With just over five weeks to go before the NHL trade deadline, we have reached the time when some teams are already thinking about what to do in order to become competitive again. Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, they are one of those teams and the thought of the Habs being out so early has many fans and media members steaming at the collar… with reason.
And this tweet by Brian Wilde of Recrutes.ca, quoting Elliott Friedman, has the fanbase stirring prior to the game against the Washington Capitals.
On Calgary radio, @FriedgeHNIC says that Bergevin is the most active already among all GMs. He is, he says, working on the rebuild. He adds apparently only Price and Mete are untouchable.
— Brian Wilde (@BWildeRecrutes) January 19, 2018
It makes you wonder though… are Carey Price and Victor Mete really untouchable players on the team? In my humble opinion, they are also very much touchable, even Price if, for nothing else, because of his contract.
As a matter of fact, in my opinion again, anyone not named Jonathan Drouin should be considered touchable. Drouin is a very talented and young local product, and it looks like Marc Bergevin paid a high price to get him from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Local, young and talented players are difficult to get and we have touched before, on this very blog, on the importance of having local talent on the Canadiens, a very unique market. They paid a high price for Shea Weber as well but unlike Weber, Drouin’s best years are ahead of him.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bergevin’s best asset is Max Pacioretty. The Habs would get a great return for their captain, who is still under contract for one more year with a cap hit of $4.5 million. If he is offered a return anywhere close to what the Colorado Avalanche got for Matt Duchene, Bergevin cannot pass on trading him.
While we know that Bergevin has always supported Carey Price (remember the grocery store comment), the fact that the goaltender is scheduled to take $10.5 million of the team’s cap hit for the next eight years starting next season should be enough to make him consider testing his value on the market, at the very least. Is Charlie Lindgren the caliber of Price? Absolutely not. But he is ready to take the next step in his career and paired with a quality veteran backup, goaltending wouldn’t be a big issue, particularly if the team improves on other weaknesses.
Would he dare trading Weber after giving up on P.K. Subban, a fan favourite? Again, I’d say that it would depend on what he can get in return. But in my opinion, Weber will be kept no matter what. If Pacioretty is traded prior to the draft as I’m anticipating, the team will need a new captain and while Brendan Gallagher is also an excellent candidate to wear the “C”, Weber would be even more. Why? Because when either of them stands up and speaks, teammates are more likely to listen to Weber. He has this presence and respect from everyone. You need some quality veterans to lead by example, as the Edmonton Oilers finally realized. Having said that, if a team is willing to pay the big price for him, then pull the trigger.
There are some glaring holes in the Canadiens’ line-up, everyone who knows a little bit about hockey can see it. But there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Bergevin tried to improve his team at the centre position. He’s not a dumb hockey man, as some around Montreal seem to think. But he was unsuccessful doing so and that is his biggest failure since taking over the team. Trading a couple of veterans would be the fastest way to replenish the blue-chip prospects’ cupboards while filling key holes in the organisation, the centre position being one.
Team’s best trade candidates
Prior to trade deadline, the Canadiens’ best trade candidates based on fair return is pending UFA Tomas Plekanec. If a team knows the importance of quality depth at the centre position, it’s the Canadiens and while he’s not the offensive player that he used to be, Plekanec is an excellent defensive and responsible centre who would play a key role, particularly on a third line. He does carry a cap hit of $6 million so the Habs might have to eat some salary to help a contender pull the trigger, but the return should be excellent because of the position that he plays.
Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Shea Weber, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are the team’s best assets for potential trades, but they would get best value during the off season. Why? Not only are they the team’s best players but only Price has any say in where they could be going with his full non-movement clause. It’s then up to the highest bidder with any team in the NHL and everyone has cap space in the summer, not so much at trade deadline. Put quality players and add bidding wars between teams and you have the recipe for a good trade return.
No matter what happens from now on, Bergevin cannot miss on any major trade from now on. He cannot waste his best assets without getting full value in return. The team that he built is underwhelming and under-performing and even Geoff Molson’s patience has to have its limits. The Canadiens’ GM is playing big from now until the trade deadline as what he does will likely decide if he will be the one getting a chance to rebuild, retool or resomething this upcoming summer. Go Habs Go!