Filling Roles Should be Canadiens Focus At the Deadline

The Montreal Canadiens have enjoyed an excellent season so far, a strong revival after missing the playoffs last season. They are merely 3 points from first overall in the Eastern Conference and with that have come thoughts of the team possibly challenging for the Stanley Cup.
Many have felt that the Habs are a top forward away from truly being cup contenders and are really hoping GM Bob Gainey makes a big splash at the trade deadline.

However, its really the smaller parts that the Habs need to fill in order to have the kind of team that can play against all styles and opponents during a long playoff run.

They have the goaltending. Cristobal Huet has been terrific and as long as he can stay healthy, he is who the Habs will pretty much ride to the end. I think they will need Jaroslav Halak and/or Carey Price to step in and be able to give Huet a breather. Huet has been known to break down and get hurt and thus it is imparative the Habs keep their top goalie fresh. But, they have depth here and no additions will be needed prior to February 26th.

Their D is very good as they have a solid big 3 with Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek and Roman Hamrlik. They are lacking depth behind them however. It looks like the team has loads of depth with 2 of their blueliners, Mathieu Dandenault and Mark Streit playing up front regularly and Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon providing decent play as the 3rd pair. The team needs a steady reliable defenceman to supplant their big 3 and help eat up minutes. Their PK has not been that great, so someone on the backend to help along those lines would be preferable. Also, if this player could add another physical presence to help Komisarek that would be an added bonus.

There are a very limited amount of sellers out there looking to trade away defencemen. So the choices are rather limited but there are a few bodies out there that could be had that could really help Montreal. But here are 3 players who could fill a need for the Canadiens:
  • Steve Staois – (cap hit of 2.9 million for next 3 seasons) He carries a pretty rich deal at almost 3 million over the next 3 seasons which is plenty for a player his age. But he is a player who can play a ton of minutes and help a team in all types of situations. He has invaluable experience which would be another asset for a young team.
  • Karlis Skrastins – (cap hit of 2.4 million through next season) He is a hard working gritty performer who would add some sandpaper to the backend. He can play big minutes if necessary but would just be a guy to add depth and help the PK. The former NHL ironman has struggled with injuries of late which is a concern.
  • Brad Stuart – (UFA at end of season) Stuart would be a pure rental which would be attractive in terms of cap space for upcoming seasons. He has the size and willingness to play physical, yet has offence to fit into how the Habs play. He also can play 30 minutes if necessary.
Up front, the concern expressed from the media and the fans is that the Habs do not have enough scoring at even strength. That is true as they have been outscored 5 on 5 so far this year but offence is not a big issue.

Skill is in large supply in Montreal. Alex Kovalev has been nothing short of terrific. He leads the team in all offensive categories and has been a huge key to keeping the Habs among the best in terms of the powerplay. But his best asset has been making whomever he has played with better.

Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn have reaped the benefits playing on his line and with the likes of Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins, Sergei Kostitsyn, Bryan Smolinski, Michael Ryder and Guilluame Latendresse, there is plenty of skill in this lineup. Yes, finding someone to bury some even strength chances would be a boost to the lineup, but there are far more greater needs here for the team.

Simply put the Habs are soft. They are willing, but simply not gritty or tough enough to withstand a physical pounding. Some big phyical players who can play regular shifts are exactly what the Habs need (preferably a centre who can win faceoffs). In a 7 game series, the Habs would be prone to getting worn down physically. And no the answer does not lie within. Steve Begin, Tom Kostopolous, Kyle Chipchura, Latendresse, Max Lapierre, these guys for sure can play a gritty game, but these are not players coach Guy Carbonneau can lean on a regular basis.

