After the season that we’ve just witnessed, I don’t think that there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that changes are on the horizon for the Montreal Canadiens. The injury to Carey Price has revealed what most observers knew already: the Habs need players who can put the puck in the net. In his year-end press conference, Marc Bergevin acknowledged that and it will be his mandate this summer to address his team’s need.
Unlike what some would like to believe however, quantity does not equal quality. No GM out there will take your garbage, no matter how many you pile, and give you one of their good players. So in order to get quality, one must be able and willing to part with quality in return and in order to do that, teams usually try to trade from a position of strength, sacrificing at positions of depth to address areas where depth is not so present.
Under Bergevin, the team has accumulated some quality depth at two positions: on defense and at centre. So if you’re thinking of trading someone in order to acquire some much needed goals’ scoring, expect some quality defenseman and/or some quality centreman to head the other way… and no, David Desharnais is not likely to fetch you that scoring forward.
Here are the top-five trade baits that Bergevin will be dangling to other teams in order to get some scoring for his line-up, all of which have some good trade value. Those are quality players who can bring something positive for teams looking for defenders or centres.
5- Alexei Emelin (29), D
Contract: $4.1M until 2017-2018 with modified NTC (10 team no-trade list)
Emelin has made it clear: he wants to stay in Montreal. Like Andrei Markov, he has made his home in Montreal and calls it home. However, the Canadiens could free up some much needed cap space by trading him and many teams would like to have the stay-at-home, hard hitting defenseman. He has looked great at times, particularly when paired with Jeff Petry, but often takes himself out of the play to give a bodycheck.
4- Lars Eller (26), C
Contract: $3.5M until 2017-2018
Eller has been in trade rumours before, even as recently as at the last trade deadline. Able to play the wing as well, he is at his best when he plays centre, preferably in the third line role. With the Canadiens acquiring Phillip Danault, the writing might be on the wall for the Great Dane but having his contract off the books could free-up some much needed monies for a free agent. Edmonton would be a great fit if the Oilers part with Nugent-Hopkins as Eller would play behind McDavid and Draisaitl. Could he be dangled for Nail Yakupov?
3- Nathan Beaulieu (23), D
Contract: $1M until 2016-2017, then RFA eligible for arbitration
Beaulieu has shown flashes of what he can do this season with the Canadiens. I personally see him as the natural replacement for Andrei Markov when the veteran defenseman finishes his contract at the end of next season. But there is no denying that teams willing to part with scoring forwards will want a guy with Beaulieu’s upside and ready to take the next step in his career. Perhaps the play of Mark Barberio would lesser the impact of losing Beaulieu?
2- Tomas Plekanec (33), C
Contract: $6M until 2017-2018
Bergevin was, in my opinion, too quick to re-sign Plekanec back in October. At the time, the Czech player had 5 goals in his first 6 games of the season and formed, with Pacioretty and Gallagher, one of the best lines in the NHL. But since then, he only scored nine (9) goals in 76 games. Plekanec excels defensively and on the penalty-kill, and can provide some good secondary offense but if the Habs can unload his $6M, they should definitely consider it… especially if they have a shot at replacing him by Steven Stamkos.
1- P.K. Subban (26), D
Contract: $9M until 2021-2022 with NMC kicking in on July 1st 2016
I know, many people don’t want to talk about this possibility but as we have recently touched on, the Habs are likely to explore the possibility and see what he could bring. It is my opinion that the odds are rather slim to see Subban leave but if he does, I will not be surprised. I’m only hoping that if they trade him, the trade will ultimately make the team better.
There are other more minor trade baits, such as Sven Andrighetto and Zachary Fucale, but the Canadiens are in no hurry to part with those guys. If they are to be traded, it would likely be as part of a bigger, multi-player deal. Also, it is my opinion that David Desharnais has likely played his last game for the Canadiens. If no team is showing interest through trade, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bergevin buy him out.