HabsWorld.net -- 

Yesterday, the focus was on the goaltenders and
defencemen in our Trade Deadline Preview.  Today, the forwards get the
spotlight.  The main issue is what to do with Tomas Plekanec; if he doesn’t
sign an extension, do you deal him for what you can now or risk losing him for
nothing in the summer?  Who could be dealt to free up the space to get a
deal done with him?

As was done for the goalies/defencemen, the players will receive a rating
between 1-10 on the potential likelihood of being moved, based on a combination
of performance, perceived interest elsewhere, and the salary cap. 


Sergei Kostitsyn: 
– With him threatening to bolt to Russia in
each of the last 2 seasons and his contract being up in June, no one can say
with any sort of confidence that he’ll be in the NHL next season.  If
that’s the case, is it worthwhile moving him simply to get something back in
case he bolts?  If they do go that route, his performance in the Olympics
coupled with the last couple weeks before the break may intrigue a few teams.

Matt D’Agostini:  5 – As much as he’s
struggled this season, he does hold some value for the Habs in that his cap hit
is the league minimum.  When you’re projected to be more than $1 million
over the cap (as the Habs are today), having cheap roster fillers becomes that
much more important.  That being said, if a team wants D’Agostini as part
of a bigger deal, they certainly wouldn’t balk at including him in there.

Maxim Lapierre:  4.5 – He’s been in the
doghouse most of the season and has yet to find a role he’s comfortable with
(though being on a different line every second game will do that to you). 
Despite this, there’s still some upside with him, particularly when you consider
his play last season.  He’d likely benefit from a change of scenery
(getting out from the microscope that is Montreal), but his low cap hit likely
lessens the desire to deal him.

Andrei Kostitsyn:  4 – Off first
glance, this seems a little high considering how well he was playing before he
was injured.  However, if they’re going to re-sign Plekanec, one of the
bigger contracts up front has to go and he’d have better trade value than the
likes of Gomez and Gionta.  Theoretically, he could be packaged with his
brother to bring in a different top-6 forward, one that better fits the Habs’
cap dilemma.

Glen Metropolit:  4 – He’s been a
favourite of coach Jacques Martin this season and still leads the team in power
play tallies.  But the recent acquisition of Moore has pushed his future
into doubt as some, myself included, envision Moore taking his spot for this
season and beyond.  As a pending UFA, the question of getting something now
or nothing later comes up once more.  He’s the type of player that a lot of
teams will covet (cheap, veteran depth); it would not surprise me in the least
to see him elsewhere come Wednesday.

Tomas Plekanec:  3.5 – Officially, I’m
a member of the trade him now bandwagon as the cap issues I don’t think can
realistically be overcome (without causing more problems).  However,
considering the Habs are aiming to be buyers, it doesn’t make a whole lot of
sense to trade the team’s leading point getter either.  He’d interest a lot
of teams and fetch quite the return, so the notion of moving him shouldn’t be
summarily dismissed.

Mathieu Darche:  3 – He’s been the only
Hamilton Bulldog to actually make an immediate offensive impact upon being
recalled.  He’s shown a willingness to play somewhat of a physical game
which will be important to stay in the lineup as others get healthy.  Given
this, there may be a team or two intrigued by his performance, though likely for
nothing more than a draft pick.  Depending on how the team tackles the
current cap concerns, such a deal may actually be desirable to the Habs.

Travis Moen:  2.5 – Let’s face it, he
hasn’t brought the grit like we were all expecting to the table so far this
season.  He’s a player who lives for the big games (playoffs) which means
his value is at its best beyond the deadline.  This is something that other
GM’s will realize as well which means the team will receive several inquiries
about him.  Considering the Habs brought him in with the playoffs in mind,
it’d require a pretty good offer for GM Pierre Gauthier to move him now.

