With the NHL’s trade deadline now less than a week away, it’s time to finish
up our series of previews. Today, in the 3rd and final preview, the focus
shifts to the Bulldogs and other prospects that could possibly be dangled to
bolster the NHL squad. Plus, if the Habs decide to make a deal that
benefits Hamilton, what are the most pressing areas of need for the Bulldogs?
Ben Maxwell – 45%: In terms of waivers, this is his final exempt
season meaning his days with the Bulldogs are nearing an end anyway.
Though he has played well offensively despite a lack of help, there is still a
lot of concern about his NHL future. I personally think he has one but it
will need to be in another organization. If the Habs feel this way too,
his value will likely drop after 3 PM EST on Monday so the time to move him may
Alexander Avtsin – 30%: I know this one will upset some people but the
same reasons you may be upset seeing him this high are the same ones why he
could be moved. 19 year olds who play reasonably well (albeit
inconsistently) in the AHL don’t grow on trees, plus the fact that he’s a
Russian already in North America means that there should be less hesitance for
other teams to want him. The Habs don’t have a 2nd round pick this year to
dangle and he is one of the few prospects down there today that could bring back
a 2nd or be equivalent to that type of return.
Dany Masse – 30%: To be completely honest, I personally feel he has no
value whatsoever. However, I think he’s the prime candidate to be loaned
out before the AHL trade deadline to help fill one of Hamilton’s needs and if
that’s the case, he’s a trade option as well. Who knows, maybe there’s a
team that sees his junior numbers and figures he’s worth a gamble or he’s moved
in a trade where the Habs trade for an AHL veteran guy (like Francis Lemieux for
Brett Engelhardt back in 2008).
Andreas Engqvist – 25%: He acquitted himself fairly well in his brief
stint with the Habs and don’t think other teams didn’t notice. He’s not
flashy, just effective. His ceiling is probably that of a 4th line C which
is easy enough to replace if necessary but the fact he’s probably NHL ready now
may be enticing to a selling team looking to get a player back who could help
Mathieu Carle – 20%: Having cleared waivers earlier this year plus
battling the injury bug again, his value is pretty low. However, like
Engqvist, teams lacking some bodies on their farm teams may be interested in
Carle as an NHL stopgap for the rest of the season and possibly beyond.
Either way, his days with the Canadiens are probably going to be numbered at
some point in the next few months.
Aaron Palushaj – 20%: I don’t think the Habs are particularly looking
to move him despite his struggles this season but if a team insists on a quality
AHL’er in return, his name has to be considered. He still has an NHL
future but he’s further away than originally anticipated. Regardless, he
could help any AHL team now while being a candidate for promotion in a year or
J.T. Wyman – 20%: He’s growing a little old to be considered a
prospect for much longer but he still provides some positive value in a trade.
Natural forwards who can drop back to play defence are quite scarce nowadays,
while his defensive skills are decent. He has earned even just a brief
look in the NHL with his play on the farm this season, but it may have to come
somewhere else due to his spot on the organizational depth chart.
Brendon Nash – 15%: Yes, he had a really rough outing in Edmonton that
earned him a trip back to Hamilton but considering he’s an AHL rookie, he has
had a pretty good season so far. He’s no longer an afterthought in terms
of assessing NHL futures which makes him most likely the most sought after of
any of the Bulldogs’ defencemen come deadline time.
Ryan White – 15%: His stints with the Habs have been up and down but
there likely is room for him as a full time NHL’er next season. He
provides the team with a grit element but I could see him being dealt for a
player who can provide that grit now while being able to take on a little more
than a 4th line role. As is the case with Maxwell, if the Habs aren’t sold
on him as an NHL’er next year, his value is probably at its highest now.
Robert Mayer – 15%: Let’s face it, he has been a disappointment this
year and has forced Hamilton to roll Sanford out there far too often. As
was the case with Masse, I’m not sure he has a lot of trade value but I could
also see him being loaned before the Clear Day deadline to bring in a more
veteran option (stability) between the Bulldogs’ pipes.
Brett Festerling – 15%: His current back issues (he remains
day-to-day) drop him down a little. Right now, he’s a depth defenceman if
he’s in the NHL but the fact he already has a fair amount of experience would
put him ahead of some prospects from other teams in terms of trying to get
someone who can be a roster filler.
Dustin Boyd – 10%: Let’s get the waiver thing out of the way first.
If he is to play in the NHL again this season, he must clear through re-entry,
no matter if it’s the Habs running him through it or anyone else. A team
looking to add him for their farm team though would not need to waive him to get
him on their AHL squad. With a 1-way ticket, there will be limited suitors
though. Plus, given the Bulldogs’ lack of scoring, they’re better off
keeping him around.
Olivier Fortier – 10%: His offensive game hasn’t come around but
fortunately his defensive one continues to improve. He still projects as a
decent bottom-6 player down the road which should garner some consideration from
other teams, but his trade value will be better next season.
Gabriel Dumont – 10%: He has played in several different roles this
season (scoring, checking, even on a grinding line) and fared reasonably well in
each. It remains to be seen if he can overcome the size issue that scared
teams away at the draft so the odds of him being moved right now are somewhat
Ian Schultz – 10%: His season has simply been abysmal so far, no point
in sugarcoating that fact. But, if teams still think he can be an
effective gritty player in the NHL (and I think he still could), there would be
some interest. As long as the Habs feel he can still be useful down the
road, it’s hard to see them moving him right now.
