Just prior to Montreal’s final preseason game vs the Ottawa Senators, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey announced the team has made their first trade of the season, acquiring D Janne Niinimaa and a 5th round pick in 2007 from the Dallas Stars in exchange for C Mike Ribeiro and a 6th round pick in 2008.
Ninnimaa, 31, started last season playing with the New York Islanders, but was shipped to Dallas just past the mid-season mark. Combined, he notched 3 goals and 13 assists in 63 games, with a -12 rating and 86 PIMS. He also tallied an assist in 4 playoff games with the Stars. However, down the stretch, he was scratched for some games by Stars’ coach Dave Tippett, and was also sat down for a game in the postseason. In his career, he has played 700 games, scoring 54 goals, to go along with 262 assists (52-262-316), to go with a +56 rating and 697 PIMS. Ninnimaa will earn $2.47 million this upcoming season, and is a UFA at year’s end.
Ribeiro meanwhile, statistically, didn’t do particularly poorly last season, totalling 51 points (16-35) in 79 games, but as Canadiens fans know, points weren’t always the story with him. Down the stretch and in the playoffs, he struggled to find consistency, while having continuing difficulties finding chemistry with linemate Alexei Kovalev, a trend that continued during the preseason. Ribeiro will earn $1.9 million this year.
The trade opens up a spot on the 2nd line, and all signs point to sophomore Tomas Plekanec taking that spot, indicated by his promotion in Saturday’s game vs Ottawa, playing alongside Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov.
This deal also balances out the roster, leaving 13 forwards and currently 8 healthy defencemen. Expect soon to hear that Patrick Traverse’s stay in Montreal was a very short one, as really, there is no point in carrying 8 healthy defencemen. Should the Canadiens opt for a full 23-man roster, it’s likely that one of Kyle Chipchura, Maxim Lapierre, Jonathan Ferland, or Andrei Kostitsyn will get the call up from the Bulldogs.