Cam Keith made his first blockbuster deal as the new head coach and GM of the Trail Smoke Eaters on Wednesday.
Keith landed proven top-six forward Josh Laframboise from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, while relinquishing former WHL defenceman Carter Cochrane, who was acquired from Cowichan Valley in June in a deal that sent forward Max Newton and defenceman Nii Noi Tettei to the Capitals for Carter and forward Luke Santerno.
“Where our team is at right now, I felt we needed a little more punch up front,” said Keith. “Josh brings both skill, he’s got size, he’s got some edge to him as well, and he’s a known top-line guy in this league.”
Laframboise, 19, was a standout for Salmon Arm last season, netting 11 goals and 48 points, and split his time between Penticton and Salmon Arm the previous year. The Thunder Bay native comes from a strong hockey heritage playing midget and Junior in Saskatchewan from 2011-14.
“What attracted me to Josh as well, is he comes from Saskatchewan, a smaller town, and from what I heard, I thought he’d fit well in Trail and the community. When I’m evaluating players I want to bring in guys that will be a natural fit for Trail and not have to deal with players who don’t want to come in or I have to convince to come here.”
While the addition of Laframboise will be a boost offensively, the loss of Cochrane could prove costly on the backend. The 20-year-old Kamloops native had a 47 point season with the Chilliwack Chiefs in 2013-14, before moving on to the WHL where he split his time between Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans, before returning to the BCHL and the Cowichan Valley Capitals last season.
Keith was hired in June from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League where he was assistant coach, and moved to Trail a month ago. The Nelson native has been also instructing at the Champions Hockey School with the older groups in the evening and identifying potential skaters for the Smoke Eaters main camp at the end of August.
“We are going to have a pretty big main camp,” said Keith. “We’ll have four teams battling out for spots. We’ve told all the kids, everyone’s on tryout. It’s a new team, and I have no preconceptions of anyone, haven’t seen anyone play except for a couple local kids, so it’s going to be a good competitive atmosphere.”
The addition of Laframboise was a tough deal to make, said Keith, and a little “nerve-wracking” in his first trade as a Smoke Eater, but one which he is more than comfortable.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, any time you’re trading a guy like Connor Cochrane doubt goes into your mind, but at the end of the day you just have to trust your instincts and go with it. After talking to Josh and seeing how excited he was to come to Trail, I felt really good about it … and moving forward I think it’s going to make our team that much better.”