The Montreal Canadiens have had plenty of ups and downs already this season. The campaign got off to an inconsistent start, before the Habs went on an incredible 9-0-1 tear in late November and into December.
Just when it appeared all was well in Hab land, the Canadiens goal scoring dried up. Montreal was knocked back to reality thanks to a 6-0 beat down at the hands of the L.A.Kings. That loss began a streak of six games where the Habs scored just seven goals. The Canadiens have rediscovered the back of the opponents net since, and have pasted together a 4-2-3 record despite some unsteady play.
Montreal currently holds a record of 26-15-5, good enough to be safely in the Eastern Conference postseason picture. In fact, the Habs are third in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the wide open East. Montreal only trail the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in their division, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins who are pounding on their Metropolitan Division rivals.
The Habs have shown in recent years they are capable of competing with the Bruins, and would be a coin toss as to who is favored to win a series against the Lightning. The Penguins have not been great against the Atlantic this year, and have been a disaster in recent playoffs.
What this all means is there is no favorite in the East, and with Carey Price playing the way he is, the Canadiens could see themselves making a serious run in the postseason. A run through the East that is, because whoever makes the Stanley Cup Final will be run over by the St. Louis Blues, or Kings, or Anaheim Ducks, or Chicago Blackhawks or even the San Jose Sharks.
So the opportunity is there to make some noise in the playoffs. But would Marc Bergevin be willing to part with a few future assets to bring in the help needed to take out the Lightning and Bruins?
It is painfully obvious the Habs would need to add a goal scorer if they want to make it anywhere this season. Come to think of it, getting Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray out of the lineup would be a big help as well. The Habs have one of the best goals against in the league, but that is all Carey Price, and not so much their group of defenders.
So let’s jump in to fantasy land and find a few trades that would make the Canadiens a favorite in the East. On the shopping list are a left winger who can snipe, and a defenseman who can make Price’s job a little easier down the stretch. The potential recruits would currently be playing on a team that is going nowhere, and would likely be an unrestricted free agent in July.
The perfect fits would both come from the New York Islanders. A couple of problems come with this theory though. First, the goal scoring winger is Thomas Vanek and he would cost an absolute fortune to acquire, and even more to keep if an extension were ever to be worked out. Weirdly, Vanek was already traded this season and it cost the Isles a sniper in Matt Moulson and first and second round picks. Needless to say Long Island would be looking for a similar package to move him again.
Then there is Andrew MacDonald on the blue line. The Judique native is an amazing shot blocker, minute muncher, and has displayed a much improved offensive game this season. MacDonald would add some flexibility to the Habs defense, as he could play on any pairing. A-Mac would fit perfectly alongside P.K. Subban or Andrei Markov, or he could be used as a shutdown pairing with Josh Gorges or Alexei Emelin.
Even though I think Vanek would be a perfect fit, I also think he is out of the Habs price range. But MacDonald? Maybe the Islanders can’t reach an agreement with him and decide to move him before he walks via free agency. I like the Islanders prospects on D, so what if the Habs offered Charles Hudon and a 2nd rounder for Andrew? Or maybe the Isles want someone a little closer to NHL ready and Montreal is done with Louis Leblanc? Could be a fit there somewhere if Bergevin decides to take a bit of risk.
As for that scoring forward, the Canadiens could go after the man traded for Vanek, if the Austrian sniper is too pricey. Moulson has soft hands and a goal scorers touch around the net. He could work extremely well on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. It would cost the Habs their first round pick in the upcoming draft, but that is the price teams pay to make a run in the playoffs.
There are plenty of other scorers who could be had if the first round pick is dangled as trade bait. Jaromir Jagr has been rumored to be on his way to Montreal since he shaved his mullet, and is once again a rental. Mike Cammalleri left on terrible terms under former management, but the Flames would be willing to move him for future hope.
An interesting move could be going after Marian Gaborik, although the Slovakian sniper is almost always injured. The Blue Jackets are once again outside of the playoff race and are unlikely to re-sign Gaborik, so he could be on the move.
What say you Habs fan? Would you be willing to package Hudon with first and third round picks if it meant MacDonald and one of Moulson/Jagr/Cammalleri were coming to Montreal?
I know moving future pieces is heart wrenching, but the East is open for the taking, and sometimes it takes a bold trade to move a franchise in the right direction.