Baldwin felt trade to Lakers had been in works

Bryce Forbes

When Jace Baldwin heard the news he was returning to Borderland, he wasn’t really surprised.
He had heard the rumours for more than a year that the Fort Frances Lakers were interested in trading for the International Falls product.
It became official Monday when Lakers’ GM and head coach Wayne Strachan traded for the 5’11”, 155-pound forward.
“I had heard last year they were trying to get me, so it caught my attention that the trade could happen sooner or later,” admitted Baldwin, 20, who spent last season with the Steinbach Pistons of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
“I figured if the Pistons ever did trade me, it would be to the Lakers,” he added. “It’s never a bad thing to be closer to your hometown and I know what the Lakers bring to the table.
“I guess I was excited, but still kind of shocked at the same time, but it’s probably for the best.”
In return, the Lakers had to send over future considerations to complete the deal.
“We tried a few times last year to see whether Steinbach would part with him,” said Strachan, who is trying to build a team that struggled during the regular season before making a playoff run.
“They were unwilling, and that says something for Jace’s play last year that they didn’t want to give him up,” he reasoned.
“We had several talks since the beginning of May about what they might do with him,” Strachan added. “We got the phone call about the opportunity to get him, so we jumped all over it.
“I think it will work out well for the club and hopefully Jace comes in has a successful year.”
Baldwin was born in Fort Frances, but raised across the river in International Falls, where he played high school hockey for the Broncos.
Last year in 62 games with the expansion Pistons, he netted four goals and 15 assists go along with 95 penalty minutes.
“It was a good experience, good town, had a really good time, and am glad I was able to spend a year there,” Baldwin remarked.
But despite Baldwin’s best effort, the team struggled to a last- place finish—16 points behind their closest competitor.
“We had a little bit of a rough year,” he admitted. “Started out slow, but got better throughout the year, which was nice to see the progress.
“The Pistons last year were a young team, new in the league, and trying to build an organization so probably for the first few years, they want to keep a fairly young team to build around so a 20-year-old isn’t exactly what they were looking for,” Baldwin conceded.
However, one team’s cast-off is another team’s treasure—and Strachan is excited for what Baldwin will bring to the table here.
“Jace is a skilled player, probably a set-up guy, plugger type of player,” he noted. “After playing his first year of junior hockey last year, he developed a grittier edge and a player that like to get under the skin of his opponents.
“We look for Jace, a 20-year-old veteran, to add a little more experience for a young Lakers’ team, and be a leader and step into a position where he would gain some more ice time than he had last year and more of a opportunity to put some numbers up offensive-wise.”
Add in the fact that Baldwin grew up in Borderland, it was a trade Strachan couldn’t pass up on.
“For our sake, both financially and fan wise, it’s always great to have the opportunity to bring a local kid,” he remarked.
“Being from International Falls, hopefully we can bring over his family and friends to increase our attendance, so it’s good for the organization and hopefully good for fans on both sides of the border.
“I’m sure he will be a great asset for us and the community,” Strachan enthused.
With Baldwin now in the fold, Strachan doesn’t expect to make any more major moves until the main training camp in August, besides picking up another goalie.
“With the two new forwards and new defencemen, they will fit in nicely for the team,” he declared. “Now adding Jace, it’s another player that will fit nicely into the mould.
“Now we will turn to returning most of our vets.
“Unless if prospects blow us away at the summer camp in July, we will wait for the main camp to make any more changes,” Strachan said.