The team could use a boost in terms of size, experience, grit, leadership and defensive play up front and there are players there for the taking.
  • Chris Gratton (UFA at seasons end) – Gratton is exactly the type of player Montreal could use. He is an excellent faceoff man which could fill a huge void, but his best asset is his size and willingness to play rough. He also has the skillset to mesh well with the Habs speedy, talented forwards. If necessary he could play the wing as well. His versatility would be a real boost for Carbonneau in terms of matching up against teams with physical top end forwards.
  • Bobby Holik (UFA at seasons end) – Holik is a leader who knows how to win. He could mesh well with a very Euro heavy dressing room. He is that big checking centre who has proven in the past that he can be a shutdown guy. And he is exactly the dirty, in your face player who could add a different element to the team.
  • Martin Lapointe (UFA at seasons end) – Long rumoured to come to Montreal, Lapointe is another gritty hard nosed forward with championship experience. He is past his prime, but he could fill in that role that Brad May filled for the champion Ducks. It was the only move Anaheim made at the deadline but it gave them a spare part very capaable of filling in on the top 3 lines. Lapointe would be that kind of player for Montreal and someone who has scored big playoff goals in the past.
These are just 3 players who could help Montreal in a big way. One of the reasons they have struggled at home is because teams are able to run over the Habs at the Bell Centre due to the team’s softness. Getting a couple of forwards like those above would increase team toughness. They dont need a brawler or a policeman, they need someone who can fill in many roles but the key one being a guy willing to mix it up and keep teams honest. We saw how physically wearing down a team was key in the Ducks winning the cup last year. Its an element Gainey needs to bring into his team for the long playoff grind.

While it is sexier to acquire a Olli Jokinen or a Marian Hossa or a Dan Boyle or a Peter Forsberg and make a big deadline move, its sometimes the smaller moves, the ones that add key depth and fill in key roles that sometimes makes the difference.

I dont think it is a good idea for the Habs, not even one year removed from missing the playoffs to tinker all that much or dip too heavily into their large number of good young players. The team should be allowed to grow together and the only way to do so is to give it time.

The team has some tradeable parts.
  • Michael Ryder needs to go. He has struggled and is a UFA at seasons end. He has been benched
    by Carbonneau and is basically a one dimensional scorer who cannot score. He needs a fresh start. The Habs are likely to get very little in return but who knows. There could be a team out there desperate for scoring enough to give up a high pick or a prospect.
  • Jaroslav Halak is Montreal’s most popular goalie ever. Popular in the sense the media and fans want to get rid of him. He is a good goalie prospect, but as we have seen this year, the goalie market is practically non-existent. If a top end guy like Ilya Bryzgalov had no takers and was forced to be waived, no team will pay up a top 6 forward or top 3 blueliner for Halak or a package that centres around Halak.
  • There has been some feeling that the team could move one of their many blueline bodies for help up front. In the playoffs, you really cannot have enough defencemen and if they keep them around, even if it means Streit and Dandenault playing up front, so be it.
  • Of the teams young players, the hot names teams want are the likes of Price, Chipchura, the Kostitsyns, Higgins, Ryan McDonaugh or Max Pacioretty. If I were Bob Gainey, I would listen and maybe get interested if the talks centred around acquiring a top line forward or a top pair blueiner that is not a rental. If the Habs wanted such a player they will have no choice but to dip into their youth and trade off one of their better young assets. For example, if they were interested in Vincent Lecavalier, the Habs would at least have to give up one of Higgins or Price. Anything less would be a non-starter.
  • They have some attractive youth they could part with. The Habs could move players like PK Subban, Mathieu Carle, Mikael Grabovski, Alexander Perezhogin, Alexei Emelin and/or some high draft picks, but that would only be for rentals or solid role players like the ones mentioned above. It is sometimes laughable at some of the rumours spread around by the media and fans in Montreal but I guess thats a by-product of teams overvaluing the players they have.
So here we have a team with some needs, some players available to them to acquire and some players they have to make available for trade. Therefore there is good potential for Bob Gainey to do something by the deadline. However he will be fighting with like 25 other teams who are currently still in the thick of the playoff race with needs themselves to fill. It will be interesting to see what the Canadiens do over the next 3 weeks.

75 Responses to Filling Roles Should be Canadiens Focus At the Deadline

  1. Lord says:

    Here's the 3 moves that can be made by the Montreal Canadiens:

    To Montreal : Bobby Ryan, Bertuzzi
    To Anaheim : Koivu, Ryder, (1st 2008 or Fisher)

    Koivu will play with Selanne and bring that extra offensive that Ducks need. Montreal gets 2 big guys, what they need to go far in the playoffs.

