With the trade deadline less than 48 hours away, there has been much speculation about the direction the Montreal Canadiens brass should take. As Mathieu Roy pointed out a few days ago, no one expected the Canadiens to be in their current position – which raises the question of whether it would be wise to try to bolster the current lineup with pending UFAs (and counter the moves the Pittsburgh Penguins made last week) or make smaller depth moves that don’t mortgage the future or disrupt their surprisingly good chemistry. In many ways, the decision is based on whether Marc Bergevin feels that his team is in the league of the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks-types in the league, in which case a few moves could bolster the lineup to make a run for the Stanley Cup. At this point, the Montreal Canadiens sure look like an elite team, but with a young core, I don’t know if there’s the urgency to make a run at an elite pickup at the deadline. At any rate, these are some of the players that would fit well into the current system.
1. Mark Giordano. A 6′, 200 pound left-shooting defenceman currently playing for the Calgary Flames, a team that might be looking to sell some assets. Giordano is a solid defenceman who can provide some offence, with a career high of 43 points (8-35 in 82 games) in 2010-2011. His numbers last season were 27 points (8-18) in 61 games. He’s only 29 so should be heading into the prime of his career. He would slot in nicely alongside Francis Bouillon on the 3rd D-pairing and would allow Therrien to roll the 3 D pairings. He isn’t a UFA until 2016-2017 however, which might complicate things under the falling salary cap. His cap hit, according to Capgeek, is just over $4 million annually, which might be a bit too high
2. Jaromir Jagr. Ah, Jagr. An endless love story with the Canadiens in many ways – from saying he wanted to play here then signing with the Philadelphia Flyers, Jaromir Jagr is often seen as an excellent potential line mate to Tomas Plekanec. A winger with size (and still in excellent shape), he’s putting up good numbers even without playing beside Claude Giroux this year – 14 goals and 12 assists in 33 games so far. I’m not sure where he would currently be slotted into the lineup, but he would definitely be a welcomed addition for the playoff run. He’s a UFA at the end of the year, so that makes it more likely than picking up someone with huge term and money left. There is sure to be a list of suitors for Jagr, but hopefully Bergevin can use one of those 2nd rounders he stockpiled to get the veteran into bleu-blanc-rouge.
3. Dustin Penner. I might get a lot of flack for this one, but I think he could come pretty cheaply and be a big body (6’5 and 245 pounds) to screen the net at the very least. He’s currently in the doghouse in Los Angeles, with only 11 points in 25 games so far this season and has been a healthy scratch at times. He’s scheduled to be a UFA in July and definitely isn’t the same player that netted 30 goal seasons for the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, but I think he could be at the very least be useful in limited playing time (maybe in Colby Armstrong‘s spot and some PP duty in front of the net). The major knock on him is that he’s lazy and doesn’t have excellent conditioning, so I’m not sure that Michel Therrien would be a big fan of what he could provide the Canadiens. This would be probably a cheap pickup that could either be great for reviving Penner‘s career or a bust, but it wouldn’t be a huge risk for Bergevin.
4. Adrian Aucoin. The veteran D-man could bring some additional experience and depth to the blue line. He won’t be counted on for scoring, but he might provide some additional options for the mediocre penalty kill. Also, he’s a right-handed shot which could be helpful considering Subban is the only one on the roster currently (other than the injured Diaz and pressbox stalwart Yannick Weber). He’s a UFA with a small $2.25 cap hit, which gets even tinier with the proration.
5. Hal Gill. A fan favorite, particularly for his penchant for sprawling out on the ice while killing 5 on 3 powerplays during the 2010 magical playoff run, Gill was traded to Nashville for Blake Geoffrion (who has since retired after a severe concussion) and a pick at last year’s deadline. He has one year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $2 million, so he might come cheap. This would be a depth move that would be good for the penalty kill as well as the room – Gill was a highly respected veteran on his first go-around.
I think either of these 5 moves would be more reasonable and in line with Bergevin’s strategy thus far than overpaying for a few weeks of a struggling Ryane Clowe. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the Canadiens stood pat on deadline day, but I’d be happy with a small depth addition to either the D-corps or a physical forward.
That’s a wrap on this entry, and please come back for our live-blog tonight for the Canadiens-Hurricanes game!