Montreal Canadiens: Another year or another team for Nick Cousins?

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 17: Nick Cousins #21 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Minnesota Wild in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 17, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 17: Nick Cousins #21 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Minnesota Wild in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on October 17, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) /

With the Montreal Canadiens in the midst of trade deadline negotiations, Nick Cousins could be an interesting candidate to be resigned or moved.

It has been an up and down season for Nick Cousins in Montreal.

Following forward Andrew Shaw’s return this past summer to Chicago in a trade that was, at the time, considered foolish and a salary dump for player’s like Matt Duchene, whom the Habs had an unlikely chance of signing, fans and analysts alike wondered who could come in to fill the huge gap he left in the lineup.

As polarizing and controversial as he could be at times, Shaw had a fantastic final season in Montreal, posting 47 points in 63 games and always seemed to bounce back stronger and stronger from injury after injury. He brought a kind of energy to the team that hadn’t been seen since the days of Steve Begin, a player who simply never gave up. With all this in mind, it was going to be hard to find someone who could replace the qualities he brought.

Cue, Nick Cousins.

A 3rd round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, Cousins had just come off a career high 27 point season with an offensively weak Arizona Coyotes team, yet was not tendered a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.

On July 5th, he inked a 1 year, 1 million dollar deal with Montreal, providing further depth for their bottom six and in many ways, similar, if toned down qualities to Shaw. While he didn’t have quite the same offensive abilities, he did offer physicality and energy, registering 117 and 115 hits respectively in his 2 seasons with the Coyotes. While it was uncertain exactly where he would end up come the start of the season, he earned a roster spot originally as a injury fill in/13th forward.

However, after posting 2 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 games, he was given an extended look, and has since become a fixture in the teams bottom and at times top six and playing occasional power play and penalty kill minutes. He is being used all over the lineup. While he hasn’t been able to keep up his original pace, His 22 points in 56 games sits him at 9th on the team in scoring behind Artturi Lehkonen.

For a team that has been as hot and cold offensively as Montreal, Cousins has brought some solid depth scoring and a consistency in performance, albeit more off the puck than on it. With the Canadiens trade rumors increasing in regards to their game plan come the trade deadline, you have to wonder if a guy like Cousins will see himself resigned, or changing organizations.

With similar depth player Marco Scandella having already been shipped off to St. Louis, the idea of dealing away depth players for picks and or prospects is well known, and something the Canadiens are acutely familiar with. Players like Nate Thompson are likely candidates to be dealt, with Thompson’s playoff experience and face-off expertise being something most teams could make good use of. Even AHL forwards Phil Varone and Riley Barber were dealt to Pittsburgh to shake up the Laval Rocket’s roster and hopefully increase their playoff chances.

Cousins brings a lot of good qualities to the table, and has shown enough consistent offensive production these past 2 seasons that there’s no real gamble in acquiring him, unlike with other Canadiens forwards like Jordan Weal and Ilya Kovalchuk. Weal had 2 points in 28 games in Arizona before producing 10 in 16 games in Montreal last year, while Kovalchuk struggled in all facets of his game in LA, only to become a key performer for the Habs.

However, Cousin’s qualities could also be something Montreal wants to keep around, especially as questions regarding whether the team is rebuilding or sticking with the roster they have. Cousins is a player who could work in either scenario, being consistent, reliable, and still in his prime being only 26 years old. He’s very much a player that could go either way, and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out.

Bottom six depth is something many playoff bound teams want, as a good bottom six can be the difference maker in a playoff run. Where would the NY Rangers be had it not been for Stephane Matteau in 1994? Or the Canadiens with defensive players like Rick Chartraw and Rod Langway? Both these players were key parts of their respective teams Stanley Cup runs, despite a more defensive, depth role. Personally, I think Cousins deserves another year in Montreal, and its a no risk move if the teams resigns him, as he’s cheap, young, and dependable in most areas of his game.

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If he’s traded though, look for him to bring the same qualities to a hungry playoff bound team like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche. After all, sometimes its the most unlikely candidates that can have the biggest impact.