Now that the off-season is upon us, we can look forward to sunny days, time at the beach, BBQ’s, and we don’t have to worry about our favorite teams until training camp right?
There is one thing that happens during the three month break that every team is affected by; change.
To be more specific, roster changes.
Aside from the NHL draft on June 24th and any possible trades made there (yes there will be some made at the draft), all NHL teams have some decisions to make with pending UFA’s and RFA’s from their own teams not to mention the possibilities of filling weaknesses to the lineup with the 30 other NHL teams UFA’s and (to a lesser extent) RFA’s. The UFA/RFA topic is very extensive and deserves its own focus, so we can save that for another time closer to the July 1st free agency circus.
Instead, let’s focus on some trades that need to be made. Trades are a distinct possibility, but not usually until the passing of the unrestricted free agent deadline on July 31st.
Montreal however, needs to be active in the trade market at the draft to either move up in the draft or to bring in some help from another team before they lose some valuable commodities.
Jan Bulis, Nik Sundstrom, and Todd Simpson are all as good as gone. Bulis has stated publicly that he intends to test the free agent waters because he feels unappreciated. Todd Simpson and Sundstrom are frankly just not needed in the roles they can supply. Bulis would have been a great addition to any trade in the works as he can do it all, but unfortunately he will be lost for nothing. So I guess that means thanks for the memories and good luck Jan.
Others that need to be traded (or at least 2 sent to the AHL) now rather then later, include Mike Ribeiro, Aaron Downey, Garth Murray, Richard Zednik, David Aebischer and Radek Bonk.
Bonk is more of a wish then a possibility. His lackluster stats and huge contract of near $3M is an automatic trade stopper for all GM’s in a cap limited NHL.
Downey and Murray have had some great energy on the fourth line, but they have maxed out in potential and will not get any better. In reality they are holding a spot that any of 3 or 4 prospects could be playing in and developing further. I find it hard to believe that a player like Lapierre cannot fill the shoes of these two right now as well as develop and get better all around, he might even surprise some and find his scoring touch. For those not too familiar with the gritty Lapierre, he had 36 points in 73 games with the Bulldogs this past season while amassing a team leading 214 PIM’s. Sounds like he is a younger, cheaper, replacement for Downey and Murray, and he still has potential to get better. I would guess the recent signings of Downey and Murray will end this reasoning though.
Richard Zednik has not been the same since the Kyle McLaren elbow from a few years back and he has actually gotten worse ever since. Maybe he has had some long term psychological damage done or maybe he has just had enough of Montreal. Either way he needs to have a change of scenery for his own sake, and for the sake of the Canadiens who want and need some kind of return for him.
Mike Ribeiro has always been a favorite of mine to a certain degree, but the time has come for Mike to move on. Ribs as the fans like to call him, has said and done some stupid things in the past that the fans, media, some players, and management cannot let go of. In a less obvious way Ribs has been a distraction to the team for the last few seasons and we have seen recently that it usually means a one way ticket out of town ala Jose Theodore. The Western conference seems to be a perfect fit for the playing style Mike has and he wouldn’t be able to burn the Canadiens as frequently as he could while playing in the east. The problem lies in getting decent value for a soft playmaking centre. Unless of course he goes as part of a package (involving the next player that needs to go) as it has been suggested in recent rumors.
David Aebischer was absolutely stolen from the Avalanche at the deadline for Jose Theodore who we all know has had a hard time adapting to the style of the new NHL, has personal\family issues, at the time he was injured with a shattered heal, and carries a whopping salary over $5M per season. Abby had a salary of only $1.9M (considerably cheap by number one goalie standards) and could play right away.
Aebischer has his name on the Stanley Cup. Although he never saw a second of playoff duty during the cup run, he did see what it takes to pull it off, not to mention the invaluable experience he gained from such a long and successful playoff season. There are many teams in need of a number one goalie right now and only a few available so the time might be perfect to make a “steal of a deal” from someone desperate enough to get their man.
Personally I would rather trade Huet then Aebischer just on the fact of being a more proven starter then Cristobal Huet is. Although this is not a popular stance with fans, Huet has only been a number one goalie for 50 or so games in the NHL and that short period is a lot to bank an entire season on in the future. This fact also states why Aebischer will be the one that gets traded. The other 29 GM’s have had the same notion and will not part with fair market value for Huet with such a limited resume of experience. Couple this with the fact that Bob Gainey would be lynched by the fans and media alike for trading the newly appointed savoir of the Canadiens, and that spells the end of David Aebischer’s short stay as a Canadien.
The June 24th entry draft might be the best way to part with some of the players that need to be moved. This year’s crop seems to have decent depth through the first two rounds and there is no census number one pick like Crosby or Ovechkin as it was in the past.
This leads to speculation that any of the top 4-5 ranked players could go number one overall, leaving room for teams to be able to trade down in the draft and still have hopes for getting the player they want.
For example, St. Louis has the first overall pick, they need goaltending as much today as they have in the past 6-7 years. Maybe they would be interested in moving the number one pick for Aebischer, the Habs first pick and Zednik and or Bulis. Maybe they don’t want Aebischer and instead Canadiens management can offer former 5th overall pick Carey Price in the package. Although the Canadiens have a lot of prospects close or ready to make the jump into the NHL (Kostitsyn, Locke, Lapierre, JP Cote, Emelin, Chipchura, Latendresse etc) it could be a rare chance for the Habs to pick a big franchise player type in centre Jordan Staal; or a possible number one defenseman in Johnson, and that is too much to pass up at this point.
It’s also possible that Gainey could avoid the entire moving up in the draft option and try to get another deal done like he did with Bonk and Huet coming over for a third pick and back up tender Mathieu Garon.
Now, these trades might seem far fetched by some, but they are only examples for sake of argument and not intended to be speculation of potential deals.
The point is that with no true number one pick teams will be open to entertain offers for their top picks and or players. Since goaltending is a hot spot that 5-8 teams need to fill the Canadiens are able to deal from a better bargaining position. The fact that there are only a few available in Aebischer’s league also helps when offering a proposal to another teams GM.
Even though the Stanley Cup has yet to be awarded and more games are to be played, the 28 other GM’s now come into play and start their own.
May the best Hab… er … umm… man win.
Let the games begin!