A quiet trade deadline was expected in Montreal and that’s what happened with just the one move made. Our writers weigh in on the Jordan Weal deal as well as Marc Bergevin’s decision to largely stand pat.
Terry Costaris: The acquisition of Jordan Weal was a good small move with potential pay dirt along the lines of the Paul Byron waivers pickup from several years back. His offensive numbers as a kid right up to the AHL were very impressive. Weal is deceptively fast and possesses a high hockey IQ and should thus fit into the Canadiens’ new offensive system. Maybe Montreal is the place that things finally all come together. Or maybe it will take one more organization. Let’s hope that it’s with the Habs.
I’m probably in the minority, but I truly believe that Marc Bergevin should have gone for more draft picks and young prospects – as the long term implications for failing to do so could be problematic down the road. Tampa, Boston, and Toronto are going to contend for the big prize over the next five years while New York, Ottawa, and Buffalo are going to ascend with the boatload of picks that they have amassed along with their already promising cache of young talent.
Yes, Montreal has some excellent prospects as well but one more year of sacrifice would have ensured a decade of contention. The New York Rangers certainly get this concept of delayed gratification.
If the ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup, the Montreal Canadiens will not stack up to either their immediate or future competition.
I realize that it would take one extremely gutsy GM or a Cup focused organization (such as the Rangers) to make the moves that I wanted. Long term gain though is better than short term gain.
Brian La Rose: I like the acquisition of Weal. Assuming he gets to play ahead of Dale Weise (here’s hoping), he’ll add some extra speed to the fourth line to start. However, his offensive spurts in the past make him a candidate to move up if Claude Julien decides to try to balance his lines even more; I could see Weal and Joel Armia flipping spots at some point. On top of that, he’s an actual centre that can win faceoffs so we’ll see less of Brendan Gallagher and Andrew Shaw at the faceoff dot. That’s nice.
From a Laval perspective, it’s not ideal to lose Chaput who might very well have been their best all-around player. I liked that he had another year left on his deal in the Byron Froese role where he could hold his own with the Habs on the fourth or play a key role with the Rocket. There’s value in those types of players from an organizational perspective but Weal is an upgrade for the Habs and that’s clearly where the focus should be.
As for not doing much else, I’m a little surprised they didn’t add another goalie. Bergevin may trust Antti Niemi but judging by the fact that Carey Price is set to play two back-to-backs this week, Claude Julien clearly doesn’t. It was a really soft trade market for rental goalies so adding one wouldn’t have cost a pick or prospect of any particular consequence.
I’m okay with them opting not to take a big swing though. This isn’t their year to go deep in the playoffs (I’d love to be proven wrong on this) so it doesn’t make sense to part with some significant assets to lose in fewer games in the first round. They’ve kept their cap space intact for another offseason where they can potentially add an impact free agent and really start to aim for an upward trajectory at that time.
Kevin Leveille: Let’s start by discussing the move that did happen. Some will complain that Weal is small but I think it gives the team a better variety of options on the bottom line. Nate Thompson appears to be a direct upgrade on Chaput, while Weal is more in line with Matthew Peca in terms of style. Therefore, Julien can opt for size and grit with Nicolas Deslauriers, Weise, and Thompson. He can also opt for speed and “skill” in Hudon, Peca, and now Weal. He’s more likely to mix them around, but at least the options are there. No harm done.
Where the media reaction has me puzzled is with the complaining about not making big moves. Most big moves made were out of the East, almost all out of the Atlantic too, which means the various sites comparing what it would have cost the Habs to make that deal are actually quite wrong. Bergevin would have had to offer considerably more. Consider what the teams paid for Mark Stone, Derick Brassard, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Gustav Nyquist, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and Wayne Simmonds, and add the in-division or in-conference increase. No thanks! In the end, there are only three trades that make me wonder what the Habs could have offered. Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Nic Petan would have been of interest to me at the prices paid and to hurt the acquiring teams. Then again, we’ll never if or what Bergevin offered for those players anyways. In the end, good non-moves by Bergevin in my opinion.
Dave Woodward: Weal represents an upgrade in skill for the Habs’ fourth line. Since the price was Chaput, a centre that did not fit into the Canadiens’ long term plans, the deal represents a small win for the Canadiens (as an aside, Chaput is a very good AHL player and the deal will hurt the Laval Rocket but the interests of the big team must come first). Weal has more offensive skill than Thompson and the acquisition gives Coach Julien a little more flexibility and options for the fourth line, a unit that has been struggling for several weeks. With the acquisition of Weal, Julien can opt for a heavier fourth line (with Deslauriers and Thompson) or he can utilize some skill with Weal, Peca or even the forgotten Charles Hudon.
All that said, the deal is a minor one and the Canadiens clearly made the decision to largely stand pat. That approach makes a lot of sense given where they currently are as a team. To everyone’s surprise, this group is contending for a playoff spot. The team has earned the right to compete for the playoff berth for the balance of the season. Therefore, a sell-off for futures did not make sense. On the other hand, the Canadiens are still more than a few pieces away from contention. Short-term rentals would have required young prospects and picks and that makes no sense when the team is unlikely to win this season. It would have simply undermined the franchise’s efforts to rebuild (sorry, reset).
The current roster has earned the right to take this season where they can but that cannot detract from Bergevin’s efforts to build a perennial contender by drafting and developing young players. This is the only way to build a perennial contender.