While the Habs didn’t make the big splash many were expecting, GM Marc Bergevin was still quite active by making five trades in the 48 hours leading up to the deadline. Our writers offer up their thoughts on the moves.
Gordon Black: Another deadline come and gone. As a fan I’m pretty ambivalent about most of the moves that were made – not only for the Habs, but in general. I think that’s as good a reason as any to think Bergevin did fairly well. With the entire NHL knowing that he was in need of a scoring upgrade, I’m just thankful that he didn’t make a move that has the potential to be talked about for years in terms of “what could have been…”
The rumours that Valtteri Filppula and Jannik Hansen vetoed trades to Montreal bears some consideration. I can’t imagine Hansen would have gotten a glowing reference from his countryman Eller – and I don’t see either of them as a significant upgrade in any case. Matt Duchene would have been nice, but not at the price that was being sought. Mikhail Sergachev alone has the potential to be a better player in a couple of years, not to mention what else it would have taken.
I like Dwight King, simple but effective minutes, hard on the opposing defensemen, especially over a seven game series. Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen are good energy depth and both will be highly motivated to show something. Brandon Davidson is really intriguing to me. Great underlying numbers (Tom Gilbert cough cough) don’t mean much, but the couple times I have watched him he has shown flashes. Hopeful he is underrated based on his team and usage thus far, maybe similar to how Jeff Petry was viewed by the rest of the league while mired in the purgatory that was pre-McDavid Edmonton.
The best move by far was getting Jordie Benn. Guy is a warrior, but has a brain. Nothing fancy, offensively equivalent to Alexi Emelin with a better first pass. Still, so strong in front of Carey Price, it’s a relief having him in there in place of Nikita Nesterov or Greg Pateryn. Now all we can do is sit back and hope that Charles Hudon gets to show some stuff before the playoffs, and let the team come together under a new system while the pressure relieved from the passing of another deadline hopefully helps to bust a few more slumps.
Hilding Gnanapragasm: Bergevin may not have addressed the scoring woes directly, but he certainly wasn’t inactive. The asking price for offence was obviously high, as evidenced not only by the price paid for Martin Hanzal, but also the fact that Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Evander Kane all remained with their existing clubs.
When it became clear that acquiring scoring help would be out of reach, Bergevin shifted his focus to the team’s next greatest need – size and strength.
Not only did Bergevin manage to add size and experience in Benn, Ott and two-time Cup winner King, but he also landed a very interesting player in Davidson, a sizable 25 year-old defenceman with intriguing potential. Finally, Martinsen is another hulking forward to add to Claude Julien’s arsenal. The playoffs are a battleground and Bergevin brought in a few tanks.
All the while, he did so without giving up much of anything, with the only draft picks dealt being two 4ths and a 6th and the only bodies leaving town David Desharnais, Pateryn and Sven Andrighetto.
One thing is clear – Marc Bergevin was not going to budge on the future for the sake of the present team and that was absolutely the right call. Not only were there not a lot of great pieces to be had, but the Canadiens have not exactly shown themselves to be the kind of team that’s a piece or two away.
So, what Bergevin did acquire was a support staff for his existing core. The onus is now on the players who remain to prove this is a team worthy of contending. Bergevin bought them some extra elbow room with the addition of size and strength. Let’s see how they use it.
Brian La Rose: The Habs didn’t come out of the deadline filling their biggest need which is disappointing. However, they still incrementally upgraded in other areas without losing anything of consequence so it was far from a bad result either.
The defensive additions are the most intriguing. Benn looks like he can provide more stability than Pateryn or Nesterov (who is the opposite of stable) on the third pairing. He should be able to log more minutes than those two which should take a bit of pressure off Jeff Petry and Shea Weber and based on his early usage, he can competently replace Andrei Markov on the penalty kill which is also ideal, especially if the Markov-Weber pairing stays intact at 5-on-5 and the power play. Davidson is a serviceable player, albeit one that’s in the midst of a tough season. He could be a third pairing option as well and at the very least, gives them better depth for the stretch run. The fact that both players are signed for next year suggests to me that Bergevin may be hedging against losing a blueliner to Vegas in the expansion draft.
Up front, the acquisitions there aren’t as interesting aside from King who should be a nice complementary player in the bottom six. Ott can win faceoffs and agitate but do little else. However, with moving Desharnais, they needed some extra depth down the middle and he came cheap at least. Montreal loses the Andrighetto-Martinsen deal in terms of upside but for the role that Andrighetto was in (periodic fourth liner), Martinsen is a better fit. He can be a bit of an energy player and given the malaise the team has had at times lately, adding someone like that isn’t a bad idea.
It wasn’t a thrilling deadline for Montreal but at the end of the day, they’re a bit better than they were going in.
Alex Létourneau: For the life of me, I can’t understand what the uproar is about the Canadiens “losing” the trade deadline. Sometimes it’s best to turn down the analysts, shut off social media, and just calm down. This was certainly not a deadline that would send pulses racing, but to be frothing at the mouth saying the team is stagnant, or worse off, after Bergevin’s moves is silliness at its purest.
Every player that went out the door was replaced by someone better built for playoff hockey. If you’re going to actually argue that Desharhais, Andrighetto and Pateryn were better options to what came in as the playoffs close in, then I’m at a loss. Add King for a conditional fourth rounder and Ott for a sixth rounder in 2018 and I see harder team to play against than a week ago. The Ott trade was a little odd, I’ll concede, but he brings an element that is useful in a playoff drive. Granted they may have slowed down a bit, but tell me what success the speedy Canadiens have brought to the rafters lately?