Andrew Conboy – 5%: I noted at the beginning of the year that he
needed to step up offensively to still be considered a legitimate NHL prospect
and to his credit, he has done just that. Considering he’s one of the few
Hab prospects with good size and a willingness to drop the gloves, his value to
the organization is likely higher than what it would be elsewhere.
Hunter Bishop – 5%: For the limited playing time he has received, he
has been decent this season. He may be nothing more than an AHL’er down
the road but he could be a pretty good one. Teams looking to make strictly
an AHL’er for AHL’er trade may be inquiring here. He’s also a Clear Day
Kyle Klubertanz – 5%: It took him a while to re-acclimate to North
America but he has been one of Hamilton’s better defencemen lately.
However, he still isn’t NHL ready and at 25, he’s likely too old to garner much
interest on the trade block.
Frederic St. Denis – 5%: "Steady Freddy" as he’s sometimes called on
Hamilton’s broadcasts certainly has earned that nickname. He’s a quality
AHL blueliner but I’m not sure there’s much of an NHL future from him given his
age. Trade value, if any, here is very limited.
Ryan Russell – 1%: He’s a prototypical checker on a farm team and has
cleared waivers already this year. He’s a key member of the Bulldogs but
likely has no NHL future. That, coupled with a recent injury that could
sideline him until April (according to reports) means he’s staying put.
Alex Henry – 1%: His NHL days, save for being a toughness callup here
and there, are done. As such, there’s little value for a minor league
blueliner in his 30’s. That isn’t to say he’s not valuable in Hamilton
though as he is as a leader and a protector of sorts while being able to play a
regular shift on the blueline.
Curtis Sanford – 0.1%: He was arguably the league MVP halfway through
the season so it’s hard to see the Habs wanting to move him (and Hamilton’s
playoff hopes) out the door. Could he help some NHL teams? Probably,
but the mid-to-late pick the Habs could get for him isn’t as valuable as him
leading many other prospects through a playoff run.
Please note that all odds are independent of each other. In other
words, if someone gets dealt from the above list, all odds basically get thrown
out the window. This list also does not factor in players on minor league
deals (Sebastien Bisaillon, Jimmy Bonneau, Peter Delmas, Neil Petruic, and David
I won’t put odds on these players but here is a quick list of some unsigned
prospects that could be of interest to other teams or shopped by the Habs
(players ranked in terms of projected league-wide interest):
Danny Kristo: Unfortunately, the recent frostbite incident isn’t the
only time Kristo has been guilty of, at a minimum, really bad judgment (the
alcohol allegations stemming from this are just that, allegations at this time).
These issues could theoretically scare off the Habs. He remains a talented
prospect so some teams will be interested. This frostbite incident has
lowered his odds of being dealt now though. It will be interesting to see
if he signs this offseason, provided he’s still with the Canadiens.
Joonas Nattinen: He was recently rated one of the top-5 drafted
Finnish prospects by The Hockey News and for good reason. He has good
hockey sense, is decent in the faceoff dot, and plays a strong two-way game.
He has to be signed by June or the Habs lose his rights.
Karri Ramo: Yes, by definition he’s not a really a prospect but this
is the only place from the 3 preview articles that he fits in. He has had
a very strong season in the KHL but working against him is the fact that the
league is still somewhat of an unknown so it’s hard to interpret whether his
numbers suggest he could be an NHL starter, a backup again, or neither.
His value is set around a mid-round pick and could be used in lieu of trading
one should the Habs decide he’s not part of next year’s plans.
Petteri Simila: Like Nattinen, he has to be signed before June which
is why he’s here. Though he struggled in the OHL last season (being waived
out of the league shortly after being dealt to Barrie), he has had a respectable
turnaround year back in the Finnish junior league, posting a .900 SV% and a GAA
just over 3 while getting into 1 game in the men’s league. I’m not sure
he’s part of the plans for Hamilton next season so if not, the Habs would be
wise to try and get something for him while they can.
Joe Stejskal/Patrick Johnson: I’m combining them because they’re in
the same situation – NCAA’ers who need to sign by mid-August. If the Habs
know now they’re not signing them, then these are throw-in prospects for trade.
My personal preference is that Stejskal signs and that Johnson gets let
Despite sitting in a tie for first in their division, the Bulldogs aren’t
exactly in the best of shape. Call ups and injuries have decimated this
squad to the point where they basically need Curtis Sanford to win games for
them most nights. Here are their 3 biggest needs:
1) Scoring help: Dustin Boyd has tailed off after a torrid start upon
being sent down while Max Pacioretty, despite being recalled 2.5 months ago,
still leads the team in goals. Even 1 more reliable scorer would go a long
way. (For those wondering, David Desharnais still leads the Bulldogs in
2) Better backup goalie: On more than one occasion this year, Robert
Mayer has shown that he simply cannot handle the workload when Sanford goes
down. In all likelihood, nor can Peter Delmas who is on a minor league
deal. Finding a way to bring in a veteran backup would go a long way in
preventing Sanford from burning out by the postseason.
3) Depth defenceman: When everyone’s healthy, the Bulldogs are just 1
injury away from having to use an aging career minor leaguer in Neil Petruic on
their blueline. I simply can’t spin a positive out of that one.
Hamilton made a move to shore up their defence last season before their trade
deadline (picking up Mike Vernace for Greg Stewart), another loan move to bring
in an extra blueliner would certainly be beneficial.