There have been calls throughout the year for the Montreal Canadiens organization to fire GM Pierre Gauthier ahead of the February 28th NHL Trade Deadline. Not surprisingly, however, this didn’t happen and Gauthier, like it or not, is still at the helm a day before the deadline. Gauthier is no stranger to making trades, some of them blockbuster, during his time with the Montreal Canadiens organization. In total Gauthier has made 20 trades since being hired 20 days before the deadline during the 2009-10 season after then GM Bob Gainey stepped down. While this isn’t really a large number of trades it is a decent amount, and enough to consider and reflect upon the trade methods of Gauthier with the assets he has available to him at this club. Here is a look at the best and the worst moves of Gauthier’s career, and what you can expect to see tomorrow.
Top 3 Trades of Gauthier’s Time in Montreal
1. Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney and a 2nd round pick for Hal Gill and a conditional 5th round pick (2013).
Some would say the jury is still out on this trade and that is probably true. But just the pure shock that Gauthier was able to pull off a deal of this quality and get so much for an aging UFA defenceman makes this the best trade he has ever made. For the most part moves that Gauthier has made as the GM of the Canadiens have been either simply okay moves or poor moves. This one stands out as one of the few moves he has been able to make where he has actually gotten assets in access of the value he sent the other way. The Cammalleri trade? There is no way that is the maximum value they could have gotten for a player of that calibre. The Halak trade? Maybe a bit undervalued, especially considering the fact that Halak had been by far the best goalie in the NHL playoffs by a long shot. But the Gill deal was done right. Already, since arriving in Montreal Blake Geoffrion has made a huge impact with the Hamilton Bulldogs. With 7 points in 4 games he has 2 less points then he had in 20 games with the Milwaukee Admirals. Slaney hasn’t scored in 3 games with the Bulldogs, but he was never what this deal revolved around. The 2nd round pick, what the original price for Gill was considered, gives the Canadiens either an asset to deal or an opportunity to acquire a promising young player. If Gauthier is to be fired at the end of the season not much good will be said about him, but in this instance there isn’t much you can say negatively.
2. Lars Eller and Ian Schultz from the Blues for Jaroslav Halak
Most Canadiens fans still believe that they could have gotten more for Halak. While this may be true you have to remember that goaltenders don’t usually get all that much in trades, not that teams usually make big name goaltending deals. However you look at it this seems like it was the right time for Montreal to trade Halak. With the confidence of the organization behind him Carey Price has turned himself into one of the top goaltenders in the National Hockey League. Halak, meanwhile, isn’t even starting all the time for the Blues this season. The Canadiens acquired Lars Eller, a player who has proved that he will be a solid NHL’er for years to come. Since joining the Habs Eller, who has never gotten the time he deserved, has put up 39 points in two seasons with the club. Schultz, sadly, hasn’t developed into the player the organization was hoping but still has time to develop. Schultz has 24 points for the Hamilton Bulldogs, and has improved this season receiving a callup that never developed into his first NHL game.
3. James Wisniewski from New York Islanders for a 2nd round pick (2011) and a conditional 5th round pick (2012)
Wisniewski was a huge acquisition for the Canadiens last season, and the fact that they didn’t resign him is a contributed to why things went off the rails this season. During his time in Montreal Wisniewski had 30 points in 43 games for Montreal in the regular season and 2 points in 7 games during the playoffs. He was absolutely key to the Canadiens powerplay and was a huge reason why it was so dominant last season. As for the price of Wisniewski a 2nd round pick and a conditional 5th really isn’t that much for a player who has this much of an impact on your team so quickly. When you see what Montreal was able to get for Hal Gill you have to think the Canadiens clearly won this deal. Wisniewski arrived, delivered and then left and if this ended up being a long term signing for the Canadiens it would clearly be number one on this list.
The Worst 3 Trades in Pierre Gauthier’s Time in Montreal
1. Tomas Kaberle from the Hurricanes for Jaroslav Spacek
You could say that solely based on this trade Pierre Gauthier should be fired. The long-term ramifications of this deal haven’t even yet been fully felt and yet this move already leaves fans and media alike in absolute shock. When you look at the deal for a solely statistical lens it appears that Montreal has come out on top. Kaberle has 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points in 33 games as a member of the Canadiens. Meanwhile, Jaroslav Spacek has 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 25 games with the Hurricanes. Good trade right? Except that they have a 8 point difference in +/-, it appears that Kaberle has no idea how to play in his own end and he has a long term contract routed in the Habs system. Spacek, if Montreal has held on to him, could have been gone by the end of the season and presented some nice cap room for the team. Instead they now have a player who will continue to be a cap hit while providing even less than Jaroslav Spacek could have provided. Montreal will not be able to shake this move soon, unless of course an amnesty rule is put in place. Even then the buyout will probably go to Scott Gomez. This move doesn’t only hurt the organization short term it hurts them long term as well unless something seriously changes with Kaberle’s play.
2. Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd from Predators for Sergei Kostitsyn
Sergei had to be traded, there is no doubt. But in return for a player who was at the time a semi-decent young prospect in the National Hockey League the Canadiens got absolutely nothing. Not even a draft pick that they could have turned into a prospect. Dan Ellis left the team almost right away, prior to signing of course. Meanwhile, Dustin Boyd played 10 games for the Canadiens, scoring 1 goal and registering a plus/minus of -6 before playing the rest of the season in the AHL. He is currently not playing with another NHL or AHL franchise. Meanwhile, Sergei Kostitsyn has realized his potential with the Nashville Predators. The brother of current Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn has put up 75 points, and is on pace for his second 20 goal season with the Predators. At only 24 there is still room for improvement as well. Even today there is no doubt that Sergei needed to be traded and that he wasn’t a good fit for the organization or the team. But to say that today the Montreal Canadiens have nothing to show that he ever played for this team is unbelievable.
3. Aaron Palushaj from Blues for Matt D’Agostini
It was a bit of a surprise to see D’Agostini, a player who had played some decent time with varied success as a member of the Canadiens leave the team. Apparently not in the plans of the organization they picked up Aaron Palushaj, a member of the Blues system who formerly played at the University of Michigan in the CCHA. Since they have joined their respective teams a clear winner is revealed. With the Montreal Canadiens Aaron Palushaj has had only 1 assist in 24 NHL games. He has spent the rest of his time in the organization with the farm team in Hamilton. Meanwhile, D’Agostini has made good on his potential and developed into a very good pick up for the Blues. He had a 20+ goal season and has put up 64 points in 2 seasons in St. Louis. The only reason this isn’t the number 1 trade, other than the fact that it doesn’t hurt the organization directly is that it was hard to tell what D’Agostini was going to become with the Canadiens. There is a decent chance that he never would have achieved the same success with the Canadiens organization. We also still don’t know if there were some outside of hockey reasons as to why he was dealt. Either way huge win for the Blues so far.
What to Expect from Pierre Gauthier?
To simplify it, not much. A quick glance at Gauthier’s history of deadline movement with the Montreal Canadiens tells the story quite clearly. Having already made the Hal Gill deal earlier in the month it is quite possible that this is the only move we will see Gauthier make.
In 2009-2010, his first year as GM of the Canadiens Gauthier made only 2 moves near the deadline. He acquired Dominic Moore from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2nd round pick almost a month before the deadline (similar time to Hal Gill move) before making just one move at the deadline. A move that was at the time very small in trading Matt D’Agostini to the St. Louis in exchange for Aaron Palushaj. The lack of moves really couldn’t be blamed on Gauthier in 2009-10 because he had so recently been hired (February 8th, 2010) and didn’t really have much time to make deals.
In 2010-11 the majority of Montreal’s deals came before the trade deadline. Gauthier again made a move a couple of weeks a head of deadline acquiring Paul Mara from the Ducks for a 5th round pick. He made one move a few days before the deadline, Ben Maxwell and a 5th round pick in exchange for Nigel Dawes and Brent Sopel. Again, he made only one move on the day of the deadline, and it was a very minor one sending Brett Festerling to Atlanta in exchange for Drew MacIntyre.
Fast forward to 2011-12 and there are a few things that we can get out of this history. Number one – Gauthier hasn’t traded much for the Canadiens on trade deadline day, or even leading up to the deadline for that matter. Number two – all of the deals that he has made have been insignificant and most of the players acquired were rentals. One thing to consider is the fact that in these years Montreal was far better off and well entrenched in the playoff race. They didn’t really require the shake up that they currently do. But we also have to consider the fact that we really shouldn’t expect much from Gauthier, who probably won’t be making many trades on Monday. If they do make any trades we probably won’t see any really major ones.
In conclusion, through history and what has transpired so far during the trade deadline we aren’t going to see anything exciting or surprising from the Canadiens tomorrow. In fact it will be surprising if they Canadiens make anything more than one or two deals. Probably at maximum Darche and Kostitsyn are the only players who leave the roster. At minimum, well, don’t be too surprised if you don’t see any moves at all.