Recent Trades: The Proof is in The Pudding

As a NHL General Manager, sometimes you complete trades that work out for your team, sometimes they don’t. In all cases, the price paid to acquired those new acquisitions is key to determine if it was a good trade or if it wasn’t, how much you’ve lost in the deal. No, that doesn’t apply only to Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens as every team in the league goes through those assessments and every GM has good deals and not so good ones.

We’ve discussed how disappointing it was to see Bergevin fail to address the team’s biggest needs so let’s not rehash on that. But it’s not like he didn’t complete any deals. He did revamp his bottom-six and added a depth defenseman and those deals seem to be paying off… for the time being.

Here are the trades completed by the Canadiens’ GM leading up to the February 25th trade deadline:

As you can see, Bergevin traded three players who had been sent to the Laval Rockets in the AHL and has added four players to his NHL roster. For the sake of this exercise, we won’t get into what the players shipped out are doing with their new team as that’s not the purpose. The goal is to see if Bergevin has improved his team with the players used by head coach Claude Julien over the players he decided to sit in the pressbox. So here’s the breakdown:

NAMEGPGAPts+/-2019-2020 CONTRACT
Jordan Weal11246+2UFA
Nate Thompson210660UFA
Dale Weise9000-21 year – $2.35M
Christian Folin14044+11UFA
Matthew Peca383710-131 year – $1.3M
Charles Hudon32325-9RFA
Nicolas Deslauriers45213-101 year – $950,000
Mike Reilly573811+16RFA

As we can see, it looks like the trades have panned out so far. Further, Weal (56.4%) and Thompson (55.5%) have helped take some pressure off Phillip Danault (54.7%) in the faceoffs’ circles, particularly in the defensive zone. All things considered, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bergevin offer contracts to both Weal and Thompson for sure, perhaps even Folin by season’s end.

In order to do that, the team will have to unload some of the NHL contracts for next season, unless Geoff Molson want to have the biggest payroll in the AHL, which already includes Karl Alzner. And Bergevin hasn’t addressed the team’s biggest needs for a left-handed Top-4 defenseman and some help for the powerplay. It will be a busy summer for Canadiens’ GM but then again… when hasn’t he been busy since taking over? Go Habs Go!

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Alzner’s Solution: A List of Bad Contracts

A wise man once said: “Some of the worst hockey decisions are made in July.” Who said that? None other than Marc Bergevin. He was obviously referring to some of the contracts issued to unrestricted free agents (UFA) when they hit the market. Yet, he too is human and he certainly is not immune to falling to the temptation of getting “free” help in an attempt to plug some holes in his team’s line-up. 

The last time he did it, he signed the most sought after defenseman in the pool that year, Karl Alzner, to a 5-year contract valued at just over 23 million dollars. We know the rest. Yesterday, in order to make room on their roster for the highly anticipated return of their team captain Shea Weber, the Canadiens’ management made a ballzy decision when placing Alzner on waivers for the purpose of sending him to the Laval Rockets in the AHL. Many things have to happen in order to make that decision and it wasn’t the decision of one man.

Karl Alzner might have played his last game with the Canadiens

For one thing, the Canadiens’ defensive struggles are well documented and no, it’s not all on Carey Price. Claude Julien didn’t have Alzner in his regular top-6 defensemen. Mostly, it took a General Manager to step on his pride, recognize his mistake and go to his boss to sell him on paying a player over four and a half million dollars to play in the minors. It also took Geoff Molson to not only agree to do so, but to trust Marc Bergevin and his management group that they know what they’re doing. Like them or not, it takes gutts (and deep pockets) to make such a decision, particularly that Alzner is, by all accounts, a true professional, a genuine “good guy”. 

“It was more a question of ‘who can we not lose’. There are many teams struggling on the backend and we have some guys who are cap-friendly and who would be easily picked up if placed on waivers. We protected ourselves because we like our depth. And because of his contract, Karl was the guy who would be the least likely to get picked-up.” ~ Claude Julien

Is a trade possible?

A Canucks’ fan tweeted something that intrigued me… he suggested to his Canucks’ fans friends that perhaps they should trade Loui Eriksson for Alzner. It got me thinking… Would it be possible for the Canadiens to trade a bad contract for another bad contract? Let’s have some fun here folks. Let’s play GM. I put together a list of bad contracts. Unfortunately, I don’t have the players’ stats but trust me, in all cases, those guys are disappointments to their teams (or I should say, I believe they are). Here’s the list:

  • Corey Perry (ANA) $8.625M – 2020-21 (NMC)
  • Bobby Ryan (OTT) $7.25M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Evander Kane (SJS) $7M – 2024-25 (Mod. NTC)
  • Dion Phaneuf (LAK) $7M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • Ryan Kesler (ANA) $6.875M – 2020-21 (NMC)
  • Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR) $6.65M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • Derek Stepan (ARI) $6.5M – 2020-21
  • Milan Lucic (EDM) $6M – 2022-23 (NMC)
  • Loui Eriksson (VAN) $6M – 2021-22 (NTC)
  • Johnny Boychuk (NYI) $6M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Erik Johnson (COL) $6M – 2022-23 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • David Backes (BOS) $6M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Ryan Callahan (TBL) $5.8M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • James Neal (CAL) $5.75M – 2022-23
  • Marc Staal (NYR) $5.7M – 2020-21 (NMC)

So as a reminder: Karl Alzner (MTL) $4.625M – 2021-22 (Mod. NTC)

How would a motivated Lucic look against the Bruins and the Leafs?

Could any of those teams need Alzner if the Habs picked up their bad contract? Could the teams do like the Canadiens and the Golden Knights and be creative by picking up some of each others’ cap hit as they did for Max Pacioretty and Tomas Tatar to make it happen? 

Here’s an example which may or may not be realistic. The Edmonton Oilers are desperate on defense. Milan Lucic just can’t do himself justice with the Oilers. If Edmonton were to pick up, let’s say, $2.5 million of his cap hit (for the length of his contract until 2022-23), and the Habs kept $1.5 million of Alzner’s contract (until 2021-22), could a trade happen?

Got any brilliant ideas? Discuss below if you’d like. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the return of our captain, Man Mountain himself! Go Habs Go!