    To Montreal : Forsberg
    Nothing to give up. And with Koivu and Ryder out, we have the money to sign him for 2 or 3 years.

    Name Kovalev the team captain.

    The lines can be:
    A. Kostitsyn – Plekanec – Kovalev
    Higgins – Forsberg – Bertuzzi
    Latendresse – Lapierre – S. Kostitsyn
    Begin – Smolinski – Kostopoulos

    next year, bring Bobby in

    What do you think ?
    Is Montreal a contender with that lines up front?

  2. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    With a healthy Forsberg(foot) and Bertuzzi(back) this team is the champ. Unfortunately neither of those players will ever be themselves again. I like the Bobby Ryan idea. In a perfect world, I love this team. It's to much of a gamble in reality. But I'm a gambler, I'd do it. Bob won't.

    Throw in George Parros and I'm in heaven. Did anyone see him dismantle Riley Cote? I love the 'stache.

  3. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    Vyborny is a chump. He's proven only maybe that he's average. Ryder has a bigger upside. As far as the UFA's, the one with the most value is Huet. He needs to be traded before the deadline in a package with Ryder and maybe Koivu, a pick or two and a prospect for a big body with a big name. I wouldn't trade a bag of pucks for Vyborny.

  4. mojo19 says:

    So you put Nagy on the right side, no big deal.

  5. mojo19 says:

    Price is a must in any deal for Lecavalier. You can take out one of the 1st rounders and put in something else, but you gotta give up top tier, drafted young talent for one of the games best franchise players. That means no Price, no deal.

  6. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    With a healthy Forsberg(foot) and Bertuzzi(back) this team is the champ. Unfortunately neither of those players will ever be themselves again. I like the Bobby Ryan idea. In a perfect world, I love this team. It's to much of a gamble in reality. But I'm a gambler, I'd do it. Bob won't.

    Throw in George Parros and I'm in heaven. Did anyone see him dismantle Riley Cote? I love the 'stache.

  7. habsrock99 says:

    Trust me, Vyborny is A LOT better then Michael Ryder. Ryder, at his best, is a 2nd line RW where as Vyborny can be a 1st Liner and would be a better player to have because he's responsible defensively and is someone who doesn't take very many penalties. Plus Vyborny's a lot faster and more skilled then Ryder.

    As far as trading Huet, as much as I'd like that to happen, it wouldn't be smart because we're right in the middle of a tremendous season and we could possibly make some noise come Play-Off time and we need the Play-Off experience. I'd wait to trade him before the Draft and maybe try get a 1st Round Pick from a team desperate for a goalie. And it'd be realistic because Huet's the only proven starting goalie who's available come July 1st and teams would be willing to offer a lot to get a chance to ink him before he hits the open market.

    As for trading Koivu, it'd be incredibly stupid to do so. You never ever trade your Captain during the Season because it completely deflates the morale of your team. Not to mention, Koivu's earned the right to remain Montreal's Captain as he's seen this team through some of the worst years in franchise history.

    Plus, their aren't any big name players out their who are available to Montreal outside of Hossa. Vinny isn't available. Jokinen isn't avaialabe(until I actually witness Jokinen saying he wants out, I won't believe it), Tanguay isn't available to Montreal (He said it himself), Sundin would be a mistake to get, Marleau doesn't look like he's going anywhere, Fedorov would be a mistake to get, Richards isn't available, St, Louis isn't available and that's all the names I can name off the top of my head. 

  8. habsrock99 says:

    It's still the fact that it's a huge gamble to take when the guy disappaears for 15 games at a time, we already have that in Ryder lol. Plus, I have this feeling that he's acting very much like Kovalev did last year. I have no basis on that theory but it's just a feeling I have. And I just don't see him being able to work with Koivu.

  9. percussio says:

    My lord, do people actually think when they say these things ?! Vincent Lecavalier ?!  Forsberg and Bertuzzi ?!

    This is why you wouldnt be at the helm of a sunday school back yard hockey team.

    Here's a trade proposal for you geniuses … how bout GOD !!!! We cant lose. He's coming in the post season, he told me himself. We just CANT lose with this guy !

