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Today marks the beginning of the end for all the rumors, speculation, and fan wish lists; including today, only seven days are left until the NHL trade deadline.

 The NHL will close the doors to all trades for the 05-06 season as of 3pm (Est.) on March 9th, and many players, GM’s and fans will be relieved when the clock strikes 3:01.

There is a lot of emotion, and stress for everyone involved. The most emotion is likely reserved for the players, stress for making your club a contender or cutting costs with good return lies with the 30 GM’s, and a mix of both stress and emotion for the fans of any team.

This approaching deadline has indeed been the busiest for rumors and speculation, and the matter is further complicated by the salary cap issues facing the GM’s looking to upgrade on some positions. Some teams will be sellers at the deadline, and some will be buyers. The determining factor is in the standings, the top eight should be buyers to some extent while the bottom fourteen will likely be sellers. This brings us to the Montreal Canadiens.

The Canadiens by all rights should be buyers at this point (8th in the eastern conf.) and most feel that defensive help should be the main target at the deadline. Players such as Brendan Witt, Pavel Kubina, Ruslan Salei, Keith Carney, Filip Kuba and more have been rumored to be heading to Montreal lately, but a quick look at the stats suggests that the Habs need scoring help more then a top 4 defenseman.

As of today, only Washington and Florida have scored less then the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference, and both teams are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. Teams like Carolina and Ottawa who could be first round match ups for the Habs, have been scoring at will this season, and currently the Canadiens roster is not strong enough to match their scoring power nor defend against it with any regularity. The only way to put pressure back on teams with so much firepower is to be able to score yourself. Although extremely important, defense makes it harder to score, but it does not add pressure back on the other team like a tying or game winning goal does.

Who could help solve this problem?

 Canadiens GM Bob Gainey is one of the toughest in the league to get information out of, so maybe we can speculate using the “if there’s smoke, there’s fire approach”.

A quick check on any NHL fan forum has dozens of possibilities, but unless NHL GM’s adopt the EAsports NHL 2006 trade mentality, most aren’t feasible. Rumors of Bertuzzi, Richards, Jokinen, Arnason, Bell, Lang, Selanne etc are all the latest players linked to the Canadiens, but more importantly if we are to use the smoke theory , they all point directly to an addition of offense. It’s never that easy.

Any one of the afore mentioned players could be playing in Montreal as of March 10th but the deal would require some salary going the other way to stay in accordance to the league imposed salary cap. Fans and media have pegged several Canadiens as “expendable” this season {Ribeiro, Bonk, Sundstrom, Souray, Theodore, Zednik and even the versatile Bulis to name a few}, but you can’t get the world for nothing unless Mike Milbury is your trade partner. Most teams are only interested in Higgins, Komisarek, Perezhogin or draft picks, making it even harder. Trying to add true star to the payroll without sending some expense the other way is near impossible under the current cap structure, and if you actually pull it off, there could be implications for the following season by having to pay the full contract amount for that player against the cap. On the flip side of the coin, you are still giving up some blue-chip prospects and the future of your team for a pending free agent that could turn out to be a rental player. Not a position with many benefits.

Is there smoke here after all? Who knows, but aside from Bob Gainey publicly stating that they “want a defenseman capable of playing 20 minutes per game.” 4 weeks ago, he has not been active in the trade front and talk of his trade conversations are impossible to find.

There are thousands of hockey fans chomping at the bit for trade rumors and speculation and there are other options out there… if you have an open mind.
“Insiders” are sprouting up all over the internet like a new disease, claiming to have the information that no one else knows, and all their information from “sources” (who always go unnamed) is to be read as gospel truth. Although unlikely, a leak of information like this could have some notion of truth to it, but it is also a surefire way of making money off hockey enthusiasts looking for some “Insider Information”; with paid memberships or donations of course.

Trade rumors are fun to consider, but like the majority of fans, I’d rather wait the 7 days that are left and see what actually takes place, as opposed to paying out for what could happen according to “Insider sources”.

It looks like a wild ride Habs fans, sit back and enjoy the show.