Radulov Heading Home… Trade Brewing?

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July first is a marked date in the NHL, where the frenzy is at its peak for the first time since the spring trade deadline. Sports radio and television stations have hours long specials, battling for scoops in hope to be the first one to break a signing or a trade. And since the arrival of the salary cap, combined with the loser point keeping the standings tight, trades are few and far between in the league and teams have very little chance to improve their situation so days like today are great for fans and media to see teams address the needs for the upcoming season.

This year was no different and two of the tops available free agents were Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov, both of whom played a key role in the Habs’ success this past season. It’s been a long saga for both pending UFA’s marked by the fact that there was an expansion draft and the Canadiens could only protect so many players, and they couldn’t agree to a contract prior to the deadline arriving. In both cases, the sticking issue doesn’t appear to be the dollar figure as much as the length of the contract. Markov wants two years, the Habs want one year. Radulov is rumoured to want 6-7 years, the Habs want a much shorter term.

Radulov going home

Some very interesting information came out all day long about the negotiation between the Canadiens and the 30 year-old right winger and fans were taken though a roller coaster of emotions following insiders (real and fake), waiting desperately for the news they’ve all been waiting for. So allow me to give you a recap of the day’s events, and some things that fans might have missed in one language or another.

  • Radio commentator Martin McGuire is not one to invent things like others in the business. He said in the afternoon that Radulov and the Canadiens had reached a deal on a four year contract.
  • A few reporters in Quebec, including François Gagnon, said earlier that the Habs had made a final offer to Radulov, a take it or leave it type of offer. They also mentioned four years.
  • Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud), a russian journalist covering the KHL, tweeted that the contract signed by Radulov was a deal for the Habs as he was offered much more money and term in the KHL. He erases his tweet soon after but one of my followers, @AlexNyko, will be able to attest as he re-tweeted the post.
  • Then Radulov posted a video on his Instagram account, where he is sitting on a plane, telling people that he is going home. Did he mean Russia? Montreal?
  • We know that Radulov was vacationing in Italy and I don’t know if players still need to physically sign their contracts or if they can do it electronically like you do in the real estate business.Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 5.31.48 AM

Like when trying to solve a crime, this is all circumstantial evidence until the team or one of the reputable insiders comes out with the DNA. Until then, it’s all speculation.

Markov in limbo

Insisting on a two year deal could spell the end of the longest serving Canadiens on the team. I don’t know why the 39 year-old Markov can’t do what Nicklas Lidstrom, Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and many other star players have done before him and go year to year. Is he really better than those Hall of Famers? But the Habs have loaded on defensemen today when acquiring Karl Alzner and Joe Morrow, and they had already acquired David Schlemko not long ago.

Trade brewing?

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Could Duchene finally be traded?

No matter what happens with Radulov and Markov, Marc Bergevin has yet to get his hands on a top-six centre, a big need on his team. While UFAs like Joe Thornton (SJS), Nick Bonino (NAS) and Martin Hanzal (DAL) have all signed new deals, Joe Sakic has yet to find a taker for Matt Duchene and if he wants him traded, time is the essence. Sakic has not done anything substantial to improve his team today, a team that finished in the basement of the NHL, and that can’t sit well in Colorado.

I have a theory (not a scoop), which I shared on Twitter: if Radulov signs an extension, Alex Galchenyuk very well could be sacrificed in a trade for a top-six centre. Will it be Duchene from Colorado? Maybe but the Avs are wanting a top end defenseman in return, something the Canadiens don’t really have. But Galchenyuk is a nice piece for them, one that the Habs might be dangling in front of them.

Then there’s the Edmonton Oilers who are trying to sign both Connor McDavid ($13 million?) and Leon Draisaitl ($9 million?) and this could force Peter Chiarelli to find a taker for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Could a trade involving Brendan Gallagher and some added incentive be enough to get the young centre? “The Nuge” is making $6 million per season while Gallagher’s cap hit is $3.75 million. Both contracts go until the end of the 2020-21 season. This would save the Oilers some cap space.

Expect the unexpected“, said Marc Bergevin in a couple of occasions in the last week or so. But what are we expecting exactly?

Top Cheese: June 2017 Edition

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Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as they are getting set for the the Free Agents’ Frenzy on July first. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

While some Habs’ fans like calling team GM Marc Bergevin “Bargain Bin” due to his history of getting good deals for bottom-6 forwards and bottom pairing defensemen, they will have to be more creative in their attacks since Bergevin made the two of the biggest trades of the summer two years in a row with the Weber trade last year and the Drouin trade this summer. Perhaps those who have an axe to grind against the organization should look at new and more creative ways and material to find fault if they wish for people to listen to them.

