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With the NHL’s Trade Deadline approaching ever so rapidly, it’s time to kick
off our annual deadline previews.  In the first of three parts, prospects
are the focus.  Although it appears the Habs are more likely to be sellers
than buyers, prospects can still move either in bigger deals, for picks, or for
other prospects.  Of the Habs’ more prominent prospects, here are my
opinions on the odds of each being dealt.

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.

Hamilton Bulldogs

Andreas Engqvist: 40% Engqvist has struggled in his callups to the
Habs this year.  He is only trusted with a few minutes while his AHL
faceoff prowess doesn’t follow him to the big club either.  Like Ben
Maxwell last year, the fact he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes defensively will
intrigue a team or two while his size will also help his value.  He
wouldn’t fetch a huge return but if the organization is leaning towards not
bringing him back next year, they should be able to get something for him.

Aaron Palushaj: 35% Like Engqvist, Palushaj hasn’t fared particularly
well in his various stints with the Habs.  He too is also waiver eligible
after the season meaning there is some uncertainty as to his future with the
club.  If the organization knows he’s not part of the NHL plans next year,
it makes sense that they’d look to move him on.

Alexander Avtsin: 35% The organization and fans alike were hoping his
consistency would be better after a rough rookie season as an underager. 
Unfortunately, his up-and-down play continues.  Although only 20, how much
patience will the team have, particularly since there will be several new
wingers next season?  The upside is still there so there will be teams
interested.

Olivier Fortier: 20% Before the season, he was my pick for a breakout
season.  Unfortunately, as has been the case throughout his career, he
can’t stay healthy long enough.  Given the influx of rookies expected in
Hamilton next season, I think there’s a chance he could be let go meaning now
would be the time to try and get something for him.  The question is
whether they can given his injury history.

Ian Schultz: 20% Schultz has restored his value as a half decent
prospect with a good start to the second half of Hamilton’s season.  His
stature and style of play will always interest teams (including Montreal’s)
which means he could be an add-on in a bigger deal; I don’t see the Habs doing a
lateral swap with him.

Gabriel Dumont: 15% After a slow start to the year, the diminutive
centre has picked up his play as of late.  He plays with a feistiness that
would endear himself to other teams but the biggest knock on him is his size. 
To a team lacking some centre depth, he could be a player of interest.

Frederic St. Denis: 10% If these were the odds of him not playing in
Hamilton come March, they would be a lot higher.  Assuming the UFA
defencemen are dealt, I’d say there’s a good chance St. Denis will be spending
some time with the Habs.  However, he is a pending Group VI UFA which means
there may be other teams looking to give him a short term NHL tryout.

Joonas Nattinen: 10% Nattinen has had an up and down year in his
rookie professional season.  He has played in pretty much every possible
spot while also spending a lot of time in the press box.  He has been
regarded as a decent prospect for a couple of years now so it’s logical to
assume he’d be on the radar of a few teams.  

Robert Mayer: 10% There are always teams looking to add goaltending
depth…every team but Montreal it seems.  The Habs’ best goalie
prospect (which doesn’t say much), Peter Delmas, is mired in the ECHL right now
because of Mayer, it’s time for him to come up which suggests the Habs would be
wise to try and move him on.  Even though most teams like goalie depth, it
may be easier said than done finding a home for Mayer. 

Dany Masse: 5% Masse has been one of the lone pleasant surprises in
Hamilton this year.  His offensive game has improved while he continues to
progress defensively as well.  That said, he still is more or less an
afterthought, just organizational filler.  If another team wants him, I
don’t think Pierre Gauthier would be asking for any sort of substantial return.

Blake Geoffrion: 1% He was targeted by the Habs in the Hal Gill deal. 
I’m sure he could be flipped in the right situation but they clearly see
something in him and won’t be willing to part with him unless there’s a
substantial overpayment coming the other way.

Notes

– Other somewhat notable players like Andrew Conboy and Brendon Nash are both
pretty much done for the year (Conboy is confirmed, Nash suspected to be); as
both will likely be qualified in the summer, their odds are basically zero of
being dealt.  Hunter Bishop is also suspected to be out for the year but as
he almost assuredly won’t be qualified, there’s a chance he could be dealt in
order to stay compliant with the 50-contract rule.

- Players such as Philip DeSimone are on AHL deals and can only be dealt in
AHL-only trades which isn’t the focus here.

- Veteran Bulldogs have been omitted from this list since they’re not really
prospects but with Hamilton all but out of it already, players like Alex Henry,
Garrett Stafford, Joe Callahan, Nathan Lawson, and Brian Willsie could all be moved to teams
looking for a veteran minor league presence.

Junior/College Prospects

I’m going to avoid most of the more prominent names as the likelihood of a
top prospect being dealt I’d say are pretty slim.  There are, however, a
few other unsigned prospects that we could see moved where decisions will need
to be made on their futures sooner than later.  It’s way too hard to
forecast odds on these players so I’ll just add some comments on each.

Morgan Ellis: One of the biggest jumpers in this year’s edition of our
prospect rankings, he has taken off offensively and has become one of the
QMJHL’s most underrated threats from the blueline.  If the Habs decide they
don’t want to sign him, they should be able to find a suitor for him without
much difficulty.

Patrick Holland: The prospect that came to the Habs with Rene Bourque
continues to steadily improve in the Western Hockey League. The Flames were
hesitant to part with him as he is more than just a throw in despite his late
draft spot.  If Montreal tries to pick up a building block for the future,
he will be a player teams ask about.

Scott Kishel: After being a frequent healthy scratch in his junior season at
Minnesota-Duluth, he now is challenging for the team lead in points by a
defenceman.  He may very well have played his way to having a shot at
getting signed somewhere which might make him useful as a throw-in in a trade.

Danny Kristo: There is some speculation that he plans to turn pro after his
college season ends but because of the UFA loophole the league found out about
during the offseason as the Islanders were exploited, there has to be a bit of
uncertainty as Kristo qualifies to walk as a UFA late in the summer.

Magnus Nygren: Despite a hot start to the season, he hasn’t been able to
build off a second half that more or less got him noticed by scouts.  As a
result, he has likely dropped a few pegs down the organizational depth chart
making him expendable.

Greg Pateryn: He is having a decent senior season at Michigan and will be
able to turn pro in about 4-6 weeks if the Habs want him to.  With the
expected defensive turnover next season in Hamilton, they may not have a spot
for him; if that’s the case, they’d be wise to move him now.

Part two of this series will kick off our focus on the Habs with the
goaltenders and defencemen and will appear later this week.