this season.
Gardiner also suited up for Team WHL at the 2015 Canada Russia Series, collecting two assists in two games.
With the Prince George Cougars adding Russian import scorer Nikita Popugaev and the Kamloops Blazers bringing in 20-year-old Alaskan ace Lane Bauer, the BC Division was not going to be getting any easier down the stretch run. The addition off Gardiner should help the Rockets go toe-to-toe with the rest of the big dogs in the division.
As for Stadel, the veteran product of Surrey, BC, joins an Oil Kings club that had room for a 20-year-old player after shuffling Bauer west to Kamloops on Thursday.
“Because of the acquisition of another 20-year-old, we had to make room to get back to three,” Hamilton said. “This was an extremely tough decision for us. Riley has been a heart-and-soul guy for us for a long time now.
“He epitomizes what a good guy and a great teammate is. He has impeccable character and this is a significant loss. It won’t be easy news for his teammates to hear.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward – who has also spent time on the blueline over the course of his career – has managed seven points (2G-5A) in 29 games this season. Over 270 career WHL regular season games, Stadel has 105 points (29G-76A) to his credit. He also brings 61 games of WHL playoff experience to an Oil Kings team currently holding down the second wild card seed in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
“In Riley, we are getting an honest player with good character and leadership abilities,” said Randy Hansch, general manager of the Oil Kings, in a team release. “He is a versatile guy who plays both defence and forward, and comes from a winning organization and we are very pleased to welcome him to Edmonton.”
Stadel is expected to join the Oil Kings in Edmonton for Sunday’s tilt with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Gardiner is expected to join the Rockets in time for Saturday’s home outing against the Kamloops Blazers.
Gardiner was originally a first round pick (eighth) of the Raiders at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, while the Rockets selected Stadel with a third round pick (51st) at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.