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The trade deadline is creeping ever so closer and with the Habs basically
sitting in the middle of the pack with a bit of money to spend, GM Pierre
Gauthier will be a busy man leading up to that time.  As always, it’s time
to take a look at which Habs could be on the move and who they may be looking
at.  Today, the defence and goalies take centre stage.

Trade odds:

Yannick Weber – 45%: If the Habs are going to make a play for some of
the more prominent names out there, they may be forced to part with a young
NHL’er in lieu of a draft pick.  Weber has emerged this season as a
legitimate 3rd pairing blueliner and is quickly taking on more responsibility. 
As a result, his trade value quite possibly may be at an all-time high.

Alexandre Picard – 33%: Picard has shown that he is at worst a
competent 7th defenceman which means he at least has a little value, especially
with his cheap contract.  I don’t see him being of much more value than a
throw in if the Habs deal for a d-man (to give the trading team a healthy body
as a replacement) but such a scenario isn’t all that farfetched.

Hal Gill – 25%: Depending on who the Habs target, there’s a chance
that his role could be heading to someone else, making him redundant.  In
that event, Montreal theoretically could either flip him to who they’re
acquiring a new guy from, or elsewhere to get some cap relief.  However,
his role in the locker room means that a near perfect situation would have to
exist for this to occur.

Jaroslav Spacek – 20%: Yes, his contract is a burden but Spacek most
nights can still log at least decent minutes in this league.  Though I
don’t suspect they could get a young asset for him, they could find a taker
willing to swap undesirable contracts.  Depending on what other ‘so-so’
contracts are on the block, there could be a potential match or two worth
considering.  More info will be required about his injury before any team
bites; the latest is that he is out for the upcoming Western road trip.

James Wisniewski – 10%: Interestingly enough, this is where I might
put the odds of him re-signing with the Habs after the year as his offensive
numbers are going to fetch him some serious coin somewhere.  Yes, it’s hard
to fathom Gauthier trading him away but if a team offers up a blueliner for
Wisniewski that can help this team beyond this season as well, I suspect he’ll
at least give it some thought.

Alex Auld – 10%: For the flack he gets, he has been pretty effective
in limited action with the Habs.  However, there are legitimate concerns
that he could take over should Price get injured or really struggle. 
Curtis Sanford, though struggling as of late, has seen a lot more action and has
made a case that he could be Price’s backup as well.  However, the goalie
market is likely to be quiet so there won’t be too many, if any, opportunities
to move him.

Roman Hamrlik – 10%: Although his no-trade clause recently expired,
Hamrlik still plays an integral role on the Habs, one that they currently do not
have an in-house replacement for.  His expiring contract is an asset though
for teams looking for extra cap space for next season so the notion of him
trading can’t be dismissed outright.  He recently stated he’d like to
re-sign with Montreal at year’s end which increases the chances of him staying
right now.

P.K. Subban – 1%: I suppose someone out there may be willing to pay a
hefty price to land the rookie, and just maybe he may have ticked off too many
in the Habs organization.  That said, I highly doubt either are true at
this time.  His cheap contract makes it even harder for Gauthier to even
ponder trading him at this time.  He’ll be sticking around.

Josh Gorges – 1%: Like Markov below, I’d be stunned to see him dealt. 
The only possible way he could be moved is if the Habs know his contract demands
are too lofty, which I’d find very hard to believe.  Teams will be calling
about his rights for sure, but it would take a lot to pry him away, injury or

Andrei Markov – 0.1%: I learned my lesson a few years ago by
proclaiming an injured Jose Theodore simply wouldn’t be traded so I’ll provide
the slimmest odds possible here.  By now, Gauthier should have an idea of
what it will take to re-sign the blueliner; that idea may wind up shaping how he
approaches who to looking into acquiring and/or trading come deadline day.

Carey Price – 0.1%: He is unquestionably the team’s MVP, a workhorse,
and is signed on a pretty cap friendly deal.  It would take an awful lot to
pry him away right now and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone’s willing to fork
that much up, nor would the Habs be willing to listen. 

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.  Also, though Brendon Nash is currently with the Canadiens,
he will appear in the prospects preview next week.

