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Article written by Simon Aronson.

This year, the NHL Trade Deadline is set for 3:00 pm EST on March 5th. I
don’t foresee the Canadiens making any major moves on the back end barring the
potential move of Andrei Markov who has a modified no trade clause. Any
potential advantage the Canadiens could gain by trading Markov would come in the
form of picks and prospects for the future. That said, by trading ‘the General’
at this point management would be throwing in the towel on this season and
likely the next.

The one upgrade I could see the team making is trying to acquire a right hand
shooting defenceman (as are many NHL teams) to play on the third pairing who is
also capable of playing on the second pairing if the need arises. The ideal
blueliner the team is looking for should be able to replace Douglas Murray’s
regular minutes on the third pairing with the ability to play up on the second
powerplay unit. This would allow one of the Hamilton youngsters to play on their
natural side while having Murray as a 7th defenceman. It should also be noted
that there are very few teams out of the playoff hunt at this point, so the lack
of sellers may push the price of acquiring players up.

Andrew MacDonald Shoots L (NYI): One of the names that everyone
is talking about at the deadline this year is Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald is the
Islanders leader in average time on ice and he also leads the NHL in blocked
shots. He will be in for a big raise this offseason and is likely to be traded
if contract negotiations are not successful. His +/- rating does not do his
defensive game justice as he often faces the opposition’s top line. He is also
capable of playing on the power play and would look good on the second power
play unit in Montreal. The asking price will probably be high as there will be
many teams inquiring about him.   

Contract Status: $550,000 this year, pending UFA, 27 years old
Stats: 60 GP, 4 G, 20 A, -16, 34 PIMS, 25:33 ATOI,  46 hits, 192
blocks (league leader), 5v5 CF % 43.2

Tom Gilbert Shoots R (FLA): He is a solid defender at a -5 rating on a
poor Florida Panthers team. He has decent size at 6’2” but is not overly
physical. He is a solid possession player who can play on the second or third
pairing as well as on the powerplay. He had a career year in 08-09 putting up 45
points, with the Edmonton Oilers.

Contract Status: $900,000 this year, pending UFA, 31 years old
Stats: 58 GP, 2 G, 22 A, -5, 18 PIMS, 21:09 ATOI, 45 hits, 77
blocks, 5v5 CF % 53

Mike Weaver Shoots R (FLA): An underrated shutdown defenceman who
plays much more physically than his 5’10” frame would suggest and a good puck
mover for a bottom pairing defender. At age 35 and as a pending UFA it probably
would not cost much to acquire him.  

Contract Status: $1,100,000 this year, pending UFA, 35 years old
Stats: 53 GP, 0 G, 6 A, -12, 23 PIMS, 18:47 ATOI, 98 hits, 90
blocks, 5v5 CF % 50.7

Jeff Petry Shoots R (EDM):  Petry is a big physical defenceman
standing 6’3” who is tied for 12th in the NHL with 141 hits. He is
also a solid defender with 98 blocks and has relatively good possession stats on
a weak Oilers team. He is able to play considerable minutes, averaging the
second most of any Oiler this season. He would be a considerable upgrade over
Murray on the third pairing in Montreal without sacrificing any of the
physicality that Murray brings to the team.

Contract Status: $1,750,000 this year, pending RFA, 26 years old
Stats: 58 GP, 4 G, 9 A, -14, 32 PIMS, 21:33 ATOI, 141 hits, 98
blocks, 5v5 CF % 47.6

Mark Fraser Shoots L (EDM): Fraser is a player Canadiens’ fans will
know well from his days with the Leafs. He is a big physical defenceman with
decent mobility who is not afraid to drop the gloves when necessary but his
limited offensive skills will not get him any time on the powerplay.

Contract Status: $1,275,000 this year, pending UFA, 27 years old
Stats: 23 GP, 0 G, 1 A, -10, 35 PIMS, 14:42 ATOI, 78 hits, 57

Ron Hainsey Shoots L (CAR): Hainsey is another player Hab fans know
well. Often criticized for being too soft, he is a big mobile defender who can
move the puck and would fit well on the bottom pairing. Carolina’s results in
their last few games before the deadline will go a long way to determining if
they are to become sellers at the deadline. 

Contract Status: $2,000,000 this year, pending UFA, 32 years old
Stats: 58 GP, 4 G, 8 A, -11, 32 PIMS, 21:08 ATOI, 72 hits, 80
blocks, 5v5 CF % 52.6

Mark Stuart Shoots L (WPG): Stuart is a typical physical stay at home
defenceman with decent mobility. He is not afraid to drop the gloves when
necessary and would be an upgrade over Murray on the third pairing. Winnipeg is
deep on defence which may make him expendable as he is set to become a UFA at
seasons end. Winnipeg is another team who is on the bubble in terms of being a
buyer or seller at the deadline so it will be interesting to see how their next
few games go.  

Contract Status: $1,800,000 this year, pending UFA, 29 years old
Stats: 47 GP, 2 G, 6 A, +6, 72 PIMS, 17:46 ATOI, 149 hits, 108
blocks, 5v5 CF % 45.9