Dominic Moore:  1.5 – When you give
what many feel was an overpayment before the trade freeze (costing the
team nearly $100,000 in cap space as a result), it doesn’t seem too likely that
they’ll turn around and move him after just 2 games.  As I noted earlier, I
feel this is a tryout for Moore for next season with the Habs hoping he sticks
around for the long haul to fill Metropolit’s spot on the roster for 2010-11 and

Brian Gionta:  1.5 – Of the so-called
"Big 3" (in terms of salary), he may have the most trade value based on having
the lowest cap hit.  When now former GM Bob Gainey brought him into the
fold, it was for the long haul with Gomez.  Less than a year into the
contract, it seems highly doubtful that they’d entertain moving him, especially
considering that he’s had a pretty good year when healthy and has done enough to
realistically have a chance at being named captain after this season.

Scott Gomez:  1 – His big contract may
have some trade value
but that isn’t for a few more years.  If the Habs wanted to trade him (and
quite frankly, I don’t think they do), it’d be all but impossible right now. 
He’s played well with Gionta and Pouliot and will likely be back with them
coming out of the break.

Benoit Pouliot:  1 – He’s been quite
the revelation since joining the team midseason scoring timely goals in bunches. 
Couple that with a low cap hit this season and there’s next to no reason to
consider moving him.  The only way I see him getting moved is if contract
talks have started and they are millions apart in.  I don’t think they’ve
started talks which pretty much throws that idea out the window.  He’s a
keeper, for now and the future.

Mike Cammalleri:  1 – He’s the team’s
leading goal scorer, is a fan favourite, and has a hefty cap hit for 4 more
years.  Couple that with the fact he’s hurt for 3 more weeks and it’s
pretty safe to say he isn’t going anywhere either.


Currently, the Habs have about $24.5 million in
cap hits committed to forwards next season (including a Laraque buyout and
Pacioretty being on the roster).  Unfortunately, that only includes 6
forwards on the active roster as Plekanec, Moore, Darche, and Metropolit are
pending UFA’s while Pouliot, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Lapierre are RFA’s.  If
we add in the roughly $25 million for d-men and goalies (from yesterday’s
article), we’re looking at $6 million to spend on 6-7 roster spots.  In
other words, to say the cap situation beyond this season isn’t ideal would be
one of the bigger understatements of the year.  As it stands now, there’s
no chance of re-signing Plekanec unless some cap clearing moves are made. 
Unfortunately, this may even get worse.

We’ve yet to consider the effects of this year’s cap and the ramifications that
it has not only this season but possibly next year as well.  Currently, the
Habs are projected to finish the season over the cap by a little more than $1.2
million.  That amount will come down by about $100,000 when Robert Mayer is
sent back down and will drop further as not all bonuses will be hit.  That
all said, I don’t see $1.1 million in bonuses not getting hit, meaning the team
would face a reduced cap next year by the amount they finish over this season. 

For those wondering how this is possible with Markov being LTIR’ed earlier this
year, it’s an odd thing to say, but putting him there actually didn’t
save the team anything.  I’ll spare the long-winded details here as I’m
sure most aren’t too interested in why this is the case – if you’re interested
in the details (and why LTIR won’t help at all from here on in this season), see
the LTIR tab on my
which shows the day-to-day calculations.  A quick estimation based on the
little bit I know regarding the bonuses in the contracts, the end-of-season
overage would stand around $450,000-$550,000 provided further roster moves
aren’t made.  If that’s the case, re-signing Plekanec just got that much
more difficult.


Talks between Plekanec and the Habs to
intensify over the next 48 hours so that the club has a sense of whether they
can realistically sign him.  What happens there will likely determine the
course of action as to who the team goes after.  If they’re not close on
terms but decide to keep him for the playoff run, it would make sense to see the
team go after another centre, one who could possibly slide behind Gomez next
season.  It seems unlikely that the Habs will look to add more salary
considering the aforementioned cap concerns for this season and beyond but
considering I’d have said that before the Moore deal, who knows what Gauthier
has in mind?  It would not surprise me in the least to see one of the
forwards ranked above to be dealt for a pick or prospect to help this year’s cap

Be sure to watch for Part 3 (the final part) of this preview as part of
tomorrow’s HW Recap.  Included in there will be a trade ranking of the more
notable Bulldogs as well as a short list of players that the Habs have either
shown or will likely show interest in heading into Wednesday’s deadline.