With NHL games set to resume this coming week, the trade deadline is almost
upon us. If the Habs are looking to add to make a playoff push, there’s a
good chance that someone from the Hamilton Bulldogs may be heading the other way
as part of the return. Who are some of the top candidates to be dealt from
the farm team before March 5th?
Rather than do something about every player, I’m going to focus on the actual
prospects for the Bulldogs. Veterans like Michael Blunden, Nick Tarnasky,
and others have all cleared waivers already and don’t have any real trade value,
at least enough to be a part of an important deal.
Dustin Tokarski: 20%: There have been very few Bulldogs who have lived
up to expectations this year but he has been one of them. He has shown
that he can be an elite starter on the farm and would probably be passable as an
NHL backup if injuries arise. Teams looking to upgrade their AHL
goaltending will look at him and with Robert Mayer and Mike Condon – who may
very well be AHL ready now – signed for next year, Tokarski may be deemed
Robert Mayer: 5%: Hamilton coach Sylvain Lefebvre likes to play Mayer
regularly despite putting up numbers well below league average for the fourth
year in a row. Someone in the organization keeps seeing potential in him,
though from an outside perspective, it makes little sense. I don’t see any
other teams having anywhere near the same level of confidence in him.
Greg Pateryn: 25%: Of the ‘Big 3′ on the Bulldogs’ blueline, Pateryn
is likely the most expendable given the others’ first round pedigree.
Pateryn has been Hamilton’s most consistent blueliner all year long and has
shown that he may soon be ready for a #6/7 role at the NHL level. If a
deal is available where Marc Bergevin needs to deal a ‘secondary prospect,’
Pateryn’s name will most certainly be brought up.
Morgan Ellis: 15%: Although he has had another quiet year, Ellis has
improved a lot in his second pro season. That should help get him back on
the radar of other teams after being more or less an afterthought after 2012-13.
He still needs to take another big step forward before becoming a prospect that
other teams would directly target though; he’s more or less a throw-in piece at
Darren Dietz: 10%: The rookie defender has had some success in
Hamilton this year and has seen steady minutes when he’s healthy. I’d say
he’s a bit further ahead in his development curve than Ellis was at this stage
last year. Like Ellis, he’s probably not a prospect that gets specifically
targeted but given that Dietz is coming along nicely, they may be a bit more
hesitant to move him.
Jarred Tinordi: 2%: Although his season could be viewed by some as a
disappointment, it’s not really surprising given that defencemen usually take a
while to develop while big d-men take even longer. He’s still a core part
of Montreal’s future and he won’t be deemed as expendable unless he’s part of a
deal where there’s a player coming back that can be a part of the Habs’ core for
years to come.
Nathan Beaulieu: 2%: Like Tinordi, Beaulieu is also a key cog on the
future blueline (and perhaps even the present one if he gets called back after
the break). Teams will certainly be asking for him but again, unless
there’s a long-term player coming back, it makes little sense for Bergevin and
company to deal him.
Joonas Nattinen: 45%: It has become pretty clear that Nattinen has
little to no future in this organization. He is mired on the 4th line in
Hamilton while inferior players get more time and there’s no way Nattinen
willingly returns to a situation like that when he can go play at home (likely
for more money, too). As the Habs did with the Quailer-Czarnik deal, a
swap of ‘change of scenery’ players could very well happen with Nattinen.
Louis Leblanc: 33%: Although he has been better this year, Leblanc
still hasn’t played as well as he did in his rookie season. While he may
still have an NHL future ahead of him, it’s beginning to look less and less
likely that it’s with Montreal. Knowing that, it might be worth trying to
move him for a similarly struggling player and see if the new guy fits in
better. If they’re leaning towards doing that, it makes more sense to deal
him before the deadline as if they wait until the summer, Leblanc will become a
waiver-eligible player which would hurt his value.
Patrick Holland: 25%: For me, he has been one of the bigger
disappointments so far this year. He has regressed from where he finished
off last season. That said, he played okay in his NHL stint and with
another year left on his entry-level contract coupled with his offensive
potential stemming from his junior career, there may be some teams that may be
interested in him as a secondary piece to a trade.
Sven Andrighetto: 15%: For a pro rookie, Andrighetto has acquitted
himself very well and most certainly has caught the eye of scouts around the
league. There already have been rumblings that teams have inquired about
his availability. I don’t think Montreal is actively shopping him but he’s
not an untouchable prospect by any means.
Christian Thomas: 10%: Because he’s a pure sniper, which is something
this team lacks, I think the Habs will be trying to avoid trading him unless
absolutely necessary. That said, given his inconsistency so far this
season, I’m not sure too many teams will have him near the top of their lists in
terms of what Montreal prospects to go after. If he’s around this level
next year, his odds will be much higher then.
All the rest of the forwards are veterans or depth guys at best and likely
carry little to no trade value so I’ll skip over them.
1) A veteran forward capable of scoring
2) Another veteran forward capable of scoring
3) Top-4 defenceman
4) Yet another veteran forward capable of scoring
To put it nicely, the Bulldogs can’t score with any sort of volume or
consistency. For the second straight year, the youngsters have clearly
demonstrated that they’re not capable of shouldering the load. If they’re
to have any chance at getting back to the playoffs – something that is seeming
more and more like a pipe dream with each passing week – it is absolutely
imperative that they add at least one legitimate veteran front line forward.
Given that management hasn’t really addressed this in nearly two years with the
exception of Martin St. Pierre, I don’t see that happening in the next couple of
In terms of defence, improved depth should be coming on its own before long.
Mac Bennett and Dalton Thrower should both turn pro when their respective
seasons end while Magnus Nygren could theoretically be forced to return as well
when his SHL team is eliminated. While all of those players could be top-4
guys on the farm in time, none of them can step into that role immediately.
With Beaulieu (or another blueliner) likely staying with the big club for the
rest of the year after the rosters expand post-deadline, finding someone to log
heavy minutes would go a long way towards providing some stability at that end
of the rink. If they’re not going to score often, the Bulldogs better have
an improved defence corps to help Tokarski and Mayer.
It’s another down year for Hamilton and as a result, it’s a down year for
trade value for a lot of their players. There are some decent prospects to
choose from that could be deemed expendable but there aren’t many that will have
opposing GM’s getting too excited about. There’s a reasonable chance that
one or more of these higher-odds players gets dealt in the next couple of weeks
but they won’t likely fetch much value on their own.