When Marc Bergevin took over as the new Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager, he knew that he was going to be selecting third overall at the 2012 NHL Draft. He also knew that the team had come of an awful season, finishing 28th out of 30 teams and dead last in the Eastern Conference. He knew that he would get a very good player at number three (Alex Galchenyuk) and there was little doubt that he would be selecting and not trading that pick.
After a couple of successful seasons, injuries played a huge part in his team taking a couple of steps back in their otherwise steady progression. The cause and effects of that fall out have been discussed in length in this and other blogs so let’s not rehash on what’s already been over-publicized.
Entering what is thought to be one of the busiest days in NHL history, GMs are swarming around each other trying to make things happen to either lower their payroll due to lower than predicted raise in the salary cap, or to improve their team in hope to get a bargain from one of those teams. Add to that the announcement of a new team joining the league from Las Vegas in time for the 2017-2018 season, you have GMs scrambling to move pieces not to leave desirable players exposed to the expansion draft scheduled for 12 months from now.
Bergevin is in a great position already, the team holding the ninth overall pick at the time of writing these lines. Further, they have a few assets that they can move in order to create some cap space if it is needed. Alexei Emelin ($4.1M) and Lars Eller ($3.5M) have both been in the rumour mill for some time now, and there is little doubt that diminutive centre David Desharnais ($3.5M) might have to find work elsewhere, if not by trade, possibly after having his contract bought out.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the team’s biggest need is some quality top-6 players, particularly guys who can put the puck in the net. Captain Max Pacioretty is the only proven natural goals’ scorer and Alex Galchenyuk has reached the 30 goals’ plateau for the first time in his career last year. Few will contest that sparkplug Brendan Gallagher is also a quality top-6 and veteran centre Tomas Plekanec is also still a productive player. Beyond that, there is a lot of unproven talent relied on to put the puck in the net.
When it comes to Unrestricted Free Agents, have a look again at the list of the Top UFA Targets for the Habs Based on Needs.
The first option is to stay put. Habs pick ninth overall, get a good young prospect who will be ready in two to three years to make the big club. They then would have to trade for a top-6 forward and/or sign one through free agency comes July first.
The second option is to use that number nine pick and dangle it in hope to improve the team immediately. This is a very good option when talking to teams very tight to the salary cap and who must unload some salary and who don’t want salary coming back.
The third option is to try to move up at the draft. Listening to Bergevin’s press conference at the eve of the big day, his comments left no doubt in anyone’s mind that he loves Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is scheduled to be picked at either number four (Edmonton) or number five (Vancouver). Depending on the asking price, it is possible to see a switch of picks providing that the Canadiens had something to sweeten the pot.
Last but not least, there is an all-out trade, number nine pick involved or not. Yes, we’ve all heard the rumours around P.K. Subban and like Bergevin, I doubt that he’ll be traded. But if the Avalanche came and offered Matt Duchene (who doesn’t see eye to eye with coach Patrick Roy), Tyson Barrie (can’t agree on a contract) and the 10th overall pick, I’m not sure that Bergevin won’t be tempted to pull the trigger. Or if the Oilers responded with Taylor Hall (in many rumours lately), Oscar Klefbom and the fourth overall pick (who would turn out to be Dubois), Bergevin might be itching to say yes… or not!
Either way folks, attach your hats because the rumour mill will be going strong for the next couple of weeks, and trade will happen. It could be fast and furious and that should be a lot of fun to follow!