The Montreal Canadiens are beating everybody’s expectations so far this season. Who, in their right mind, would have picked the Habs to not only lead their division at the Christmas break, but be one of the top teams in the NHL? What’s even more amazing is the fact that they’ve been performing rather well, going as far as dominating some games, without some key players in their line-up.
Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Andrew Shaw, David Desharnais and Greg Pateryn were all out for the Canadiens when they faced two of the leagues hottest teams and yet, they not only competed but could have won both games. A slow start and an average performance by Carey Price – by his standards – cost the Habs the game against the Minnesota Wild, and had it not been of some heroics by goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, they would have come out of Columbus with two points.
But that hasn’t stopped GM Marc Bergevin from looking at improving his team. As a matter of fact, fans should note that when he pulled the trigger on the trade with the Predators, the under laying statement was that he is going for a Stanley Cup run sooner rather than later by picking up Shea Weber.
Wishing upon a Star
In an article published on 98.5 Sports, reporter Dany Dubé is saying that “we can expect an important transaction” by the Canadiens in the next few weeks, and he believes that the Habs’ trade partner is a team that has been following them very closely.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dallas Stars were involved. There are constantly Stars scouts following the Habs everywhere. They follow them all, they’re almost in the Canadiens’ shoes. They’re going through a rough stretch, it’s critical. They will have to make important decisions if they want to make the playoffs” ~ Dany Dubé
But who could it be? As you can see, Dubé stops short of naming anyone but there aren’t that many options for a top-6 in Dallas. Forget Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn as there is no way the Stars are trading them. Patrick Sharp has only played one game so far this season, and only had one goal prior to being sidelined indefinitely with a concussion. It would be surprising if it were him, even if he came back as he would be a very high risk.
This only leaves a few options:
We have been mentioning his name on this blog for a few weeks now and aside for his cap hit of $7.5 million until 2018-19, if you only look at the hockey aspect, he would fill a need for the Canadiens. From his 6-foot 3-inches and 210 lbs, he is a big right-handed centerman who would form a solid one-two punch at centre with Alex Galchenyuk. He wins faceoffs at a rate of over 54% and he has heated up a bit with nine points in 11 games so far in December.
The 32 year-old veteran right winger is a solid two-way player who has 20 points (12 goals) in 34 games this season. In fact, he leads the Stars in goals scored, one ahead of Seguin, so it is very much uncertain that they would want to trade him right now, particularly when considering his $1 million salary.
The gritty forward native of Roubaix, in France, can play hockey. He has 17 points in 34 games so far but is he really a true top-6 forward? I see him more as a left-handed Andrew Shaw, an excellent third liner who can step to the top-6 if or when needed.
The 22 year-old Czech has been one of the team’s top prospects for some time now, but he has yet to put it all together at the NHL level. Like Spezza, he stands at 6-foot 3-inches and 210 lbs and he also is a centre, although left handed and his faceoffs are sub-par at 47.1%. So far this season, he has managed five goals and eight assists in 35 games. The jury is out if he’ll ever become a first or second line centre but right now, he’s more of a third line player.
There you have it folks. As you can clearly see, it seems like the better fit might just be Spezza but let’s not forget that he does have a modified no-trade clause where he must submit a list of 10 teams to which he doesn’t want to be traded to. He has played in Canada before and his experience with the Senators was not a positive one.
The Stars also have a couple of defensemen who would fit in nicely with what Bergevin is searching for, which is a left-handed to play with Weber. Both Johnny Oduya and Dan Hamhuis would fit the bill rather nicely, base on their experience and the type of game that they play. Bergevin also knows Oduya very well from his days in Chicago.
Make your wish list folks, teams like Dallas and Colorado seem ripe for the picking and you can bet that the Canadiens are right in there talking to them. A factor that works in the Habs’ favour is that both those teams are in the Western Conference, as teams are historically more likely to make more substantial trade inter-conference to avoid facing them in the playoffs.