You can smell it in the air. The trade deadline is near. Crazy rumours fill webpages, bloggers and writers exchange trade ideas, and you can almost hear the sound of GM’s phones ringing.
In preparation for this annual day of silliness, the HW staff have gathered to discuss some potential possibilities for nos Glorieux.
1) Who should the Habs target at the deadline?
George Kouniakis: If the Habs are to make any moves at the deadline, it should be as sellers. They should trade for draft picks and prospects, first and foremost. When trading for players, the Habs need to settle on an identity for the team moving forward. Recent moves would suggest that they have abandoned their strategy of basing their team on speed in favour of size. If this is indeed the direction in which the team is moving, then they should deal for young, cheap players who fit this bill. In my opinion, the Habs need help scoring goals. They could use more Bourque-style “dirty area” goal scorers, since this is an area where they have been deficient. There is a decent core in Montreal that is young, eager and hardworking. They should seek to compliment this core with similar players.
Brian La Rose: At this stage of the game, it’s hard to identify specific players that could be moved. Assuming the Habs do go into sell mode (the next couple of weeks will likely define which way they go one way or the other), there are certain types of players they should be targeting with their likely trade bait that are realistic to acquire. The first is a controllable (in terms of contract years) bottom six forward that can provide important minutes on the penalty kill and bring some energy to the game. Think of Dominic Moore from a couple seasons ago, just younger. If they can pry someone a little higher on the depth chart, all the better but this would be a good place to start.
Another area to target are other teams’ ‘tweeners.’ These are players that are nearing the end of their entry level deals and have been up and down between the NHL and AHL. Some just aren’t good enough to make the permanent jump while others just need a different opportunity to thrive. As a selling team, there should be some openings to bring a player or two of this ilk in to give them a shot. Some current examples would be New Jersey’s Nick Palmieri, Minnesota’s Cody Almond, or Dallas’ Philip Larsen. They all have been up and down between the farm team and the big club and next year will be waiver eligible. Picking some of these types of players up will give the Habs a chance to see if they can find a diamond in the rough that can be a cheap but useful player for the next couple of years.
If the Habs become buyers, they would be wise to seek a rental top-9 forward who can provide some secondary scoring but will come cheap via trade. They’re not one player away from contention but adding a bit to the offence is never a bad way to go, they just shouldn’t be willing to part with much to get that extra boost. Players like Buffalo’s Jochen Hecht, Anaheim’s Jason Blake, or the Islanders’ Brian Rolston come to mind. A lot needs to happen before this route would make sense though. I’ll quickly mention buying for Hamilton as well, they could really benefit from bringing in a top six scoring forward to help their attempt at the postseason.
Louis Moustakas:The Canadiens have long coveted a big centre and, lo and behold, the Blue Jackets seem willing to trade Jeff Carter. Many are worried about the Canadiens current cap situation, but the team has deep pockets and can bury bad deals if need be. And, while lengthy, Carter’s contract provides a very manageable 5.3 million dollar cap hit. Besides, that contract combined with his recent struggles in Columbus could allow the Canadiens to obtain him without having the make a drastic offer.
Another player worth considering, although he is an impending UFA, is P.A Parenteau. Never mind the obvious bonus that he is a Quebec product, Parenteau is a late bloomer who has morphed into a scoring threat for the Islanders. While it may be unreasonable to expect him to produce at nearly a point per game pace – he has 45 points in 49 games this season – it is sensible to anticipate around 50 points per year from him. Should Andrei Kostitsyn not be in the Canadiens long-term plans, Parenteau could fill his void nicely.
Beyond targeting specific players, it would also be wise for the Canadiens to target mid-range prospects, or “tweeners” as Brian refers to them. Should the team scout shrewdly, they might find a gem in doing so. With players like Gill, Moen and Darche on the trade block, such players are likely the best they can receive for them anyway.
2) Who should the Habs use as trade bait?
George Kouniakis: The obvious trade bait would be the last-year contract guys who everybody mentions; Gill, Moen, and Kostitsyn. Personally, I don’t want to see any of these players moved, but you need to give something up to get something. If Habs fans actually believe that they can stock their cupboard with valuable young talent and all they have to give up is Gomez, Weber and Campoli, I’m afraid they’re sadly mistaken.
Brian La Rose: The pending UFA’s (Kostitsyn, Gill, Moen, Campoli, and Darche) is never a bad place to start if they’re planning to sell. It appears as if interest in bringing a few of these guys back is lukewarm at least so a decision needs to be made on their futures sooner or later. Assuming none are extended, these players should be trade bait. Peter Budaj could be marketed as a goalie capable of starting some games if injuries arise although his market would be extremely limited (unless some goalies on playoff teams get injured between now and February 27th). Tomas Kaberle has been a decent addition to the roster but if they can get some value for him, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get out of his contract. If someone wants Petteri Nokelainen, the Habs should take whatever they can get for him as at this point, he probably will go unqualified in June.
Another name that may catch some by surprise is Aaron Palushaj. He qualifies as a ‘tweener player’ that hasn’t carved out a niche on the NHL roster despite having a few chances and likely isn’t in the plans for next year as more than a 13th/14th forward. His offensive skills are good enough that there should be a team willing to give him a look, much like Atlanta did with Ben Maxwell last season. Palushaj won’t bring back much of a return but it may be the time to try and get something for him now instead of potentially losing him for nothing via the waiver wire in late September.
Louis Moustakas: My colleagues above astutely mention the pending UFAs, but let me propose another name: Tomas Plekanec. No, I am not suggesting Plekanec should be moved because he is having a rough year. His worth to a team is undeniable. However, if the Canadiens expect to make significant changes, they will have to consider moving their number one pivot. Only by moving an enticing piece such as Plekanec can the Habs yield any significant return.
3) Should the Habs consider moving P.K Subban?
George Kouniakis: Absolutely not. End of discussion. He needs coaching and mentorship. If he is traded, he will haunt the Habs for decades. It’s all but guaranteed.
Brian La Rose: Should they consider it? Sure, as any good GM should ponder every possibility. Should it go any further than that? Unless they get the proverbial ‘too good to refuse’ offer, no. For all the criticism (some warranted, some not) he has taken this year, he has still been a very important and productive member of the team. Sure, the offence isn’t there but he is logging the most minutes and facing off against a lot of the opponents’ top players. Things have snowballed right now and I’m hopeful that the All-Star break will give him a chance to clear his head. If not, the offseason should provide him the opportunity to reflect and come to camp more mentally prepared. The best is yet to come from the young blueliner and the Habs would be wise to ensure that his best comes in the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
Louis Moustakas:Unless Pierre Gauthier is offered an elite player in return, he should not pick up the phone. Even then, he should consider carefully. Players like P.K Subban do not come around very often and the organization has lost so many capable blueliners over the past decade – Beauchemin, Hainsey, McDonagh, Robidas, Streit – it seems foolish to part with such a talented young rearguard.