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The French side of the media found yet another way, the political one, to blame the Canadiens, Trevor Timmins in particular, for not drafting French Canadian players for a second year in a row. While I will agree about the importance of having local talent on the team, those media members are going to war days only after Bergevin gave top prospect Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. They also “forgot” to mention that only nine Quebec-born players were drafted in this year’s draft in seven (yes 7) rounds of 31 teams picking! If you want to bark, at least bark at the right tree: Hockey Quebec, the poor boys of the CHL for decades now, fail drastically in comparison to their counterparts in the WHL and the OHL.

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Andrei Markov

Reports out of Montreal came out that Andrei Markov is insistent on a two-year deal. While he did perform well last season, one has to wonder why the 38 year-old is so adamant on those terms at this stage in his career. With his final two contracts, Nicklas Lidstrom signed one-year deals with the Detroit Red Wings. Rob Blake did the same with the LA Kings for his last two contracts. Other Hall of Famers like Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios and Joe Sakic, just to name a few, all did the same. What makes Markov so special that he can’t help the team that helped him through his entire career, including through three injury-plagued seasons? It pains me to say this as I would love him to retire as a Habs, but I would personally offer Markov a one-year, $5.5 million contract, take it or leave it.

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Much is being said about Alexander Radulov‘s contract demands but the fact remains that those are just rumours and even if they were not, they are simply a starting point for contract negotiations. Having said that, if Radulov’s camp was remotely close to what the Canadiens are willing to offer, he would be signed by now. We must now face the fact that he may not be back with the Canadiens next year unless he brings his demands closer to what the team can live with. Personally, while I would prefer three years, I would go up to four years, $26 million maximum for Radulov. I can’t talk about Radulov’s contract without touching on those so-called experts on Montreal radio who have been claiming that Radulov and Markov had contracts signed prior to the expansion draft. Hoping Habs’ fans learn their lesson by ignoring those so-called insiders and trust the true ones: Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Elliott Friedman.

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One of the reasons why Bergevin has to be careful with the money he is handing out to Markov and Radulov is the fact that Carey Price is scheduled for a big raise starting in time for the 2018-19 season. Price is on record saying that he wants to stay, and Bergevin is also on record saying that re-signing him is a priority. But as Bergevin said in a recent interview, it’s difficult to negotiate contracts with other players not knowing how much it will take to re-sign his top player

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A young man by the name of Josh Wegman wrote a spot on The Score which drew the ire of many Habs’ fans, myself included, when he ranked the Draft for all Atlantic Division teams. He gave the Toronto Maple Leafs, his favourite team, the highest mark of the division and ironically, the Canadiens the worst marks for this year’s draft. The problem is that in the article itself, he recognizes that he has watched video highlights and stats from HockeyDB.com to justify his findings. How can a company like The Score allow this is beyond me as there are many people following those prospects in person who could provide a much better, more accurate and more professional opinion on the topic? One of my followers pointed this out to me:

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It is important to note for Habs’ fans that just about every Prospects Expert, those who have gone to games to watch those prospects play, have ranked Timmins’ work as amongst the top not only this year, but in the last three summers. Time will tell.

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Twice in the last few days since the Jonathan Drouin trade, Marc Bergevin told the media to “expect the unexpected” when asked about trades. Yet, nothing has happened at the time of  writing these lines. Should we read anything into it and if we should, what exactly? We know that rumours have been swirling around Alex Galchenyuk and it was reported on Draft day that as many as 14-15 teams had shown interest in the Canadiens’ young forward. Could it be that Bergevin, not receiving any offers that would help his team get better, decided to keep his trade chip and re-sign him to a shiny new contract, hoping that the departure of Nathan Beaulieu and his negative influence reflects on his performances? It’s very much a possibility folks. As I’ve stated all along, Bergevin isn’t looking at unloading Galchenyuk but if a hockey trade is to be made, one that would improve the Habs, he would pull the trigger. That obviously hasn’t happened… yet.

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights picked Alexei Emelin from the Canadiens at the expansion draft, leaving the team a little thin at the blue line, they who are already looking to add someone to play alongside All-Star defenseman Shea Weber. While Bergevin has added some quality depth in acquiring 30 year-old rearguard David Schlemko, I have a feeling like the team has pretty high expectations on another player we tend to forget about. Signed in late April, the Canadiens added Czech Republic native Jakub Jerabek, a 26 year-old offensive defenseman who finished last season with 34 points in 59 games playing for Vityaz Podolsk in the KHL and who likely made Beaulieu expandable. Bergevin shouldn’t have any problem finding a partner for Weber as there are many available. Finding top-6 offensive players is a whole different story though, one that could very haunt the GM.