    You guys sound like Micheal Jordan … playing baseball … all talk but no game !

    Stop wasting our time and space on the site please.

  10. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    Congratulations on regurgitating alot of BS in your last post. I don't think there was one original idea. The Habs need one big trade to put them over the top. We don't need Huet. We need what we can get for Huet. As far as Price, he's ready. He cried because he's a competitor, a champion. Immature? Maybe. Ready to win? I'd say yes, but you only know if you let him play. Having Huet here undermines his confidence. Huet won't be here next year either way, so trade him or lose him. Price is the man. You are unoriginal. And I'm sure you'd love to helm a sunday school back yard team. What kind of sunday school plays hockey in a back yard? With God and Michael Jordan? I'm confused.

  11. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    Congratulations on regurgitating alot of BS in your last post. I don't think there was one original idea. The Habs need one big trade to put them over the top. We don't need Huet. We need what we can get for Huet. As far as Price, he's ready. He cried because he's a competitor, a champion. Immature? Maybe. Ready to win? I'd say yes, but you only know if you let him play. Having Huet here undermines his confidence. Huet won't be here next year either way, so trade him or lose him. Price is the man. You are unoriginal. And I'm sure you'd love to helm a sunday school back yard team. What kind of sunday school plays hockey in a back yard? With God and Michael Jordan? I'm confused.

  12. percussio says:

    What I was trying to imply, through painful sarcasm, was that we all have our little pipe dreams but lets keep this site about reality.

    We all wish we had Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin or even Lecavalier but … let's face it, he aint going anywhere.

    We need more pertinent and well researched articles to keep sites like these going or the threads become ridiculous and redundant.

    I want to read an article that takes into account every variable that a GM would have to account for such as

    – salary cap
    – other GM's willingness to part ways with their player
    – players interest and if they have a no trade clause
    – willingness to spend X amount on player
    – chemistry brought vs chemistry take away on a line
    – unique situations (ex. no major move will be made in Tampa due to its ownership issues)

    The truth is Vinny is a concession player. He is an all star and as you yourself stated, the best player in the league right now.

    Now why in gods name, would Tampa trade that ? Feaster will lose his job on the spot if he does. You will have Price in nets … but now you lose the cornerstone of your offense.

    And on why would the Habs give Price away ? Gainey is building around him. Now that the Habs have an amazing team on their hands, getting better and better with their young talent and prospects, we have the power to attract very good free agents.

    Yes I want Koivu out, yes I think Huet should be traded, but this isnt NHL 2008 for Xbox where you can subtly sheme your way through trades that could never happen in real life until you have an all star team.

    You have to consider the reality of what will happen. Its not in Gaineys character to get rid of Saku. It just isnt.

    Lets face it, even Lecavalier himself along with many other french canadian stars have admitted their desire not to play in Montreal. Plus, he lives in Florida man. He gets to be a superstar but low key compared to him. No shoveling snow, not nearly as many taxes and mainly not merely the same mediatic pressure and harrasment.

    These are the things I consider when posting because I respect others and dont just want to throw anything out there.

  13. TimTheBone says:

    Well the Rick Nash thing was purely fantasy by me as I stated. And about the whole argument on Vinny, it's not as pipe dreamish as some would think. I mean factor everything into it like percusio said. Vinny is a montreal native, and everyone growing up in montreal and even many who didnt all dream about one day playing for the habs. Now we look at the business side of it. T-Bay is in extreme need of a capable goaltender. As most ppl know Montreal is quite loaded with capable net minders in Huet Price Halak and yes even Danis who just hasnt really gotten the chance to prove his worth. But he is a good goaltendeing talent. Enough to win a Cup prob not but still good. Also tampa could use some stronger Defence. Again a position we're full of depth in. As far as i know Vinny doesnt have ano trade clause (maybe he does if im wrong someone please correct me) but if thats the case vinny doesnt have a choice where he goes if it comes to that. Now one factor he wouldnt be brought in is perhaps cap space. Vinny will have a major hit towards the cap and come signing time for him will most likely take a raise. Montreal in the coming end to next season will have a lot to think about as to resigning free agents. Some big names on that list as far as our team goes. And another factor as to why Vinny would not be traded is for the simple fact that he is Tampas franchise and arguably theyre whole source of offense. So I'm sure shopping Vinny is Tampas LAST resort. But not impossible, look at it this way, did anyone EVER in their wildest dreams think Gretzky would ever leave edmonton. Or how bout fuhr at the time. Coffey?…. Messier??? …. how bout more recently mr.Franchise himself Ryan Smyth. and Edmonton was doing Great all thru the 80's. Even when gretz was shopped out becaue of salary they still came out with a cup. So it really isnt a HUGE stretch to imagine Vinny being shopped out. Very improbable but definitly not impossible. Maybe not to Montreal but it could happen. And we're all dreaming

