Bergevin and The Habs Set to Trade

Four weeks until the trade deadline, the All-Star break is over and NHL teams return to business for the long and exhausting stretch of the season where teams will fight for a playoffs’ spot, joust for position and/or players will be playing for a job next season. You will have buyers, you will have sellers, and you will have a bunch of teams sitting on the fence waiting for the right deal to come about. And that’s where you’ll find Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin, working the phone, hoping to continue the great work he’s been doing since last summer.

As it stands today, you have six teams out of the playoffs’ race in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Detroit, Florida and the Rangers who are all expected be sellers. In the West, only Los Angeles and Chicago seem to be out of luck as it will take fewer points to make the playoffs in that conference, making for more teams being in a battle to get into the playoffs.

In the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in a league of their own and it would be wise for them not to tinker too much with a roster that’s clicking in all cylinders. But if you’re a playoffs’ team in the East, you will certainly be considering loading up as you know that you’ll have to go through the Bolts in order to reach the Stanley Cup finals.

In the West, the race is much tighter, although the Calgary Flames seem to be the top of the crop. However, the Jets, the Predators, the Wild, the Sharks and the Golden Knights all feel like they have a shot at reaching the finals and for that reason, all of those teams can be expected to be buyers.

Salary Cap Crunch

We all know that we live in a salary cap era and that teams cannot exceed the cap of $79.5 million set by the league. What’s not as well known by fans is the fact that teams cannot carry more than 50 professional contracts at any given time. As it stands today, 12 teams have a projected cap space of less than $3 million.

Edmonton Oilers48/50$51,371
Anaheim Ducks48/50$62,101
Pittsburgh Penguins45/50$116,525
Washington Capitals48/50$263,512
*Los Angeles Kings 46/50$972,701
Dallas Stars45/50$1,035,619
San Jose Sharks45/50$1,454,274
St. Louis Blues 46/50$1,547,408
Tampa Bay Lightning49/50$1,710,387
Calgary Flames 45/50$1,779,075
*New York Rangers 46/50$1,822,046
Minnesota Wild48/50$2,301,495

*Teams not in the playoffs or in a playoffs’ race.

While not all of those teams have to make trades, those who want to will likely also want to – or need to – shed salary in order to make it happen. And that’s where it’s getting interesting…

In come the Habs

Earlier today, the Canadiens placed defenseman Michal Moravcik on waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract to allow him to return to the Czech Republic. With this move, Marc Bergevin has his team in a perfect position to wheel and deal if the right offer comes about.

In addition to having only 43 contracts, the Canadiens have a projected $9.7 million of cap space so not only can they take money, but they can take contracts too. This has Bergevin in an ideal position to make trades like the one he consumed with the Winnipeg Jets when he received Joel Armia as a reward for taking on Steve Mason‘s contract. Keep an eye on Bergevin as this flexibility is what teams will be looking for when having to shed salary and/or contracts. Few teams are in as good of a position and that’s what makes me believe that we will see some shuffle in Montreal by February 25th at the latest. We’ve already touched on a potential deal with the Oilers, but so many more teams might be tempted to turn to Bergevin for help… so keep your fingers’ crossed Habs’ fans. Exciting times ahead. Go Habs Go!


Could the Oilers and the Habs Help Each Other?

One team is in the West, desperate to make the playoffs according to their owner. The other one is in the East, jousting for a playoffs’ position. The first one has just fired their General Manager and they find themselves with their hands tied, strapped to the salary cap. The other has nine million and can afford to pay. But neither is deep enough at any position to sacrifice top talent to make things happen, and neither team is willing to move their young quality assets and high draft picks to improve this year. Dilemma…

As we touched about in a recent article, the Edmonton Oilers are in a bind and have been for quite some time and that, in spite of having two of the best young players in the entire NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The have finally fired GM Peter Chiarelli and team owner, billionaire Daryl Katz was recently quoted saying that missing the playoffs was not an option. At the All-Star break, his team is only three points out of a playoffs’ spot but they have five or six teams to leapfrog in order to make it happen.

