Tuesday’s trade of Jiri Sekac for Devante Smith-Pelly caught everyone off
guard. It’s not very often that a pair of 22 year old wingers with NHL
experience get traded for each other, particularly at this time of year.
As we know, Sekac is the more skilled player while Smith-Pelly is more physical.
Which is the better fit for the Habs and who won the deal? Our writers
offer up their thoughts.
Matt Dilworth: As a big fan of Jiri Sekac, I was upset to learn
that he’d been traded, long before he presumably filled his full potential in
Montreal. The loss of Sekac, however, was off-set by the fact that the return
was Devante Smith-Pelly. I’ve been a big fan of ‘DSP’ since his junior days, and
his skill-set is something that helps Montreal immediately. Smith-Pelly can (and
will) hit, is a right-handed natural right-winger and might be better suited to
the two-way role that Michel Therrien had tried to coax out of Sekac.
Although I do believe that Sekac has a higher ceiling than that of Smith-Pelly,
there are plenty of skilled forwards in the prospect pool that could potentially
fill the void left by Sekac. Smith-Pelly addresses a current need in Montreal,
and after his last playoff performance, there are some that believe that DSP
raises his game in the post-season. That all being said, I don’t think that
we’ll be able to name a clear victor in this transaction until both players see
more time in the NHL.
Brian La Rose: Smith-Pelly should be a good fit on the Habs.
The team has been needing physicality for a long time now and that’s certainly
something he can provide and it’s not as if he’s a short-term acquisition; he
should be in Montreal for a few years at least.
However, I’m not sold on Smith-Pelly’s supposed offensive upside. He’s
not the type of player that’s going to be a second line, 40+ point power forward
like many seem to be hoping. He’s a bottom six guy ideally. While
Sekac may not be a power forward in the future, he has a lot more offensive
potential; I feel his current slump is an aberration and not a sign of things to
come. I don’t see him becoming a front liner but he should be a 35-40
point player that can play on either the 2nd or 3rd line.
While this team isn’t physical by any stretch, another big need for this team
is offence. The Habs aren’t (and haven’t been) a high scoring team.
Are they really in a place where they can afford to spare any sort of offensive
upside? In the end, Marc Bergevin has filled one hole but created another.
It’ll be a while before we can see whether this pans out or not.
Paul MacLeod: I am ambivalent about this trade. If this deal
had been for Eller, Thomas, Bournival, or Parenteau, I would be turning
cartwheels. Yes, I know that none of those players would have been enough on
their own at this point and that Eller’s contract would have been an issue. The
problem is that I really liked Sekac’s play and was looking forward to seeing
him develop in Montreal.
On the other hand, I like what I hear about Smith-Pelly, but I really don’t
think that the Habs gave Sekac the opportunity that he deserved. Let’s hope that
Smith-Pelly develops into a devastating power winger with more of a scoring
touch. It seems that Bergevin surrendered higher skill and potential for a more
physical presence. Then again, at first glance I wasn’t keen on the Weise trade
or the deal for Gonchar, so what do I know? In Marc Bergevin we trust.
Louis Moustakas: If one were to go purely by the two players’
offensive statistics, this trade doesn’t appear to accomplish much. As of this
writing, Jiri Sekac has 18 points in 50 games while Devante Smith-Pelly has 17
points in his 54 contests. What ultimately makes this a good trade for Montreal
is that the 220 lbs Smith-Pelly brings a notable physical, crash-and-bang
presence to the team. In fact, with 147 hits to his credit this season, the
winger now ranks second on the squad behind Alexei Emelin’s 151.
Smith-Pelly has also shown he can excel in the playoffs, scoring a
point-per-game in the OHL and notching five goals in 12 postseason contests with
Anaheim last year. Finally, this move frees up a bit of payroll, giving the team
added flexibility for the coming deadline.
Having said that, this move did come with a cost. Jiri Sekac has shown flashes
of being a very good player in the NHL and it could easily be argued that his
offensive ceiling is higher than Smith-Pelly’s. In the end, Marc Bergevin
managed to bring a young, physical, and inexpensive winger with offensive upside
to the squad. After years of complaining that the Habs were lacking precisely
that type of player, one suspects many fans will rejoice at this type of move.
Colin Pritchett: When Marc Bergevin won the bidding war for
Jiri Sekac over what was thought to be half the league, it was understandable to
come to the conclusion he’d acquired a piece that could potentially play in the
top six and make a large difference in Montreal’s offensive game. A few short
months later, and Sekac has packed his bags for the (infinitely warmer) climes
of Anaheim, bringing in return Devante Smith-Pelly, a more physical yet
ostensibly less accomplished attacker.
Bottom line, it’s a hockey deal. Bergevin identified a need and had to pay
the required price. Looking forward to the playoffs, Montreal needs more size
and grit that Smith-Pelly would seem to provide. With a distinct lack of
scoring, losing Sekac could potentially hurt, but the reality shows his lack of
The prevalent argument seems to centre around potential ceilings of the two
players, but I would argue otherwise. Even if Sekac eventually becomes a more
productive player, he’s essentially perimeter. While not quite as soft as a
Brian Savage or a Martin Rucinsky, he’s built in the same mould. Looking to the
future – and while Montreal is a contender, this trade also smacks heavily of
the future – did Sekac have a place in the top six with the likes of Nikita
Scherbak, Michael McCarron and others rapidly approaching the NHL?
Instead, Smith-Pelly – built like a tank, yet still with attacking instinct –
will step in and fill multiple voids, both positional and size at the very
least, and will potentially get more playing time as a result. More importantly,
he provides something the Habs desperately need into the playoffs.
Norm Szcyrek: In the short term I believe the Habs hold the
advantage in this trade. Smith-Pelly will provide some toughness and likes to
hit which will be a boost for the bottom two lines. He also has the ability to
play right wing on the top two lines in spot duty and he has played some centre.
In the long term though, I fear that Anaheim will win this trade if Sekac can
adjust to the NHL and use his offensive skills to his potential.