A day after suggesting that he wasn’t going to do much on the trade market, Marc Bergevin added some depth down the middle, acquiring Eric Staal from Buffalo in exchange for Montreal’s third and fifth-round picks in 2021.
It has not been a good year for the 36-year-old, to put it lightly. Staal has just three goals and seven assists this season in 31 games (which was still good enough for sixth on the Sabres) despite averaging 15:34 per night.
As a result, the fit with the Habs may seem a bit puzzling at first. However, Staal is only a year removed from a 19 goal, 47 point season and had averaged 60 points per year over his four seasons with Minnesota. Is it a case of him losing a couple of steps or him just being in a bad situation with Buffalo? Bergevin is definitely banking on the latter although he may be slotted for the fourth line to start.
Staal will have to serve a quarantine period once he arrives in Montreal which isn’t expected to be until Saturday. When that happens, he’ll be placed on the NHL’s COVID-Protocol Related Absences list where Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi currently are. While there was a report yesterday that the wait will be reduced to seven days, that has not been made official just yet though the Habs will definitely hope it will come to fruition in the coming days.
Staal carries a $3.25M cap hit ($3M salary) this season although Buffalo is retaining half of that to make the money work a little better while Staal waived his partial no-trade clause to facilitate the move. Even so, the Habs are only able to stay in cap compliance with Paul Byron on the taxi squad. Knowing they want to recall him (bringing another $1.075M in full-season salary onto the books), there could be more movement to come as they don’t have enough room to do that yet.
One thing they could do to offset that a bit is sending Jake Evans to either the taxi squad or Laval. That would allow Byron to be recalled although it would also whittle away almost all of their remaining cap room. It’ll work for now but if they want to still add to this roster (and this includes Cole Caufield whose college team was ousted today), more tweaking will be needed.
In the meantime, the Habs will soon have some extra depth down the middle as they look to make a push to secure a playoff spot. With a highly-condensed schedule on the horizon, some proven depth could certainly be beneficial for the stretch run.