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The Sergei Gonchar-Travis Moen came as a surprise to pretty much everyone. 
While it was known that the Habs were looking for defensive depth, not many
thought they’d be seeking a $5 million player for that role and while Moen was
likely on the block, the expectation was that he’d likely go for a draft pick. 
Having had some time to ponder the deal, our writers weigh in on whether or not
this was a good trade for Montreal.

Simon Aronson: The Moen for Gonchar swap is a relatively minor
tweak for both teams which is largely based on salary cap management. Dallas has
gained some cap flexibility for this current season and will get additional
relief for next season with Jason Spezza, Shawn Horcoff, Erik Cole, and Rich
Peverley (currently on LTIR) all having expiring contracts. Montreal will take
on some extra salary this season, which they could afford to do but get their
cap relief next season with the final year of Moen’s contract no longer in play
for the team and with Gonchar’s contract expiring at the end of 2014-15.

The Canadiens did have an abundance of depth in their group of bottom six
forwards and have now converted some of that depth to the to the back end.
Despite Moen still being a useful penalty killer, the Habs have better and more
affordable options in Dale Weise, Manny Malhotra, and Michael Bournival. In
addition, Montreal will need the extra cap space next summer when Alex
Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, and Jarred Tinordi will all be
RFA’s, the first two looking at significant raises. Despite Gonchar no longer
being the elite offensive defenseman he once was, the move gives the team a
little extra insurance in case injuries and there is still a hope he can be a
useful contributor on the Canadiens’ dismal 8.5% powerplay.

Brian La Rose: At first glance, this seemed like the Habs were
‘renting’ their cap space to Dallas in exchange for freeing up some money for
next offseason.  Then, word came out that GM Marc Bergevin was trying to
acquire Gonchar since the summer.  As this suggests that they’re looking at
him to be more than just depth for whenever injuries arise, that changes my
outlook somewhat.

I’m surprised that the team is viewing Gonchar as an asset.  When he
signed his contract in the 2013 offseason, many couldn’t believe how pricey it
was for a player that was well past his prime.  He reminds me somewhat of
Tomas Kaberle in that he can help in a limited capacity (namely, offence and
passing) but is going to need sheltered minutes to avoid being too much of a
problem.  Considering the Habs have spent a considerable amount of their
cap space here, I’d have liked to have seen something more in return than a guy
who needs sheltered minutes to help the team.

That said, the market for defencemen is somewhat non-existent right now with
a lot of teams looking and not many selling so the fact that they added someone
without taking away too much from the roster is good.  I liked Moen more
than most but if his role was going to be the 13th forward, it’s probably best
that he moves on.  Yes, the trade forces one of the two young defenders to
the minors for now but on the flip side, it’s better to play big minutes in the
minors than play sparingly at practice with the big club.  All in all, I
don’t want to call this a bad trade but it’s not a great one either unless
Gonchar can play like he did against Boston on a regular basis.

Alex Létourneau: I’m pretty indifferent regarding the Moen/Gonchar
trade. Both players are past their primes, and while I can appreciate bulking up
the Canadiens depth on the back end, I question what a 40-year old veteran can
really bring to the table with a team built on defence and speed. He’s a power
play specialist, which should boost an anemic Montreal man-advantage unit, but
he has also been a minus player in four of the last five seasons. Maybe Nathan
Beaulieu can learn a thing or two from the veteran on the PP, assuming he
doesn’t lose his spot to him. As for Moen, he said it himself, he figured it was
coming. I appreciated his play in Montreal, but the brand of hockey he played
was at its strongest when he first joined the team. With Rene Bourque and Moen
out of the bottom six, there’s more room for some youngsters to carve out and
keep a spot. That’s great news for Jiri Sekac and Michael Bournival, who both
deserve to be in the lineup.

Paul MacLeod: Moen for Gonchar???!!! My first reaction was:
Why? Why now, when both Beaulieu and Tinordi are playing well? Why now when
their young defencemen are finally getting the regular season experience they
desperately need to develop? And most importantly, why a 40-year-old $5 million
Sergei Gonchar?!

After reflection, and reading that Bergevin has actually been trying to get
Gonchar for some time, my view of the trade has improved somewhat. I still don’t
like it, but Marc Bergevin must want him for a reason. Also, defencemen seem to
be at a real premium right now so having additional depth on defence has to be a
good thing. If Gonchar can add something to the powerplay and score a few goals
(with the youngsters still getting some minutes) this will turn out like the
Ryder-Cole trade. In other words, no long term impact, aside from the cap space
it clears up for next season. I really wish that Bergevin had been able to
finagle another throw-in draft pick though.

Louis Moustakas: The last time Montreal traded a forward to
Dallas in return for a blueliner, they sent Mike Ribeiro the other way in
exchange for a waning Janne Niinimaa. The Moen-Gonchar trade should prove far
less lopsided. We know Montreal gets some cap benefit next season, as they have
vacated Moen’s final year, and we know that Gonchar, at 40 years old, is no
spring flower anymore. Coming off a 22-point season last year, the Russian
blueliner is not a magic fix for the team’s ailing powerplay. What he can
provide, though, is another option on the back end and some fresh offensive
ideas. More so than points, the ability to create new options may be the first
step to repairing the man-advantage. In the few instances the Habs have drawn
penalties, they have simply not shown the creativity to provoke fear in their
opponents. Also, with around 1,500 games of professional and international
experience, it can’t hurt to have some of his knowledge rub off on Nathan
Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi, both of whom have failed to impose themselves thus

As for Moen, his grit and leadership will be missed, but he has looked far older
than his 32 years would suggest and has been outpaced by younger arrivals such
as Michael Bournival and Jiri Sekac. A penalty killing specialist, he won’t hurt
Dallas’ 26th ranked unit either.

Norm Szcyrek: I admit I am a bit conflicted when it comes to
the trade. Let me clarify this by stating I am not against the Habs moving Moen.
He has been a useful player in the past but is limited to excelling in penalty
killing situations only this season. Since his contract ends after the following
season while Gonchar’s is over at the end of this season is a benefit to the

Where I am at odds with this trade is the fact that it will take away ice
time from the two rookies that need that time, in Jarred Tinordi and Nathan
Beaulieu. The coach seemed to be rotating each one in and out of the lineup for
a few games at a time, which is a rational strategy. When Alexei Emelin was
injured for a couple of games, both were able to play and were partnered with
veterans, with few blemishes in their games. Gonchar’s arrival will relegate one
to the 7th position, or more likely the press box and the other to the minors.
The GM talked about wanting to give these two young players confidence. But how
is that going to happen when they see a 40 year old veteran come over in an
early season trade to take away their chance to play? I know young players need
to be patient, but I’m not convinced that either one was a liability when they
played. This type of trade seems like a trade deadline type of manoeuvre to me.
The key to this will be Gonchar’s help on the powerplay which has been anemic
this season, one of the worst in the league. In his first game with the Bruins,
the team was much improved in that area with Gonchar looking very good. Overall
in that game they were 1/5, a 20% success rate. If they can continue on that
type of clip then this trade may be a win for the Habs.