As Canadiens fans, we can all agree that this debacle of a season cannot end soon enough. While many of us were concerned about replacing Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov over the summer, few pundits foresaw the full extent of this disaster of a season.
In fairness, the injury to Shea Weber, the alarming drop-off in the play of Carey Price and the underachievement of some new additions – such as Karl Alzner, David Schlemko and Jonathan Drouin – could not have all been anticipated. And as this train wreck unfolded, it was near impossible to get things back on track in-season.
Nonetheless, it is clear that Marc Bergevin assembled a roster with many holes and players with skills that were not complementary. Many players have been asked to play positions or fill roles that are either outside or beyond their skill sets. But there is no point rubbing Bergevin’s face in it now. After all, he has done an excellent job of doing just that all by himself. As the deadline approaches, the question is what should be done now.
Obviously, the Canadiens are sellers at the deadline. Leaving aside the elephant in the room (i.e., should the current management team be in place going forward?), the broader questions are whether the Habs will retool or rebuild. Whatever option is selected will determine the extent of the Canadiens’ sales. However, whatever direction is taken, the paramount consideration may be the team’s assessment of whether better value can be had now or during the offseason, particularly around the NHL Draft when many prospects, players and picks are in play.
For Tomas Plekanec, his July 1 UFA status makes it clear that he should be dealt at the deadline (and it’s worth noting that he will be a healthy scratch on Saturday against the Lightning). If there are other players that do not fit into their plans next season, they should be moved as well, provided fair value can be obtained at this time. I would be remiss not to acknowledge Plekanec’s fine contribution to the Canadiens. The third round pick has been an outstanding two-way centre for many years and is deserving of the team’s respect and gratitude. But at this phase of his career, he does not fit into the team’s plans, even if the Canadiens opt to retool.
For more valuable players, such as the estimable Max Pacioretty and possibly other veterans, absent a deal that the Canadiens cannot refuse, a deal around the NHL Draft is far more likely. The Canadiens’ price for Captain Max is rumoured to be very high (a first and second-round pick, a prospect and a roster player that ideally plays centre). That price is unlikely to be paid by a contender (or any other team either now or on Draft day). However, Bergevin cannot lose another deal and keep his job so he will hold out for now. A deal involving Pacioretty is therefore unlikely at the deadline.
Andrew Shaw makes more sense to trade at the deadline. His reputation as a playoff performer and two Stanley Cup rings may entice a contender to overpay. Shaw also will not be nearly as expensive as Max would be for the acquiring team. Nonetheless, Shaw is still relatively young, can play centre (on a team that is horribly weak down the middle) and is signed for another four years. A handsome return would be required for the Canadiens to part with Andrew Shaw, something that Bergevin is well aware of as he has reportedly told teams he doesn’t plan to trade him.
So apart from the movement of players that do not fit into the team’s long-term plans, this pundit does not have high hopes for deadline day. After all, why should that day be any different?