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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
In the final instalment of three in this year's deadline previews, it's time to look at Montreal's forwards. There has been a lot of speculation about a few players who could have new homes by 3:00 PM EST on Monday but what is the likelihood that each gets dealt? Plus, what type of value could the team expect in return for some of their more likely to move assets?
Please note that all odds are independent of each other. In other words, if someone gets dealt from the above list, all odds basically get thrown out the window.
Andrei Kostitsyn: 80% I take him at face value that he'd like to stay, I really do. I know he said he'd take less than market value but how much is that? And where is his market value at? Right now, it's probably in the mid-to-high four million range which is likely too high for management's liking. In a dwindling forward market, he is one of the better players available and should fetch a decent draft pick and/or prospect plus likely a roster player back for the short-term.
Mathieu Darche: 30% Darche has helped his trade value lately from nothing to something. He can be a decent depth guy that can be had for cheap for a team heading for a playoff run and although the return would be little, it probably would be more valuable long-term than Darche's contributions in the final 20 games. I think Darche would be willing (and would prefer) to return to the Habs for next year too.
Travis Moen: 25% Management has indicated they would like to re-sign him although negotiations are not expected to begin until the offseason. I'll pause while you groan loudly. As a result, he isn't being shopped, however, that doesn't mean Pierre Gauthier wouldn't listen to an offer. As overpaying is often the theme of deadline day, someone might bite and provide value greater than what management thinks Moen can bring to the table to persuade them to move him. That would take either a high draft pick, an NHL calibre prospect, or a younger similar roster player.
Petteri Nokelainen: 15% Like Darche, he wouldn't be bringing in much of anything worthwhile in a return but considering there's a decent chance he goes back to Finland next season (as he's not the impact player he thought he'd be coming back this season), getting something (such as a late round pick) is better than nothing. As Nokelainen is cheap and a bit above average on the draw, there may be a team willing to add him to the end of their bench.
Lars Eller: 15% It's pretty obvious he has fallen out of favour with the current coaching staff but he hasn't necessarily done the same with management. A young centre with size is something that the organization always wants to have. But, does he still have legitimate top-6 upside? If the team thinks yes, they'll keep him. If no, then he could very well be dealt in an upgrade move.
Tomas Plekanec: 10% Sunday's revelation that there may have been at least internal discussion about moving him bumps him up a little higher than I had planned to slot him. With the overpayments that have occurred thus far, it stands to reason that the Habs could get substantial enough of a return to at least consider the possibility.
David Desharnais: 5% If the rumblings are true that the Habs will be looking to improve their centres, it can't be discounted that Desharnais won't be moved. He does have a very team friendly deal next year and has good chemistry with his linemates (something that can't be said for many players in this current losing streak) so it would have to be a notable upgrade to see him go.
Rene Bourque: 5% As was my argument with Blake Geoffrion in Part 1 of this season, he was a player targeted by management. Although Bourque has struggled a bit since coming over, it's hard to imagine he has played poorly enough to convince the team he isn't what they thought he would be in so short a time period.
Michael Blunden: 2% He still is a few weeks away from returning and is a player the Habs will likely want to evaluate some more for a full-time roster spot next season. If, however, they know they don't want to bring him back, then perhaps there's an outside shot he goes for a late pick or future considerations to a team looking for some cheap grit.
Erik Cole: 1% Not only has he taken on a big role offensively, he also has brought some leadership to the room. Like with Plekanec he could probably move for a major overpayment but while I think a team might do that for Plekanec, they probably won't for Cole.
Scott Gomez: 1% I'm willing to acknowledge that there is a team or two who might be willing to absorb the cap hit to take the lower salary (obviously a small market team) but I'm leery that such a deal could be struck now. If they do get something done, it'll be for a couple of bad deals that add up to a similar cap hit to what Gomez gets now.
Louis Leblanc: 1% Although he has struggled lately, he looks as if he will be a useful top-9 forward as early as next season (although I'm onboard with giving him more time in Hamilton). That's typically not the type of player the Habs would want to move.
Max Pacioretty: 0.1% Without question he has been the feel good story of the year in a season that hasn't exactly been ripe with them. A home grown power forward who is signed for a good deal next season, those aren't the players that any team, buyers or sellers, looks to get rid of.
Brian Gionta: 0.1% With no real word on how much longer he will miss due to injury, I find it hard to imagine that any team would be calling to try and get him. Besides, he still is the captain of the team and won't be dealt at least until the offseason starts with a new plan in place.
(Note: Aaron Palushaj's odds appear in Part 1 of this series.)
On the Farm
Assuming the Habs do move a forward or two out without getting one in return, here are the most likely callups.
1) Blake Geoffrion - He was reportedly told by Pierre Gauthier at the time of the deal that he'd be up shortly after the deadline anyway. Whether or not that's true doesn't matter as based on his play since joining the Bulldogs, he has earned it.
2) Andreas Engqvist - You know what you're going to get from him at this stage, he's capable of providing a few minutes each night without making too many mistakes.
3) Ian Schultz - He's not NHL ready (he has a long way to go in his development) but after being sent down a day after his first ever recall, I suspect the organization will at least give him a token game or two as an apology of sorts while getting a read as to where he is in terms of NHL readiness.
For those wondering, there are still a multitude of forwards injured with Hamilton right now. They are: Olivier Fortier, Gabriel Dumont, Dany Masse (all short-term), Andrew Conboy, and Hunter Bishop (both long-term).
- Deadline Preview - Part 2: Goalies and Defence posted by B. La Rose
- Deadline Preview - Part 1: Prospects posted by B. La Rose