Now, aside from Kevin Shattenkirk, who isn’t a top-six forward, tell me who was available to really give Montreal that extra push? Hanzal? The guy who hasn’t had a 20-goal season in his 10-year career for the King’s ransom Minnesota paid? He didn’t reach 20 goals due to consistent injuries over his career? Sounds like he’ll hold up well in the playoffs. Patrick Eaves? The Nick Bonino of this season? Thomas Vanek? Must have a short memory. Show me a game changing top-six forward that was available. Duchene and Landeskog? Fine. If Hanzal went for that ridiculous fee, what on earth would either one of them cost? The Habs aren’t the Washington Capitals with a third of their team hitting free agency in July. The window is still open folks. Duchene/Landeskog are draft day deals when everyone’s calmed down and prices aren’t as inflated.
It’s beyond annoying having to hear the same pablum every season. Funny enough, I remember when the narrative was that you need strong third and fourth liners with lots of depth to win in the playoffs. The Canadiens didn’t have enough grit and sand paper, get pushed around; that was the rhetoric for years and years. Now that we do have players with these qualities and Bergevin gets butchered for it? Take a deep breath and look at what you have; one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the NHL, one of the best defensemen in the NHL and one of the best scorers in the NHL. Add to that Alex Galchenyuk, who during the offseason and before his injury was the savior the fan base has been clamoring for, Alexander Radulov, who looks to be built for playoff hockey, Brendan Gallagher who is (was?) capable of hitting the 20 goal mark before two serious hand injuries and a couple of young guys in Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen who generate scoring opportunities. Has the first half of the season already been forgotten? For a good portion of the season, goals were pouring in.
I understand the Canadiens need(ed) scoring, but if it wasn’t available, or if the cost was ludicrous, try and understand that Bergevin went another route to strengthen the team, which he did. Winners are built from the back-end up. This is a more solid team with potential already in the lineup to score goals. I wasn’t doing backflips after the deadline passed, but I certainly wasn’t writing off the Canadiens like too many fans have been.
Paul MacLeod: In general, I like all of Bergevin’s deadline moves. Unlike some, I was actually fearing a Duchene or Landeskog trade and what the cost of one of those deals would be.
Benn for Pateryn and a 2017 4th round pick: Benn has stepped right in and looked good making the Pateryn deal look like a steal in the early going.
Davidson for Desharnais: I liked Desharnais as player and admire what he was able to accomplish, but his useful days as a Canadien were done and few believed that Montreal would be able to trade him at all. Instead, Bergevin was able to offload a player who no longer fit for a decent depth defenseman–a solid win.
Ott for a 2018 6th round pick: Bergevin has taken some heat for this trade as Ott’s primary use is as a penalty killer and aggravating pest extraordinaire. Many have questioned Ott’s usefulness, but I believe that Ott will have a role to play, albeit a limited one, in the Canadiens’ drive to the playoffs and beyond. With Shaw, Gallagher and Ott the Canadiens have an agitator for three of four lines and will be more difficult to play against. The potential usefulness of Ott measured against a 6th round pick makes this a win if he contributes anything.
King for a 2018 conditional 4th round pick in 2018: A big, hard-nosed two-way winger with two Stanley Cup rings for a conditional 4th. What’s not to like? King will improve the Canadiens penalty killing and add a solid physical presence. Another small, but solid addition to the team.
Martinsen for Andrighetto: I have actually read some commentary calling this trade a loss as Montreal gave up a far superior player. To me, it was a speedy, but marginal small player for a speedy, but marginal larger player making it a marginal win for Montreal. As Andrighetto did not seem to fit in the team’s long term plans this trade gives them another bottom six big body for the playoff grind.
All in all a successful trade deadline except that Bergevin failed to address the team’s need for a top six forward who can score. If, as it was stated on TSN, Radim Vrbata was available for a second round pick. I am surprised that Bergevin didn’t take a chance on him at that price and I would really like to know why he did not. That said, Bergevin didn’t surrender any real value in players or picks and the Benn trade looks a real improvement. Hopefully, those five second rounders not spent on a rental contribute to the team landing a scoring forward at the draft.
Dave Woodward: The Canadiens emerged from the trading deadline larger, stronger and with more depth at the back end. But they are no more skilled offensively.
The bottom defence pairing – a material weakness all year that has burdened the top four D-men with an excessive workload – and the lack of depth defencemen has been nicely addressed with the addition of Benn and Davidson. And the Habs have bulked up considerably up front by acquiring King, Martinsen and, to a lesser extent at this phase of his career, super-pest Ott. These acquisitions were made with assets that were unlikely to develop into core players for the Canadiens going forward. Not a bad body of work at all.
However, for a team that averaged well under two goals per game in the month of February, the failure to address the Canadiens’ chronic, utter and glaring lack of secondary scoring is a big disappointment. This space could dissect each trade and, in most cases, make a reasonable pitch that Bergevin and the Habs got the better of the deal. But it is all an exercise in futility so long as no forwards other than Max Pacioretty, Radulov and Galchenyuk are contributing offensively.
If the price for offence was prohibitive and involved the surrender of top prospects, such as Sergachev, then we only need to watch a Rangers game to take comfort that Bergevin made the right call (I still tear up when I watch Ryan McDonagh patrol the blueline for the Blueshirts and wonder what might have been). The price probably was too high for offensive talent such as Duchene and Landeskog. Nonetheless, this edition of the Canadiens is stuck in the mud offensively and there is no tow truck in sight.