Possible trades for the Habs?

Sure, we’re two months away from the NHL trade deadline, but because of the Olympic break, there’s only 17 games until then (and actually only one after the break).

So really, the Habs need to spend this next month looking at its roster and deciding what they want to do.

The biggest need is obvious: More scoring help.

So I figured I would help out Bob Gainey (we all know he needs it), and show him what he could get before the March 3 deadline.

To keep this post semi-short, I decided to use teams that are struggling and may not make the playoffs.

To make these trades doable, I figured I would focus on guys who were free agents at the end of the year, unless there were already Montreal trade rumours involved with certain players. 

And these trades hinge on the fact Montreal would be contenders for a playoff spot. If they fall way out of the race, they’ll be sellers more than buyers.

Let’s start off with the west.

Edmonton: With the Oilers free-falling, they may be looking at some trades to a) shake things up, b) get rid of cap space and c) get some help for next year. I’ve read they may be wanting to get rid of Sheldon Souray’s contract, but the Habs won’t want, or be able to afford, his $5.4 million a year salary.

More likely to be traded is Fernando Pisani. He’s been out since Nov. 11 with ulcerative colitis. But he’s not exactly what the Habs need either.

The best bet for the Habs would be Mike Comrie. He’s a free agent next summer and his salary is only $1.25 million, so the Habs would only need to pay a portion of that. Comrie can chip in with some extra offence (he gets a point about every second game: not great, but better than Sergei Kostitsyn). Comrie would probably only cost a draft pick.

Anaheim: The Ducks have a few guys who they might be willing to part with, considering the decline in the team’s game this year. Unrestricted free agents include Scott Niedermeyer, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. I doubt Montreal will trade for Koivu, since they let him walk last season. Niedermeyer is not what they need, and he makes too much money.

So that leaves Selanne. Making $2,625,000 this year, Selanne could retire at the end of the season. The Ducks would be looking for youth, and I think they would need some defence if they trade Niedermeyer (and since they also traded Pronger last summer). Montreal has some extra defencemen now, and P.K. Subban will probably make the team next year.

So how about either Ryan O’Byrne or Josh Georges and a draft pick for Selanne. Montreal’s defence is still Hall Gill, Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Marc-Andre Bergeron and either O’Byrne or Georges (which ever one isn’t a part of this trade). That’s seven good defencemen, and with Mara and Bergeron free agents this summer, leaves room for a young guy next year.

The problem with this trade is that it may not be enough, especially if you have other teams also making a push for Selanne (which they probably will). So the Habs may need to add an extra prospect to the mix, depending of what the draft pick they would give.

St. Louis: With Chris Mason being a free agent next year, the Blues might be interested in trading for Jaroslav Halak. The problem is the Blues don’t have a lot to offer the Habs. They won’t be trading their young players, and their veterans make too much money (Paul Kariya, for example, makes $6 million a year).

I can’t see there being any deal made between the two teams, unless St. Louis is willing to give up someone like TJ Oshie or David Backes for Halak (and I don’t think they would be willing to).

Toronto: The Leafs are in a tough situation for the Habs to be able to make a trade with. They have 11 unrestricted free agents this summer, but they’re mostly third or fourth liners. The Habs have enough of those type of players, so I can’t see much of a deal getting done.

As an aside, look for the Leafs to sign a major player this summer. They only have about $35 million in cap space for next year, so I anticipate they’ll try to make a big splash in the free agent pool.

Carolina: The rumour going around is that Carolina officials wants half of the team gone for next year, so they’ll be the easiest trading parter.

Matt Cullen would be a good pickup, but I prefer Ray Whitney (I also think Erik Cole could be gotten for cheap, as he’s not having the greatest season, but he’s not a free agent in the summer). I think the Habs could make a good deal for Whitney.

I would like to see the Habs offer Andrei Kostitsyn for Whitney. The Habs would then clear up some cap space for next year (they have $45 million already tied up next season, and at least Price, Halak, D’Agostini, Lapierre, Pouliot, Sergei Kostitsyn and Plekanec to sign). I don’t think Kostitsyn will ever live up to his billing of a 10th overall pick, and he’s too streaky a player to keep. Trading him for Whitney gives Carolina a good young player to help their team in the future, and helps Montreal by clearing cap space.

Philadelphia: I’m breaking away from the free agency rule for this one, because of the rumours of Halak to Philly for Jeff Carter.

I still think some version of this trade will happen (yes, I know the Philly GM has said he’s not trading Carter, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. How many times in the past have we heard about such and such a coach not being fired, and then he gets fired?). Ray Emery will be a free agent next summer, and that experiment has pretty much failed. I also don’t think Philly wants to keep Brian Boucher as their #1 goalie.

Philly is up against the cap, with about $47 million tied up next year, but only three defencemen signed and Boucher being the only goalie.

So the two teams should be able to swing a trade. I expect it to be Halak, Max Pacioretty and Sergei Kostitsyn for Carter. The Flyers get their #1 goalie, and two young skilled players who won’t cost a lot. The Habs get a good young leader and someone who can help offensively. It also helps the Habs because they don’t need to worry about resigning both goalies this summer.

Atlanta: Ilya Kovalchuk? Is it possible the Habs could make an offer for the 50-goal scorer?

I hope so. They were in the Marian Hossa sweepstakes a couple of years back, and the still have enough young guys that a trade would be possible. For Kovalchuk, Atlanta would want at least what they received for Hossa, and probably a little but more.

To recap, Hossa and Pascal Dupuis were traded for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2008. So look for the Thrashers to be getting some quality players in a trade. Can the Habs do it? I think so. Here’s what I was envisioning:

Kovalchuk for Maxim Lapierre, Andre Kostitsyn, PK Subban and a first-rounder.

Of course, this is the kind of deal that can only happen if the Habs are in a playoff run. But Gainey needs the team to make it to at least the second round this season, because the team hasn’t done well in the playoffs since he’s been in charge.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Habs can’t make all these trades. But just say they make the Anaheim, Philly and Carolina deals.

All of a sudden, their lines look like this:

Cammalleri - Plekanec – Ray Whitney

Carter – Lapierre - Selanne

Pouliot - Gomez – Gionta

Laraque - Metropolit - Moen

Markov – Gorges

Hamrlik - Spacek

Gill – Bergeron

Price (and a backup from Hamilton)

This puts the Habs a bit over the cap space this year, but they’ve saved on some salary because of injuries earlier this season (if a player is on injured reserve for 10 games or more, the team saves the salary while that person is injured) to Markov, Gionta and a few others.

They would lose guys like Selanne, Whitney, Mara, etc. over the summer, giving them some cap space to sign Price, Plekanec and whoever else they need to sign.

And what about next season? No worries. With those trades, and a few resignings (Pouliot for $800,000, Lapierre for $900,000, Plekanec for $5 million and Price for $3 million), the Habs have 15 players on their roster, and $2.3 million in cap space, if the cap doesn’t go up. That leaves more than enough to sign some fourth line guys (or use guys from Hamilton).

See, it’s not that difficult to make trades. A couple of drafts picks and youth, and we have a potential 50-goal scorer for next season in Carter, more depth up front, and you create some room for other young guys to crack the lineup.

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