The trade deadline came and went this past Monday. Technically the Habs were one of the more active teams making two moves but neither was of particular significance. Our writers offer up their thoughts on what Montreal did plus their lack of notable moves.
Gordon Black: This was one of the slowest deadline days in memory. For the Canadiens, at least, that’s not such a bad thing. With Marc Bergevin having already traded their expiring UFA assets (that weren’t injured), there was not a lot that needed to be done which could not be accomplished as well or better during the offseason when budgets are less constrained and (hopefully) a more forward-thinking coaching staff may be consulted.
That said, let the tryouts for the 2016-17 Habs begin! They did well to pick up another potential piece in Stefan Matteau – more of a scratchy than traditional lottery ticket, given his limited upside – a big body who is younger and faster than Smith-Pelly, and a far less known (and waived) commodity than Jiri Sekac at this point.
Picking up Mike Brown makes a lot of sense as he is a character guy who can replace some of the veteran influence lost to the room through trades and injuries this past month. Brown also has the advantage of providing a reminder to the young players and call-ups that they need to consistently put forth a maximum effort if they want to secure a spot, because guys like Brown will always be an available and cost effective replacement for them unless they can demonstrate a superior worth to the team.
Brian La Rose: While the Habs took on a player who has produced even less than Smith-Pelly in Matteau, the trade makes sense. Smith-Pelly didn’t fit in Montreal and despite his cheap contract, he was a candidate to not even be qualified in the summer. It’s usually never a bad thing to swap comparable underachieving players. They’re lottery tickets and every now and then, one of them pans out and turns into at least a serviceable player.
Brown’s addition was puzzling. Sure, the thought may be that he’ll protect Michael McCarron from fighting but this isn’t a team that fights all that often anyways. My guess is that maybe they want to see how the team responds to having a tough guy in the lineup to perhaps revaluate their decision to not carry one after trading away Brandon Prust in the offseason. That’s about the only justification I can think of.
I’m not surprised or really all that disappointed that nothing else of consequence got done. No notable players with term got dealt on deadline day itself (Patrick Maroon at $2 M topped the list in terms of the most expensive player signed for next year) while big tickets like Dion Phaneuf or Brooks Laich were dealt for minimal value or had to have a pick thrown in to get rid of them. Neither of those scenarios were particularly ideal for Montreal so waiting for now makes sense. In the offseason though, that will need to change.
Alex Létourneau: It was a bit of a disappointing deadline day for the club. I don’t know how many fourth liners the Canadiens need and adding Brown to the team doesn’t really do anything for me. Depth is good for a playoff push, but it’s looking mighty unlikely the Canadiens will be a part of the second season. From a human standpoint, it was pretty crushing to see Smith-Pelly give his exit interview. It’s a shame he couldn’t develop any further with the team and that’s likely what cost him his future here. Does that mean Matteau will blossom now that he’s out of New Jersey? He has a higher ceiling and still has room to develop, so there’s still hope for him.
What was most disappointing was the no centremen movement by Bergevin. There are seven listed centres on the Canadiens roster at the moment. Seven. (Matteau also plays left wing, but then again, this season all their centres are also wingers). Does that strike anyone as odd? The next hope for a bit of a cleanup will be at the draft, and, depending on the Canadiens’ positioning at season’s end, you have to think there’s going to be a few less centres on the roster and perhaps better draft positioning. There has to be because keeping that many onboard is ridiculous, plain and simple.
Paul MacLeod: I like the Smith-Pelly trade. Sekac became Smith-Pelly who became Matteau. Matteau may never reach his potential as a former first round draft pick, but he still has upside and he is younger than Smith- Pelly. This is the kind of asset management I expect from Bergevin (and that is why I was so annoyed by the lack of upside coming back in the Tinordi trade). Also, I am not bothered by the possibility that Brown is taking time away from younger players. On the contrary, I think his physical, stand-up for your teammates style is exactly what the Canadiens have been lacking since the Prust deal and that he will be an excellent role model for all the youngsters now up with the club. All in all, a productive, if underwhelming, trade deadline day for the Canadiens.
Norm Szcyrek: Trade Deadline day turned out to be more like Trade Deadwood day, with most every team getting rid of spare part players in exchange for much of the same. In that theme, The Smith-Pelly trade for Matteau falls into that category well. Both have underarchieved with their previous teams, and each GM hopes a change in scenary will help change that. I’m pessimistic that will happen.
Matteau had rumours of attitude issues stemming back to his one QMJHL junior season, when he was released from the team in the middle of their semi-final playoff series. There were reports this stemmed from his lack of ice time, and reports that he walked out on his junior team. His father is Stephane Matteau, a former NHL player who was an assistant coach of his team at the time. Stefan has had disciplinary actions while playing for the USNDT against USHL team opponents, receiving two suspensions and another one during his QMJHL season. He also received a 10 minute misconduct for a head shot penalty in a World Junior exhibition game; he was later released from that team.
In the pros, Matteau has not played very much for the Devils, and this season in particular he’s been a healthy scratch more often than he’s played. He’s a big winger and he can play aggressively but he’s often inconsistent; at best he seems like a 4th line player. I don’t see much future for this player in Montreal or elsewhere.
I’m not sure why Bergevin picked up Brown on waivers. He does add some toughness and some speed, but no other offensive skills; he appears to be another 4th line player, which is something the Habs have in abundance. If he blocks a rookie like Sven Andrighetto or McCarron from playing the rest of this season, then I don’t like this transaction at all. Knowing Michel Therrien’s penchant for playing veterans over youngsters, I expect one of these homegrown players to be a lineup victim.