The general manager of the Oshawa Generals insists he's not shopping forward John Tavares around the Ontario Hockey League, but that hasn't stopped other clubs from testing the waters to see if the talented forward can be had.
The OHL's trade deadline is Jan. 10 and Generals coach and GM Chris DePiero says the organization hasn't yet decided what it will do with the player who is projected to go No. 1 in the 2009 NHL draft.
"We haven't come to any decision to stay the course with John and keep him here or make a move and entertain offers," DePiero said Thursday. "Through the course of regular conversations that occur with other general managers that I get into every week, they'll ask: 'What's going on with the big guy?'
"At first, you could see it's guys asking questions and kicking tires and then some other guys became a lot more serious in their questions."
Tavares was the Canadian Hockey League's MVP at 16 when he scored 72 goals for the Generals. That erased Wayne Gretzky's record of 70 goals scored by a 16-year-old.
Now 18, the six-foot, 180-pound Tavares is third in OHL scoring with 17 goals and 19 assists in 23 games in what is probably his final season of major junior hockey. He's virtually assured a spot on the Canadian team after helping the country win gold at the last world junior championship.
Both DePiero and Tavares's agent Pat Brisson say Tavares hasn't asked to be moved.
"He's very, very happy in the current conditions he's in in Oshawa," Brisson said. "They've treated him first class, they have a good group of guys, he's happy there and he's progressing this year.
"If they decide to move him, it's going to be their decision. There may come a point where they make that decision and we all know that's a possibility, especially with the world juniors coming and the trade deadline being in early January."
Tavares was in Guelph on Thursday to play for the OHL in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge.
In its first set of rankings this season, Central Scouting made him the No. 1 prospect in the OHL for the NHL draft. Spokane defenceman Jared Cowen was rated the top prospect in the Western Hockey League and Saint John defenceman Simon Depres was No. 1 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
But Tavares's main competition to be the coveted first overall pick in the NHL draft comes from six-foot-six, 220-pound Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman, who plays for Modo in the Swedish Elite League.
The Generals are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference at 11-11-0-1, so it's still early for Oshawa to count itself out as a playoff contender this season.
But clubs positioning themselves for a run at an OHL championship would want a player of his calibre. Windsor, London, Belleville and Brampton are currently the top four teams in the OHL.
The price for Tavares would be high, although DePiero was not naming it.
"A player of his magnitude comes along once every so often and in my mind, he's the best player in the Canadian Hockey League," DePiero said. "That's an intangible that's hard to quantify."
DePiero says he's told Tavares teams have inquired about him, but discussions between them over a possible trade haven't been more in depth than that.
"I told him people were kicking tires and he was very good about it," DePiero said. "As far as formal discussions? No."
When asked if Tavares has control over which team he went to in the event of a trade, Brisson replied: "I'm pretty sure (the Generals) will co-operate with John and I and I'm pretty confident they'll do the right thing if they decide to do that."