Peter Chiarelli was fired by the Oilers

Marc Bergevin and his Montreal Canadiens are in a much better position. The Habs have surprised most people by overtaking the Boston Bruins and trailing the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs by a single point, amid having played a couple more games than their rivals. And they have done so without quality defensemen on the left side, and certainly none worthy of top minutes playing alongside Shea Weber. Sophomore Victor Mete, who even was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket earlier this season, is Weber’s current partner and he’s doing okay. Imagine if they found someone for that role and if they could improve on their league worst powerplay…

Like the Oilers, the direction is clear when asked about the team’s goals as Bergevin recently addressed the topic.

“I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future. Just to give up assets for the short-term, I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing. If there are young players available, assets have to go. I get that. But, I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.”
“Based on what I saw in Vancouver [at the WJC], the future of the Canadiens is very bright. I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think… If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”
~ Marc Bergevin (January 7, 2019)

An Oilers / Canadiens trade?

First and foremost, forget Darnell Nurse. He’s not going anywhere. If I’m the Oilers, I also try to avoid trading Oscar Klefbom and I am reluctant giving up so soon on top prospect Jesse Puljujärvi. His value is too low right now, the Oilers don’t have much to lose by giving him time to find his game. So who’s left in Edmonton? First, a trade must help them. Their number one goal right now is clearing some cap space. The have a few contracts that they might or would consider unloading in order to prepare for more moves.

Milan Lucic$6M – NMC2022-235012
Kris Russell$4M – NMC2020-21409
Ryan Spooner$3.1M2019-20415
Brandon Manning$2.25M2019-20354
Zack Kassian$1.95M2019-20479

Everybody knows that they would like to unload Milan Lucic but it would take a whole bag of sugar to sweeten the pot enough to make it happen with anyone and I certainly don’t think that the Habs are a good match. Ryan Spooner is a project with some upside, Brandon Manning is a dime a dozen and Zack Kassian… well, been there, done that.

Kris Russell is an interesting candidate however. No, he’s not a “sexy choice” and no, he’s not a permanent solution. When I made the suggestion on Twitter, some were adamant against him but I have a feeling that few of those people have watched him play enough to make a valid judgment. You see, my girlfriend is an Oilers’ fan (we won’t hold that against her) and I got to watch them often this season. Here’s my take on Russell TODAY…

Kris Russell

Kris Russell is a mobile, puck-moving and shot blocking veteran defenseman. He plays with confidence with the puck and he also owns enough offensive acumen to play on the power play and moves the puck with aplomb. He has great wheels. A lack of size (5-10, 170 lbs) can occasionally hinder his ability to defend bigger forwards but he usually positions himself well and has a good stick. He is no all-star (nor is he getting paid like one) so he will be prone to mental lapses from time to time. He is currently fourth in the entire NHL in blocked shots with 107 and that, with 10 fewer games played than most of his competitors.

What I do know however is that at this point in time, Russell is an improvement over Mike Reilly, Jordie Benn, David Schlemko, Karl Alzner, Xavier Ouellet and arguably Mete too. While he’s not the sexy choice, a Canadiens’ defense with Russell is superior (and deeper) than it is today without him. Period. So at the right price, he would help the Habs. He is 31 years old, so he will be 33 at the end of his contract. By that time, Alexander Romanov will be ready to step in on the Canadiens’ blue line. The cap? The Canadiens don’t have any major contracts to renew during Russell’s term. It’s a none-issue.

The deal: I think that something along the lines of Charles Hudon would get it done, give or take on one side or the other. The question: are the Canadiens a better team with Russell or Hudon? Asking the question is answering it.

Granted, there are other options. But what I’m offering here is one that seems to be a good stop-gap at a very low cost. Go Habs Go!