With the trade deadline now less than a week
away and the roster freeze set to expire on Monday, it’s time to look at what
the Habs’ next move(s) might be. Today, we focus on the goalies and
defencemen, who of these players could be on the move by Wednesday? What
are the odds that either of the goalies will have a new home?
As I’ve done for the last few seasons, the players will receive a rating between
1-10 on the potential likelihood of being moved, based on a combination of
performance, perceived interest elsewhere, and the salary cap. Let’s start
with the goalies. Note: Notable Hamilton players will be covered in
this week’s HW Recap.
Carey Price: 3
– Despite the fact that Bob Gainey is no longer GM, there’s likely still a
prominent place for Price in the organization. He’s shown the upside and
is just 22. But, given his play this season, teams won’t be willing to
pony up fair value for him which means the best play is to keep him for now
rather than take a lesser return.
Jaroslav Halak: 3 – Unlike Price,
Halak’s play this year puts his value at an all-time high which suggests that if
you want the best value, he’s the goalie you deal. However, considering
it’s been on the back of Halak that the Habs are currently sitting in a playoff
spot, it seems doubtful that GM Pierre Gauthier moves him now unless there is a
significant asset or two coming back.
8.5 – A veteran defender with playoff
experience and an expiring contract, heck, it sounds as if this would be the
type of d-man Gauthier would be interested in acquiring. However, with
Mara’s role diminished and the fact that the Habs can’t afford to be carrying
extra players unless absolutely necessary, he’s a luxury the team can’t afford
to keep. He’ll have one game to show the league he’s back in
shape…provided he’s not dealt by then.
Ryan O’Byrne: 5 – His play in
the weeks before the Olympic break did wonders for his trade value and with the
team looking to be buyers (at least that’s the pulse emanating from the Dominic
Moore pickup earlier), he could be a young piece going the other way as part of
a return. It should also be noted that there’s somewhat of a ‘poison pill’
in his contract that will require him to be qualified for $1.4 million after
next season despite a cap hit of just under $950,000 so there may be some
motivation there also.
Hal Gill: 4 – A relatively short-term
deal (one more season) at a somewhat reasonable rate ($2.25 M) means that the
team will receive inquiries about him prior to Wednesday. Being a recent
Cup winner doesn’t hurt either. That being said, the Habs like him for his
leadership and penalty killing abilities, so they’ll be in no hurry to deal him
out. That being said, they may listen more intently than for other d-men
appearing below him.
Roman Hamrlik: 3.5 – It’s been a
strong rebound season for the Czech blueliner which is the sole reason this deal
isn’t considered to be completely unmovable. The market for him would be
extremely limited because of the cap situation (particularly the $5.5 M next
season) but if a contending team thinks he’s part of the equation, the Habs may
be able to wiggle somewhat out of this contract. I say somewhat as
Montreal almost assuredly would have to take some sort of contract back in
Jaroslav Spacek: 3 – He’s
struggled, no need to sugarcoat it. Playing on his wrong side certainly
hasn’t helped much either. That being said, he’s still an NHL calibre
d-man and a team may think that his career could be resurrected elsewhere.
Finding that team may be easier said than done. The Habs may want to move
him, but his contract will make that quite the difficult task.
Andrei Markov: 2.5 – He wasn’t playing
well before the Olympics and did not look good during them. Add that to
the fact that he played hurt for Russia but didn’t for Montreal and some
dissenting whispers may be coming from inside the organization. That all
said, he’s still the franchise player which means they would need a major return
for him, one they’re not likely to be offered.
Marc-Andre Bergeron: 2 – He has the
lethal shot every team covets. Problem is, he has an injury that no one
wants. The fact that he’s out 3 more weeks all but kills any shot at other
teams making a serious pitch at him.
Josh Gorges: 1.5 – He’s been the
unsung hero virtually all season for the Habs. Considering the fact that
he can play with almost any defender on the team at a pretty good cap hit ($1.1
M), he’s pretty safe unless a lot of other moves are made first.
The Habs already have $19.375 million committed
for next season on the blueline, not including prospects such as P.K. Subban,
Yannick Weber, or Mathieu Carle, the latter being an RFA this summer. In
goal, there’s nothing committed for next year as both are restricted free
agents. With the way each has played this season, Halak is looking at a
major increase from the $775 K cap hit he has currently while Price is likely in
line for a small raise on his $2.2 M cap hit as well. Realistically, their
cap hit will start with at least a 4 next season, meaning that if all stays the
status quo, 40-48% of the team’s cap hit will come from this group next year.
Knowing the current and looming situation with the forwards, this could be
Expect the Habs to work feverishly to unload
Spacek’s deal while at the very least listening to any reasonable offer for
Hamrlik. If neither of them can be dealt, Gill may very well be on the
move. Regardless of the situation, Mara will most likely have a new home
by Wednesday, especially knowing that there are defencemen in Hamilton who can
help the cause if injuries arise for half the price. In goal, unless
there’s an offer that blows GM Gauthier away, don’t be surprised if this ‘issue’
doesn’t get resolved until the offseason (the draft in particular).
Tomorrow: Part 2 – Forwards
Sunday: Part 3 – Bulldogs (as part of the HW Recap)