Whether through trades, transfers, free agency, promotion, or demotion professional athletes in team sports are constantly moving. Those who are once fan favourites can become bitter enemies from the simple touch of ink to paper. By the same token players who were once hated by teams can becoming heroes when they sign a new contract. Just like every team in pro sports the Montreal Canadiens have experienced this type of movement first hand this past season. Plenty of players who were not members of the team the year before have joined the fold through various different means. But in this particular article we will not visit those who have joined the team this year but those who have left. To begin with we will take a look at the key forwards who left the Canadiens during the season or during the offseason.
While the number of players who departed in this specific position is fairly low some key members of the organization parted ways with the club. Two of the moves in particular that will be talked about below had a significant impact on the teams season. Both moves signified that the teams’ direction was ready to change whether it be for better or worse. Both of these moves proved what was alluded to above, that one season a player can be a hero and the next he can be gone. This phenomenon is far more likely with, for lack of a better term, win challenged teams in the National Hockey League. When a team is winning players who are not performing get far less press because it is all being taken up by those who are performing. However, when a team starts to lose its footing in the standings players who are not playing up to their usual standards are identified. If the Canadiens had won more this season it is quite possible the Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn would have never left at all. But both of them are no longer members of the Montreal Canadiens and that is why they are included in the forward edition of the departed.
Mike Cammalleri: Traded to the Calgary Flames
Of all the moves the Montreal Canadiens made in the offseason or during this past season this is arguably the biggest. If it is not considered the biggest than it is certainly the most important move made by this team in the forward position. The past couple of years Cammalleri has been arguably the teams’ most liked player, again there is little argument that he was the most liked in the forward position. While Cammalleri was only mediocre in the regular season he played shockingly well in the playoffs for the Habs. During their run to the Conference Finals a couple of years back he was second only to goaltender Jaroslav Halak in terms of importance to his team. But all that was quickly forgotten this campaign. Cammalleri got off to a slow start and never really recovered this season, no matter which team he was playing with. Injury as well as poor play from both himself and the team quickly made him a target of fan concern. That concern quickly transformed into critisism when Cammalleri spoke out in the media against the team. Once this happened it was only a matter of time before Cammalleri would be on his way out. The way in which he left the team is still a blemish in Montreal’s ugly season. Mid-game, against division rival Boston, Cammalleri was dealt to the Calgary Flames with goalie Karri Ramo in exchange for Rene Bourque, a 2nd round pick and prospect Patrick Holland. In his time with Montreal this season Cammalleri had very disappointing numbers. The proven sniper had only 9 goals and 13 assists for 22 point in 38 games with the Habs this season, a PPG of .579. He played 10 less games with the Calgary Flames but was able to get 11 goals and 8 assists for 19 points and a PPG of .678. Overall the season was a disaster for Cammalleri, who earns $6 million dollars a season with just 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points. Only time will tell if losing Cammalleri hurts the Montreal Canadiens, but at the moment it appears that Cammalleri has fallen into the downwards part of his career. Shedding his salary may have been one of the few solid moves Pierre Gauthier made during his tenure.
Benoit Pouliot: Signed by the Boston Bruins
This offseason Pouliot made a very daring move. After Gauthier chose to not re-sign him he left the club and signed with their bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins. In doing so he gained a fair amount of dislike from the fanbase. However, from a career perspective the move has been a very good one for him. The talented, if inconsistent winger established himself as a solid depth player for the Bruins. The Minnesota Wild’s fourth overall pick in the 2005 NHL entry draft had 16 goals and 32 points in 74 games to cap off a career year with a shockingly solid +18 rating. His previous season, and previous career best, Pouliot had 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points with the Canadiens. While both totals are a far cry from the pace he had in his first season with Montreal (he would have had 50 points if he played all 82 games) Pouliot has proven that he is a talented depth player. He can score big goals and keep himself a plus player, a key criteria for players will get less ice time. In fact two of the 16 goals he scored this season were some of the best seen across the league. Puliot becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season and you can be rest assured the Bruins will re-sign him. If not he will become a solid part of another organization, ready to contribute depth scoring. He would have been a big help to a Canadiens team who lacked lower line scoring this past season.
Jeff Halpern: Signed by the Washington Capitals as an unrestricted free agent
Halpern is near the end of his career. At age 35 he signed as an unrestricted free agent this past season with his hometown Washington Capitals in what will probably be his final NHL season. What Halpern brings to the table has never been flashy, unlike the other three key forwards that left the Canadiens this past season. Halpern, when at his best is one of the best depth centres in the league. Those who are not as talented or dynamic find other ways to keep themselves in NHL lineups. For Halpern it is his faceoff ability as well as his talent in killing penalties. Last season Halpern had one of his best in recent years putting up 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 72 games. He also had a goal in 4 playoff games. But his age may have finally caught up with him, and Halpern was far less effective in 69 games for the Capitals with only 4 goals and 12 assists for 16 points. He has not yet played in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs for the Capitals, who are currently involved in a second round series with the New York Rangers. A veteran presence would have been nice for a young bottom 6 for the Montreal Canadiens this season but Halpern at this stage was not that player.
Andrei Kostitsyn: Traded to the Nashville Predators
Of all the Canadiens players rumoured to be traded leading up to the 2012 NHL trade deadline Andrei Kostitsyn was the name that was heard the most. It was certainly for good reason as Kostitsyn was one of only two rumoured players to be traded at or ahead of the deadline. Andrei joined brother Sergei, also a former Montreal Canadien as a member of the Nashville Predators. Like his brother Andrei has had success since joining the Predators as well. With the Canadiens prior to the trade deadline the elder Kostitsyn had 12 goals and 24 points in 53 games, a PPG of .453. But his PPG has significantly increased to .632 since joining the Predators which would have translated into 52 points during a full season. That play has continued into the postseason as Kostitsyn has put up 4 points, including 3 goals in 7 playoff games. But talent was never the problem with Kostitsyn, it was all about his consistency. Some nights Kostitsyn could be the best player on the Canadiens, other nights he would completly disappear. With the number of these players Montreal currently have on their roster Kostitsyn just didn’t fit anymore. Not to mention he has had some distractions off the ice, a concern that has followed him to Nashville. When he wanted to Kostitsyn was worth keeping around at almost any price, the problem was he didn’t want it enough.