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It wasn't the big roster shakeup that most fans were hoping for but over the weekend, Pierre Gauthier did make a small deal to provide a better option for the team's fourth line. As you know by now, Petteri Nokelainen is the newest Hab after being acquired with Garrett Stafford in exchange for Brock Trotter and a 7th rounder this season. Having had time to reflect on the team (and see the new guy in action), our writers weigh in with their thoughts.
Brian La Rose: Is this deal going to be the one that shakes the team out of its funk? Of course not, but it will help a little bit. Nokelainen brings a little more skill and speed to the table and for those wanting a bigger splash, he also brings some cap space as his deal is cheaper than Andreas Engqvist. It's hard to complain about that. Garrett Stafford will also be a big addition to the Bulldogs whose defence corps is, to put it lightly, very shaky at the best of times. He's not popular with some Hamilton fans from the Alexander Perezhogin incident back in 2004 but his game has come a long way since then. I'm not too concerned with losing Brock Trotter from a Montreal perspective as when you think of it, any team could have had him for free just a few weeks ago. His loss will be felt by the Bulldogs though, that's for sure. In fact, my biggest concern with this deal is that the team goes from 48 to 49 contracts when the limit is 50. That could cause a problem later depending on what happens. In terms of a talent perspective though, the Habs get the better end which rarely is a bad thing.
Matt Dilworth: Whole-heartedly, I believe that the Nokelainen acquisition was a solid, if unspectacular move. Pierre Gauthier gambled that Andreas Engqvist could competently fill Jeff Halpern's departed skates, but after 7 games, it appears he was wrong. With Nokelainen on board, the Canadiens now have a reliable 4th line centre, whose right-hand prowess on the faceoff dot far exceeds Engqvist's abilities. Additionally, Jacques Martin seems to have more trust in Nokelainen (7:09 minutes against FLA), which permits him to roll four lines and not tire out his top players. As for the cost, many are worried that Brock Trotter may flourish in Phoenix, but I feel such fears are unfounded. Trotter has yet to be an impact player in the NHL despite multiple opportunities, and if Nokelainen performs as advertised, it will be worth the minimal chance of Trotter breaking out.
Jonathan Rebelo: To analyze this trade seems easy. Montreal has clearly needed a veteran in the 4th line centre position and after deciding that waiver pick up Blair Betts was damaged goods, Gauthier had to go to the trade market to find what he was looking for. Petteri Nokelainen is an above average faceoff man and will be able to help on the penalty kill but he won't bring much more than that. A knee injury which didn't require surgery back in the 06-07 season stunted his progress as an NHL'er quite a bit. Losing Trotter is a loss but at this time only at the AHL level; he had a poor training camp and it did not appear he was going to be given a shot at an offensive role anytime soon in Montreal.
Everyone will look to choose a winner on this trade and Montreal will surely win it early on because Nokelainen is NHL ready and will contribute now. Trotter may contribute later but who knows he may end up a Jozef Balej or as Phoenix may hope, a Sergei Kostitsyn.