There is currently a riddle on the Montreal
blue line, "What do you call six core defensemen that are all left-handed?" A
few possible answers are: a liability on the right side boards; a cause of small hope for a roster spot if you’re Ryan O’Byrne or Yannick Weber (both right-handed); or, the
more seductive option, a trade waiting to happen.
Now this writer doesn’t need to sully his
reputation by penning an article of petty and unnecessary speculation on who is
most likely to be traded from this group. No, I don’t need to … but I will
anyway. Starting at the least likely to be traded to the most likely (and
leaving out the the defensemen projected to be in the seventh spot or lower),
let’s have a look at the tradability of Montreal’s current "Sinistral Six."
Andrei Markov tops this list, and if he doesn’t
top Bob Gainey’s then I’ll eat my left foot. You won’t find too many #1
defensemen that can do what Markov does, at the price he costs, at the age he
is. And the ones you do find, they aren’t leaving their teams anytime soon
either. Markov stays, and thank goodness.
Forgive the grouping, but the next ones least
likely to be moved are the newly brought in Unrestricted Free Agents; Jaroslav
Spacek, Hal Gill, and Paul Mara. Simply put, it’s bad practice to sign a new
player to the team and then turn around and trade him before training camp
begins. Montreal has had a bad enough reputation amongst UFAs over the years, so
I don’t see Bob Gainey throwing away all this newfound interest in his team by
trading away one of the new guys. It should be noted, however, that the most
likely to be moved of the three (thinking ahead to the trade deadline mind you)
is Mara who signed a fairly cheap, one year deal. If Montreal isn’t in playoff
contention, Paul Mara would be an attractive asset to many playoff bound teams.
So finally we reach the ones who could leave
us, starting with Roman Hamrlik. Though he was a stabilizer on the blue line
when he first joined Montreal two seasons ago, last season wasn’t his strongest,
and in the "What have you done for me lately?" mindset of most Montreal
Canadiens fans, that makes his $5.500.000 cap hit intolerable. Calibre of
Hamrlik’s play aside, Gainey probably wouldn’t mind dropping Roman’s salary off
the books given the opportunity. The catch-22 is that there isn’t much
opportunity for trading a salary that large.
Which brings us to the most tradeable defenseman
in Montreal … Josh Gorges. The youngest of the top six defensemen, and with a
reasonable $1.100.000 cap hit, the hard-working puck-mover finds himself the
most likely to pack – in this writers opinion at least. While Gorges has
steadily improved during his time in Montreal, were Bob Gainey looking to buy
low and sell high, Josh is certainly worth more than he was when Gainey brought
him in. Montreal also has a bevy of puck moving defensemen in the organization,
some of them veterans and some of them prospects, which could make Gorges
ultimately expendable in that role. If Gainey is looking to bring in at least
one right-handed defensemen for the top six, Josh Gorges could be the man that
has to leave to make that happen.
Of course, the true answer to the riddle, "What
do you call six core defensemen that are all left-handed?" is simply: "kinda
peculiar." It isn’t a guarantee a trade will happen, nor is it necessarily a
reason for O’Byrne and Weber to make it into the everyday lineup. As for being a
liability on the right side, all defensemen have played on their "wrong" side
before at some point in their career. Proper handedness to your side, while
beneficial, isn’t necessary, and if you ignore all the LH’s beside the names,
you’ll see a fantastic and versatile group of defensemen in Montreal. But
whether this group stays "peculiar" or not is something to watch for in the
remaining months of the offseason.