Habs Face Huge Season Defining Challenge by Jamie Gilcig DEC 7, 2016

CORNWALL ONTARIO – This has been an interesting season for the Montreal Canadiens.   When I wrote in March that the Habs should go hard to land Alex Radulov I had a hunch he was primed to make a major contribution to the team.

Combined with Carey Price’s return, and Shea Weber proving he’s not washed up, the team sits pretty at the top of the NHL standings.

However, as the season has progressed teams tighten up as is the norm and has seen the Habs become a more middle of the pack team.  Montreal is fairly easy to play against.  While they roll four lines, only one had really been clicking and now team scoring leader and center Alex Galchenyuk is out for nearly two months.    This week he was joined by the much maligned David Desharnais which means the Habs are down two centres.

Now both skaters have issues and Centre is the team’s biggest issue heading toward the playoffs.

Tomas Plekanec showed some spark, but the if GM Marc Bergevin is serious about making a cup run he will have to pull the trigger on a trade.

Who’s available?   Well of course you can’t write in certain terms, but here is a short list of potentials.

This season compounds trades.   The last place Avalanche for example are only 10 points out from being a middle of the pack team, and a wild card spot.   They also have 5 games in hand which if they wan all, would be those ten points.

In other words, while it’s not looking good for most of the bottom ten teams in they league, they are far from mathematically eliminated.

That and cap considerations makes for interesting trade limits.   Montreal does have some flexibility.   Shaw & Daneault can play centre, but neither is a cup contending solution.   Mike McCarron has not shown a future as a top six centre.

The hottest name in the rumor market isn’t much of a solution either, but might be a useful add on.

I’m not a fan of rentals in the cap age.  PK Subban was a 2rd pick which is the price of most useful rentals.  It only goes up from there for key players expecting to have an impact.   You can’t afford to really trade away your future for a short term lottery ticket.

Likewise, I’m not a fan of waiting to the deadline as it takes time for players to find their strides and get used to their new teams.

The Habs are 4-4-2 in their last ten games.  And even though 5 of those were on the road there is cause for concern.

Even if they can address the issue at Centre, there still is a need on D, and Shea Weber shouldn’t be playing the heavy minutes he’s being forced to.

And the Habs best potential dance partners?

Colorado.    While sports talk radio fans will sport names like Matt Duchene (not likely) and Jarome Igninla (possible) the Habs if dancing with Joe Sakic should target Francois Beauchemin who is still a warrior and is one year off a 34 point season with 100 hits.   He’s on contract for next season as well and at 36 is perfect for a bottom pairing and specialty team character guy. His $4.5 cap hit is a bit pricey, but cup runs rarely come cheap.   He does have a no movement clause.   Would he want to come home to la belle province?

Arizona.    While I’m not a fan of Martin Hanzal, the Habs could clearly use him as a rental depending on the price.   There is potential for him to be resigned, but this is not a real solution to the Habs situation up the middle.

Shane Doan is being bandied, but I’m not sure the return for the cost would be key.  He’s taken a lot of face offs this year so again, situationally might be a good fit at a huge cost.

Nashville.    Mike Ribeiro might just be what Max Pacioretty can use to kick start his season.    He’d be an upgrade over Desharnais that probably wouldn’t be an expensive pick up if the Preds would let him go.  Odds are that wouldn’t happen unless they fell out of contention.

Winnipeg.    Probably one of Montreal’s best potential trade partners.    The Jets have done a great job of not only putting together a good cap team, but building a base that has cup potential themselves.     While the low hanging fruit might be to consider asking for some of the Jets veterans that might be available perhaps the best option might be Russian Alex Burmistrov.   Russians seem to like Quebec’s culture and playing here.  Perhaps Alex might up his game playing for the Habs than in Winnipeg?  His $1.55 cap hit certainly is friendly enough, and he’s only 25.

The question with Winnipeg is what they would want from Montreal?

Toronto.   The Leafs have some pieces of interest, at least short term.    Tyler Bozak gets a lot of flak in some hockey circles, but would make a good band aid if he could be acquired cheaply enough.

Buffalo.    I personally like Evander Kane a lot, but then I liked Rube Waddell.  I think Jeff Franson would help the back end.  It all comes down to price though and how much it would cost to acquire either player.

The problem for Montreal is what can they give up other than draft picks?    And I’d give up a pick in the right trade without hesitation if we’re all in.

Nathan Beaulieu is one asset I’d trade.  He’s young, has a good cap hit, and upside.  Montreal has two other D men drafted in the first round coming up.  They also have Brett Lernout, who I like a lot, and wouldn’t trade unless offered a bunch.

Can Montreal make a move? Yes, as long as it’s not selling out the farm, or is a real hockey move to trade for a major piece to add to the team.

What do you think Hab fans?  You can post your comments below.


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