Eight days remaining to the 2019 NHL trade deadline and things are heating up around the league. The Edmonton Oilers are making questionable moves at best, the Senators put Matt Duchene on the market in hope to save enough to re-sign Mark Stone, and many pending free agents already have their bags packed knowing that by February 25th at the latest, they will be wearing a different uniform and will be making another city their temporary home.
The rumour mill has been quiet around the Montreal Canadiens this year. Very quiet. Too quiet even. True that GM Marc Bergevin is known for running a ship tighter than Dick’s hatband but even then, it is way too calm in a city like Montreal, particularly at a time when the team finds itself in a tight battle for a playoffs’ spot.
Anyone in their right mind will agree that the Canadiens aren’t Stanley Cup contenders and the Tampa Bay Lightning showed it last night, shutting out Claude Julien‘s team 3-0. But if the team’s goal is to make the playoffs, they will need some sort of injection to their lineup in order to make it happen. They will need to find their way back to the winning side of key games and they have several of them coming up.
The Canadiens will have to face Toronto, Columbus and the New York Islanders twice each. They also have a game left against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Carolina, Washington and Tampa Bay. In early March, they have a western road swing where they will be facing Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim and we all know how hard those western trips can be. Montreal’s last week of action will see them battle the Lightning, the Capitals and the Maple Leafs.
Players deserve a reward
With all of the changes that were made this past summer, few people predicted seeing the Habs where they are in mid-February. This team is for real but they need help. Teams around them are loading up and games aren’t going to get any easier. In order to keep the morale of his troops up, not only should Bergevin make a trade, but he must do it as a reward for his players’ commitment and hard work. If he fails to do so, it could be perceived as a slap in the face to some of the key players on the team.
We can all agree with the Canadiens’ GM that he should not touch his core group of prospects or his first round pick(s) for temporary help. For that reason, it’s unlikely that he will be dipping into the pending UFA market. Having said that, he has space under the cap ceiling, and lots of it. Teams trying to load up are, for the most part, strapped to the ceiling and need help fitting rental players under their cap. That’s exactly where Bergevin
should must become a serious player.
A trade or two like the one for Joel Armia is what he should be exploring. He can then address his long term needs in the summer if need be. But he has to do something. If he doesn’t, I’m afraid his players will lose faith in his abilities or willingness to recognize that they left it all out for the team this year. After all, aren’t those Bergevin’s own words? “The goal is to make the playoffs. Once you do, you never know what can happen.” Go Habs Go!