Names to ponder:

As the Habs have a little below $3.5million (in a full season cap hit) to
spend, there’s a good chance they won’t blow it all on one player.  (The
callups of Ryan White and Brendon Nash drag this down by about $1.2 million
currently.)  So
instead of discussing the relative merits of the likes of Chris Phillips, Tomas Kaberle, and Bryan McCabe, I’ve opted to toss out some cheaper names for
discussion, ones that would leave the team some space to pursue a forward.

D Bryan Allen – Florida: With the Panthers well on their way to another
playoff miss, it’s safe to say GM Dale Tallon will be looking to shed some
contracts beyond this season.  Allen is a player that Jacques Martin is
familiar with from his days with Florida and fits the mold of a physical, stay at
home blueliner most feel the Canadiens need.  As he is under contract for
next season as well, he would be able to fill one of the many holes that could
potentially exist with so few defencemen under contract for 2011-12.

Contract Status: Under contract through 2011-12 with a cap hit of $2.9
million, a UFA afterwards.

G Peter Budaj – Colorado: He has struggled often when given the #1 role
but over the years he has been decent as a backup.  The fact he has played
as a starter somewhat recently works in his favour as inquiring teams won’t be
worried about whether or not he can handle the workload.  As he is an
impending UFA, he may welcome a change of scenery to help him earn a contract
somewhere for next season.  Going after him would also help out their AHL
affiliate in Hamilton, as it would force the Avs to recall John Grahame.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $1.25

D Chris Campoli – Ottawa: He, like basically every other player for the Sens this
season, has been a disappointment, to the point where he has been a healthy
scratch periodically.  As Ottawa will be looking to clear out as much as
possible, it’s likely that he too is on the move and given his struggles, the
cost to get him should be cheaper than some of the other names on this list. 
He has decent mobility and can help out the 2nd unit of the PP while also aiding
the Habs’ transition game, all areas of concern presently.

Contract Status: A pending RFA with arbitration rights after this
season, has a cap hit of $1.4 million.

G Mathieu Garon – Columbus: With the Jackets committed to Steve Mason
for a couple more years and the team struggling, Garon may be one of few goalies
on the move.  He has been strong for Columbus this season and would be an
upgrade on Auld as the backup.  The fact he was once a Hab also would be
beneficial in terms of him knowing what situation he’d be walking into.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $1.2

G Johan Hedberg – New Jersey: There were a lot of reports the Habs
wanted him a couple years back so there still could be some interest today. 
The Devils will be missing the playoffs, so they’ll likely be trying to get some
value in return for the soon-to-be 38 year old.  However, he does have a
full NTC so even if the Habs are interested, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s
interested in the Habs.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $1.5
million, $500,000 of which are performance bonuses that may or may not have been

D Jan Hejda – Columbus: One of the more underrated defencemen in the
league, Hejda is a strong stay at home blueliner that can log major minutes
where necessary.  He also would boost the Habs’ Czech presence to the
effect of having 3 defencemen from there.  He will command a larger return
though as there are many teams expected to at least kick the tires on him.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $2 million.

D Radek Martinek – New York I: Martinek, unlike most Islanders it seems,
is actually healthy right now and has always been a reliable 3rd pairing
defenceman over his career.  He’s not particularly proficient in any aspect
but he isn’t deficient anywhere either.  With New York in full selling
mode, there’s a good chance he gets moved sooner than later.  He would be a
decent depth acquisition for Montreal for sure.  Early reports suggest the
asking price is steep for him though, in the form of a 2nd round pick, something
the Habs no longer have this season.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $1.5

D Brent Sopel – Atlanta: It’s not often that players coming off a Cup
win the year before become available but if Thrashers continue to tumble, he may be one of the first to go due to his contract status.  Sopel won’t put up too many points on the board but is another reliable
defensive blueliner.  His salary is lower than his cap hit though; that,
coupled with his 2010 playoff success means there will be a few teams trying to
get him.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $2,333,333.

D Jim Vandermeer – Edmonton: The classic definition of a veteran
deadline rental.  He would bring a much needed physical element to the
Canadiens’ blueline and considering the Oilers have several young defencemen on
the verge of making it full time, moving Vandermeer is almost a must for them. 
If the Habs haven’t addressed their D by late on deadline day, this is the type
of small addition I could see them making.

Contract Status: A pending UFA with a cap hit this year of $2.3 million.

Part 2 of this 3-piece series will appear Saturday, taking a look at some of
the forwards who could be moved and which Habs may be on the move.