While yours truly was relaxing in South West Florida, General Manager Pierre Gauthier was much busier, completing two trades in the span of 10 days. First, Paul Mara was re-acquired from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 5th round draft pick. Then, on February 24th, Ben Maxwell and a pick were traded to Atlanta for Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes. Obviously, our board members had much to say about both moves. As such, this week’s edition of ATB takes a further look at management’s most recent transactions and discusses the potential value of the picks given away in both trades.
Paul Mara’s addition was mostly heralded as a decent, cheap addition, but some were more underwhelmed by the transaction. The Chicoutimi Cucumber best summed up the general sentiment with the following: “Marginal cost for marginal gain. Mara is actually an interesting case. He was a major offensive defenceman for the early part of his career, albeit on an awful Phoenix team, scoring 42 and 47 points in 03-04 and 05-06. Then, right at the point in his career when his game should have matured his numbers suddenly went into the toilet. Ever since then he has struggled as a near-marginal NHLer, although he did get 10 powerplay points with the Rangers in 2008-09. What the heck happened? Who ‘gets old’ at age 28?. Much like Mara, Sopel was viewed as a cheap, physical fill-in for a depleted blue line. In addition, the Cup-winning defender currently sits tenth in the league in blocked shots. However, as a result of these moves, it came to light that one of our forum participants were not especially keen on ceding draft picks on such temporary, depth acquisitions. Although generally satisfied with the trades Blue Kross feels that “the Habs have a hard time hitting with seven picks and when you reduce that number you also reduce your chances. We all know that teams are built through the draft”. Conversely, Wamsley01 believes that “Why people get upset about 4th rounders is beyond me. After the 1st round you have just as great a chance of drafting a Subban or Halak in the 2nd or 7th round. If you need to move up, it is not difficult to package another pick to get a player who you feel will not be there”.
In the end, there is no doubt that both players provide relatively inexpensive depth to a depleted backend. While giving up late round picks for them may not be something worth panicking about, it is nonetheless a legitimate point. Even in recent years, the later rounds have proved to be fertile grounds for drafting solid players. Between 2007 and 2010, current NHLers such as Linus Omark, Jamie Benn, Carl Gunnarson, Jonas Holos, Anders Lindback were all obtained in the fourth round or later. Objectively, it is doubtful that the current edition of the team has the roster needed to make a run at a Cup championship and it is fair to question the wisdom of giving away futures in such a context. Late round picks they may be, but they nonetheless could have served as building blocks for a future run. Having said that, the injury situation on the Canadiens’ blueline borders on the ridiculous and Pierre Gauthier can hardly be faulted for addressing that.
That wraps up this this edition of ATB. Until next week, see you on the boards.
Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected]