HabsWorld.net -- 

Article written by Michael Bitton.

Part 1 of this 2-part article posted earlier this week assessed Montreal’s
defence situation, looking at what the issues are that need to be fixed and
evaluating potential in-house options to fill these holes.  Part 2 focuses on players on other
NHL teams that could be brought in to solve this issues, and discusses the viability
of each player based on their abilities and salary cap implications.

The lack of any accomplished pointman within the system suggests that Gainey may
need to look elsewhere. The consensus opinion among followers of the team is
that Montreal needs to add either a second pairing defenseman or a powerplay
specialist possessing a big shot via trade. This is where many fans lose
patience. It is not out of the ordinary for Canadiens fans to name their dream
solution – often John-Michael Liles of the Colorado Avalanche – and then curse
Gainey’s name for not being able to make a deal happen. There is only so much a
general manager can do and Gainey can only get his hands on a player that
another team is willing to let go. For this reason, any serious discussion about
possible powerplay shooters will need to be based on players that are realistic
candidates to find themselves with a new team by the end of the year.

Jay Bouwmeester:
Florida Panthers, $4.875M, impending UFA:
Bouwmeester is a proven offensive force, already having three 37+ point seasons
to his name but the reality is that he will simply cost far too much for the
Canadiens. Financially, with Komisarek, Tanguay, Kovalev and Saku Koivu, among
others, needing new contracts next season, there can be no hope of re-signing
Bouwmeester, who is notoriously difficult to negotiate with. He remains an
intriguing option as a rental but Florida’s asking price will prove to be too
huge to be worth Montreal’s while. Pierre MacGuire reported to TSN that Panthers
GM Jacques Martin would want no less than a package of Chris Higgins, Max
Pacioretty and a first round draft pick. His current salary also poses a problem
for the Habs, as a trade for the above package would still force Gainey to move
at least one of Bouillon and Dandenault.

Mattias Ohlund: Vancouver Canucks, $3.5M, impending UFA: Ohlund is a player not unlike Montreal’s own Roman Hamrlik. He possesses both a
blast from the point and the ability to shutdown the top lines of opposing
teams. He would probably be the best option for the Canadiens as he would not
only add a new dimension to the powerplay, but would also re-shape the dynamic
of the team at even strength. The catch is that, with the Canucks in contention
for the Northwest division title, it is unlikely that they’ll decide to trade
away one of their most important players. In addition to this, Montreal would
yet again have trouble coming to an agreement that would both please Vancouver
and shed enough salary to fit Ohlund under the cap.

Marc-André Bergeron:
Minnesota Wild, $1.254M, impending UFA:

This is a guy who defines the term "powerplay specialist." He has proven that he
can put up points if he’s given the opportunity, but he’s also proven to be
unreliable, very prone to brain cramps and incompetent in his own end.
Furthermore, the amount of teams that Bergeron has played for in a short period
of time shows that he has had problems finding a long-term role on an NHL club.
The upside in acquiring Bergeron is that he is affordable and probably won’t
cost too much to acquire in a trade (in the past, the price has been a 3rd
round pick). He also has that ability that Montreal needs of quarterbacking a
powerplay. It’s questionable, however, how much of an upgrade he would make on
Patrice Brisebois, a very similar player. He may be worth a try if the Habs
truly find themselves in a desperate state at the deadline, but Bergeron is a
documented liability at even-strength, and will likely cause as many problems as
he’ll fix. The Canadiens already have an assortment of defensemen that can only
be used in certain situations. Depth purposes aside, there isn’t all that much
Bergeron can offer Montreal other than some potential chemistry with the PP
unit.  His injury suffered just before the holiday break would delay any
possible deal until late January at the earliest.

Ville Koistinen:
Nashville Predators, $700K, impending UFA:

This little-known 26 year old, Finnish blueliner has put up startling offensive
numbers at both the FEL and AHL levels. Even his production in the 2007-2008
season at the NHL level was respectable, with 17 points and a +13 rating in 48
games. Koistinen is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman that is very comfortable at
the point on the powerplay. The incredible depth of Nashville’s blueline, along
with the continued development of prospect Alexander Sulzer, has made Koistinen
expendable, and it appears that they would like to exchange him for a forward
over the next few weeks. This is an interesting option both because it is
realistic and risk-free. The main question mark is whether Koistinen can really
do a better job than Brisebois or any of Montreal’s other internal options.

Brett Clark:
Colorado Avalanche, $3.5M, under contract until July 1st, 2010:

A Habs draftee, Clark is no powerplay specialist, nor is he reportedly being
shopped, but he is a solid second-pairing defenseman that the Avs will probably
use as trade bait if it means getting the player they want. At his salary, the
Habs will have trouble making room for him, as it would yet again put both
Bouillon and Dandenault at risk. Clark would not be able to contribute on the
powerplay himself, but he would be able to take on some of Hamrlik’s
even-strength minutes, allowing the Czech to get more PP shifts. He would also
round out Montreal’s top four nicely, bumping the underrated Gorges onto the
third pairing. Given Clark’s status with the team, it remains unlikely that
Montreal will be able to come to an agreement that will bring him in.

Any of these five players could potentially be the missing piece of the puzzle
for a Montreal team that is struggling to regain their old form. None of them,
however, are void of drawbacks. Due to salary purposes and a lack of moveable
assets, Bergeron (when healthy) and Koistinen appear to be the two most realistic options out
there for Montreal. Koistinen, in particular, is of no real value to the
Predators and might be a good low-risk pick-up for the latter parts of the

Regardless of who, what and how, and regardless of whether the answer comes from
Montreal or Hamilton or from elsewhere in the NHL, the bottom line is that
Montreal is a team too loaded with talent to excuse a powerplay that is ranked
so low. There are too many creative and offensively gifted skaters to justify
such stunted PP production. Finding a replacement for Mark Streit should be one
of Gainey’s priorities but the awful truth is that the Canadiens have no one but
themselves to blame for their place in the standings. Management has done a
terrific job of turning this team around and providing Carbonneau with a team
good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup. Now it is their turn to do their
jobs. If there is not a single viable point option within a line-up that
includes so much talent, well…there should be.