The Canadiens continue to exceed expectations as they remain near the top of the NHL, despite their annoying habit to lose games to teams far below them in the standings. Montreal’s success, coupled with (or as a result of, depending on your point of view) Carey Price’s outstanding play has fed speculation that Marc Bergevin will attempt to load up at the trade deadline in anticipation of a long playoff run. Nevertheless, most commentators maintain that Bergevin is seeking “a hockey deal” and is resisting the temptation to sacrifice assets for short-term rentals. In anticipation of the March 2nd trade deadline, this article focuses on the forwards that Les Canadiens might acquire to bolster their anemic scoring and/or improve their bottom six. The most popular UFA’s are reviewed as are some other possible trade targets.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Jaromir Jagr (NJD) LW: A perennial tease for many Habs fans has been the possibility of Jagr joining the Canadiens. A powerful physical presence on the boards or in front of the net, Jagr is still scoring although he has started to slow down. Bob McKenzie reported that Jagr was not a priority for the Habs and the reasons for that probably have to do with his fit on a speedy, defence first squad. Like many fans, I would still love to see him in a Montreal uniform, but it seems unlikely to happen.
Stats: 53 GP, pending UFA, age 43, 11 goals, 18 assists, 29 points
Antoine Vermette (ARI) C: Vermette is having a strong season on a weak team and would be a versatile addition to any contender. However, given that Don Maloney, Arizona’s GM reportedly remains unsatisfied with the trade offers he is receiving, it is unlikely that Montreal is willing to pay Arizona’s price unless there is a repeat of last years’ situation with Vanek and Bergevin manages another deadline coup.
Stats: 58 GP, pending UFA, age 32, 13 goals, 22 assists, 35 points
Daniel Winnik (TOR) LW: Winnik plays a responsible defensive game and could be a useful addition to the bottom six but he is certainly not going to help much with Montreal’s lack of scoring. That said, he is the kind of low cost, low risk player that Bergevin likes to pick up at the deadline.
Stats: 58 GP, pending UFA, age 29, 6 goals, 18 assists, 24 points
Chris Stewart (BUF) RW: Stewart is a big winger who could add some muscle to the third line. Unfortunately, has never lived up to his apparent potential and he comes from the Rene Bourque school of consistency so I don’t expect the Habs to make a move on him.
Stats: 56 GP, pending UFA, age 27, 9 goals, 12 assists, 22 points
Jiri Tlusty 7 (CAR) LW: Tlusty hasn’t been featured in trade rumors involving the Habs and I don’t see him as much of an upgrade on the 3rd liners they already have.
Stats: 49 GP, pending UFA, age 26, 13 goals, 8 assists, 21 points
Sean Bergenheim (FLA) LW: According to the scouting reports, Bergenheim is a good skater, versatile and defensively responsible but runs hot and cold offensively. There are some questions as to his hockey sense. He sounds like an older, bargain version of Lars Eller. Montreal is said to have some interest. For the price of a 3rd round pick– if the TSN crew are to be believed –he would be cheap depth for the playoff run.
Stats: 39 GP, pending UFA, age 31, 8 goals, 10 assists, 18 points
Curtis Glencross (CGY) LW: Glencross, like several of the UFA forwards this season is a gritty, two way player who works hard, kills penalties and can chip in on offence. Depending on the asking price he could be a useful depth addition.
Stats: 49 GP, pending UFA, age 32, 8 goals, 18 assists, 26 points
Mark Letestu (CBJ) C: Letestu seems to be an unlikely candidate to join the Habs; he is a small, skilled offensive 3rd line player of which they already have too many.
Stats: 28 GP, pending UFA, age 30, 6 goals, 3 assists, 9 points
One Other Possibility:
Phil Kessel (TOR) LW: What to say? Kessel is a natural scorer. Unfortunately, he can be invisible on defence and appears uncomfortable in the spotlight in Toronto. On one hand, Kessel’s scoring could boost the Canadiens to the Cup. On the other hand, he could sow disharmony in the dressing room and he might not be able to handle the media and fan attention in Montreal. Given the huge cap hit, the term remaining and the large return Toronto would demand, Kessel would be a huge gamble for the Habs.
Stats: 58 GP, Under contract for 7 years with an $8 M cap hit, age 27, 22 goals, 26 assists, 48 points