What a Lucic for Alzner Swap Would Look Like

No preface, it’s the NHL Trade Deadline day or for hockey fans, a day as exciting – perhaps even more so – as Christmas Day. And we’re hoping that it will be busy day… particularly the big network stations like TSN and Sportsnet who have their entire hockey crews on site twirling their thumbs on their smartphones doing just like us, waiting to 3:00 pm Eastern, the true deadline, when most of the deals will be announced.

I’ve touched about it in this very blog before, but I could see the Edmonton Oilers being a good trade partner to the Canadiens. Thanks to departed GM Peter Chiarelli, the Oilers are cash-strapped to the ceiling and are, once again, well on the outside of a playoffs’ spot. They should MUST unload some salary but the challenge that they have is their highest contract – aside from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom – are all under-performing. The other issue is that in order to lower their cap, they have to keep their quality young labour and that’s why they should keep Jesse Puljujärvi, who has been somewhat of a deception so far.

The Canadiens have been trying hard to unload Marc Bergevin‘s biggest mistake, Karl Alzner, and his $4.625 million cap hit. In spite of what some people want you to believe, Alzner is not finished folks. His foot-speed is just not adequate for the man-to-man defense that Claude Julien has implemented on the Habs. In a zone defense, where he doesn’t have to follow players around, he can still be very efficient, not counting his short-handed and shot blocking abilities. Here is how Alzner’s salary is structured:

We know that Bergevin dodged a bullet when the Oilers gave Milan Lucic an extra year, beating the Canadiens’ offer of five years when the former Bruins became a UFA. So the interest was there. However, since then, Lucic has never been able to live up to the $6 million cap hit he was awarded by Chiarelli. He’s still decent defensively, can still skate well for a big boy and he is physical and intimidating. He just isn’t putting up offensive numbers. Here is how Lucic’s contract looks like:

In order for them to rid themselves of bad contracts, teams in today’s NHL have to be creative. We’ve touched on some of those creative ways for the Canadiens to unload Alzner’s contract before so let’s explore this option now. What if the Canadiens and the Oilers used some creativity and sort of helped each other out? For example, what if each team kept, let’s say, 50% of the players’ salaries? This is what it would look like:

Is this something Bergevin would be enticed to do? Could he possibly get an incentive from the Oilers – other than their 1st round pick or Puljujärvi – to do it? Would Lucic waive his no-movement clause to go to Montreal? Speaking of NMC, here is what CapFriendly.com describes would happen:

The clause can travel with the player even if he consents to being traded or is claimed on waivers:

  • This requires that the acquiring team sign an addendum to the contract ensuring that the clause does in fact travel with the player (written by the player’s agent)
  • If the acquiring team refuses to sign the addendum, and the player waives his clause anyway, at that point the clause may be nullified

Of course if you’re Bergevin, Lucic MUST agree to waive his clause otherwise, no deal. I think that this is something that could work but who am I to say? What we know is that those two teams will have to be creative in order to rid themselves of those salaries as buying them out would handicap them for longer than this type of trade. Last but not least, this is not necessarily a trade that has to happen right now, at the trade deadline. Or perhaps they could look at another possibility that we’ve discussed before, a deal around Kris Russell?

Regardless, let’s enjoy Trade Deadline day… although the action will likely happen at around 3:00 pm Eastern time. Go Habs Go!

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Unsung Hero – Phillip Danault

The date is February 26, 2016. The Chicago Blackhawks, who had just beaten on the Toronto Maple Leafs by a decisive score of 7-2 the night before, were gearing up to take another run at the Stanley Cup. The Montreal Canadiens, on the other hand, were trying to survive having lost Carey Price after only 12 games in the season to what could be a season-ending injury. They were flirting with the .500 mark and were likely going to miss the playoffs. For a few days, Blackhawks’ General Manager Stan Bowman was on the phone negotiating with his counterpart and former employee Marc Bergevin, now at the helm of the Montreal franchise.

The centre of their discussion? Two pending unrestricted free agents: Dale Weise and Tomas Fleishmann, two solid and serviceable veterans. When the dust settled and the deal was announced, the Canadiens had acquired centre Phillip Danault and the Blackhawks’ second round pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. Danault, a Victoriaville native who had just turned 23 two days earlier, was Chicago’s first round pick in 2011.

“Phillip Danault is a young and gifted player who will be part of our core group of young forwards for many years to come. I am very pleased to have him join our organization. As a member of the Blackhawks management group, I was instrumental in the selection of Phillip in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft.” ~ Marc Bergevin after the trade.

In his first full season with the Canadiens, Danault had a career-high 13 goals and 40 points while playing all 82 games. The following season was more difficult for him due to injuries, but he still managed 25 points in 52 games, a pace to match his previous season’s 40 points.

200-foot player

When the Canadiens traded away Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk last summer, many “experts” were questioning where the offense would be coming from. Downplaying the impact that both Max Domi and Tomas Tatar would have on the team was their first mistake obviously, but Danault losing his left winger in Pacioretty brought questions marks. You see, they were several who were claiming that Danault’s offensive success was because he played with the captain on his wing. In retrospect, it turns out that they were wrong.

This season, Danault has already matched his career-high of 40 points… with 27 games left in the season! With 23 points in his last 24 games, he is also coach Claude Julien‘s appointed centre to face the opponents’ top line due to his great defensive awareness. Recently given Jonathan Drouin on his left wing, both French Canadian skaters are giving their opposition all they can handle alongside team sparkplug Brendan Gallagher. Last night against the powerhouse Winnipeg Jets, that line finished the game with a combined 10 points… while checking the Jets’ top line. It’s tough to attack when you don’t have the puck and Danault’s line put up a clinic of puck pursue and puck possession.

If you look at the definition of “underrated” in the dictionary, you will find Phillip Danault’s picture. Not literally of course, but as a figure of speech. Either way, he has found his niche in Montreal where he is well liked by his teammates, his coaches, and by the fans as well. We can only hope that he keeps on having that kind of impact when more skillful young centres are ready to contribute as ultimately, it will make the Canadiens even better.

Oh about that second round draft pick that Bergevin received from the Blackhawks… Trevor Timmins selected Alexander Romanov with it. How is that for a trade? Go Habs Go!