  14. mojo19 says:

    Fair enough, I thought he and Stu Barnes were Dallas's two best forwards in the playoffs vs. Vancouver last year. So I'm basing it off that, I haven't really seen him play much this year.

  15. habsrock99 says:

    I haven't seen Nagy a whole lot through his entire career. I'm pretty much basing all my thoughts on all the hockey magazines I've been buying since 2001. For instance, I've read reports that he was Phoenix's best player just 5 years ago then last year he was considered a decent secondary option and this year he was considered pretty much done. All I know for sure is that his best asset through his entire career has been his ability to score goals and he hasn't been doing that since the Lock-Out.

  16. mojo19 says:

    Nah he's a pure playmaker. But ya he's just a support winger, still I thought he was awesome for Dallas in that series….. anyway's.

    What about making a big push for Hossa?

  17. RoenickTheGreat says:


  18. darcysucker says:

    I keep hearing that Blake is finished, personal problems? lack of passion? bad team? bad dressing room? would a change of venue work?  or is he really finished?

  19. Vinnypleasecomehome says:

    I'm glad you think you get to decide what people post on here. Honolulu was the one that suggested the trade for Lecavalier. My post was a reaction. I don't think you understand what a "concession player" is. The dialogue that was being had in the comments following this excellent article is what makes this site great. Fools who try to police this discussion are what hurts the free exchange that this site is about. How do you know what's in Gainey's character? You and him are friends? You are also far from respectful as you resorted to personal attacks and character assasination because you didn't like someone's ideas. Anyways, congrats on proving your own ignorance. Keep it up s*it for brains. How's that for sarcasm? I'm done.   

  20. KINGSHEW says:

    i think your stupid and this would never happen.. bertuzzi is not going to get traded, he has been doing very well in anahim recently, and Brian Burke is not going to trade him. Bertuzzi still can be a very effective pwr forward.. no way he is going… bobby ryan is not leaving too… hes the future of anahim … anahim is done making deals.. they have the same team from last year.. why are they gonna change the team so much.. your studpid

  21. Lord says:

    Thanks for your comment!

    But Hey, That's Burke saying he was looking to add a top 6 forward, not me. And if you think you can get a top 6 forward without giving anything, you're as stupid as me ….

  22. rojoke says:

    We all know, based on the fact he's been a spectator more than a player, that Brisebois won't be back next season.  Gorges has played better every game.  When O'Byrne gets back, it's going to be interesting to see how he's used, if at all.  I think he goes back to Hamilton, if they don't make the playoffs, he gets to join the taxi squad for the playoff run, which could have as many as five or six members this time around.

    Streit has been spotty as a blueliner, but on the power play he's been great, and he can always be moved up to forward.  He has a great point shot, can laser the puck cross ice to either Markov or through the box for the back door chance, and he can jump off the point and be the weak side shooter himself.  There's not many spots that will be open on the blueline, but there's probably going to be a spot on the third line for Streit to occupy.

  23. darcysucker says:

    wow this article got a lot of reaction, a long article and it got some of the longest replies ever

  24. darcysucker says:

    Price, McDonagh, Chip, Paccioretty, Fischer, Sergei, Emelin and Valentenko are pretty much all the good prospects, what are you left with?  seriously?  Maybe you can sucker someone into taking some of the garbage prospects, like we did when we got Kovalev, but at the same time if you want something real good, you should be able to let some of these guys go

  25. Radio says:

    Breaking news:

    Shaquille O'Neal to the Coyotes.

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