2017-2018 Last Call For The Habs

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One week, seven days… that’s all that’s left for several teams around the NHL to add or unload some players through trades, at least for them to be eligible to play in the playoffs. Yes, the 2017-2018 trade deadline is upon us and so far, only one trade of significance has happened, when the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings danced together with key players in the deal, Dion Phaneuf and Marian Gaborik, switched uniforms. If history repeats itself, and there’s no reasons to think it won’t, many more trades should be expected as teams are looking at beefing up in hope for a long playoffs’ run.

Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens are in sales’ mode, sitting 29th out of a possible 31 teams, and while many names are or have been mentioned in trade rumours, they only have one key pending free agent to speak of: Tomas Plekanec. In my opinion, out of the Habs’ players names out there, he’s the most likely to find himself given a chance to play hockey while his current teammates are either watching the playoffs or resting somewhere warm comes April.

Not too long ago, NHL Insider Bob McKenzie was speculating on Plekanec’s value and his best guess was that the Canadiens’ forward could fetch a third round pick but, if a team was desperate enough, he might get Bergevin a second round pick. Others have reported that due to their lack of depth at centre, the Canadiens could very well be tempted to offer the veteran centre a contract extension which, if you think about it, would also make sense. You see, Plekanec is a true pro. He wears an “A” on his jersey for a reason and while he’s definitely not worth the $6 million he’s getting paid, he could be very useful at, let’s say, half of that salary. Is it possible that Bergevin could have a talk with his player informing him of his interest in re-signing him on July 1st, but give him a chance to play some significant games this upcoming spring while getting an asset in return? Very much so.

After Plekanec, don’t be surprised if Bergevin tried to revamp his defensive corp. Guys like Jordie Benn, David Schemko and Joe Morrow are all a dime a dozen but contending teams do like to add veteran depth to their roster in the event of potential injuries. One or two of them could very well find a taker by next Monday.

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Max Pacioretty will likely stay put until the NHL Draft.

As for the other names mentioned in trade rumours, fully expect Max Pacioretty to be in the Habs’ line-up against the Flyers on February 26th at night. The same goes for often mentioned Alex Galchenyuk, he who has been playing some better hockey for the past few weeks, and for Andrew Shaw, a rumour coming out of left field if you ask me.

Shea Weber

Speaking of coming out of left field, former Lightning GM Brian Lawton threw a bomb when he mentioned that Canadiens’ defenseman Shea Weber could get traded by trade deadline.

For what it’s worth, don’t hold your breath on this one folks and that, for two reasons: for one, Bergevin is taking way too much heat from some people for pulling the trigger on that trade and two, just like for Pacioretty or any other key player on the team, he would fetch much more at the draft due to the fact that all teams will have cap space by that time.

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* Oilers pick could become a 4th if Al Montoya plays two more games this season * If the Kings qualify for the playoffs, the Canadiens will receive their own 2018 4th round pick back which was part of the Dwight King trade.

One thing is for sure though, it should be an action-packed week once again as teams flex their muscles and prepare for a playoffs’ push. But because there just aren’t as many quality pending UFA’s available, you can expect more “hockey trades” like the Phaneuf/Gaborik one this season… and with few quality UFA’s in his line-up, that’s what Bergevin is hoping for. Go Habs Go!!!

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Rebuild… Retool… Resomething!

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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.

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.

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Max Pacioretty is a likely candidate to be traded

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

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Tomas Plekanec could be gone by trade deadline.

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!