Rumour: Keep An Eye on The Avalanche

Ah the world of rumours in hockey. What would we do without them? Fans love to bring their hopes up and imagine different scenarios. Too often, people imagine shipping players they don’t like on their favourite team, their “garbage”, to get better players. In reality, it’s never the way it works but that doesn’t stop people from playing armchair GMs. They bring their own hopes up and when things don’t happen, many get frustrated with their team, their GM. It’s that hope that feeds them. And they will believe just about anyone claiming to have sources.

As we’ve touched on before, some people will go to great lengths to feed on people’s gullibility and, by the same token, hope gaining credibility. Some even make a living out of it, ask Eklund (e4). Truth is, there are only a handful of true Insiders in Canada. Newly semi-retired Bob McKenzie, his partner in crime at TSN Darren Dreger, another TSN and RDS Insider Pierre LeBrun and, of course, CBC/Sportsnet’s own Elliotte Friedman.

A timely trip

Back in mid-February, they reported a trip by Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin made to Colorado. While he was there, he caught a couple of Avalanche’s games. It was also reported that he had a meeting with the Avalanche’s Joe Sakic. This being reported by true Insiders and with the timing of it just before trade deadline got the rumour mill going.

When asked about that trip though, Sakic said, with a smirk on his face, that the Canadiens’ GM was visiting his daughter who goes to College in Colorado. Sakic was probably telling the truth but due to the timing of the trip, while GMs are very busy, the principal reason for the trip wasn’t his daughter. Adding to the speculations is the fact that his right-hand man, Scott Mellanby, also made the trip to Colorado.

It didn’t take more to get rumouroids going… claiming it was their own “scoop” and throwing names out there. Ryan Graves, a 6-foot 5-inches, 220 lbs defenseman was landing in Montreal according to some, remember? Then others, wanting to relive the Patrick Roy story I guess, were throwing the name of Carey Price into the mix. Twitter got messy until… nothing happened between the two teams by deadline day.

Talks to resume?

With the Avalanche at the verge of elimination – down 3-1 in their series at the time of writing these lines – and the Canadiens needing to fill some key holes, both teams are likely to be making some moves in the upcoming short off-season. Together? Time will tell but I’m a strong believer that bigger trades take months to complete. There’s a very good chance that Bergevin and Sakic will pick up the phone and see if their February talks can be continued. If I had to guess, I would say that chances are that they will resume.

If the deal wasn’t completed in February, there was obviously a sticky point on one side or the other. One team insisting on a player that wasn’t available, or trying to compromise elsewhere but time ran out between the two teams.

The end for Max Domi?

With the recent events in Montreal, with Max Domi finding himself centering the fourth line during this COVID Cup and with the fact that he had removed all affiliations to the Canadiens on his Social Media accounts… there seems to be some rift between the player and his coach Claude Julien.

Phillip Danault’s post-elimination comments did not go unnoticed. The Montreal centre, who finished behind surging Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki on the depth chart, said, “It made my role a bit unclear moving forward.” The Canadiens are being asked about their plans for him. Good player. Very confident. Unrestricted in a year. Also hearing Max Domi will consider an agent switch, possibly as soon as this week. (from Elliotte Friedman’s 31 thoughts)

I don’t know that, I don’t have a ‘source’ per say. What I do have is a pretty keen sense of imagination often based on logic. We’ve all heard that Domi prefers playing centre than the wing. We’ve also seen Nick Suzuki talking over his spot at centre, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi affirm himself in that position. You also have Phillip Danault solidly anchored at that position. Here’s what I think happened, all speculations:

  1. Domi told Julien that he wants to play centre and insisted on it.
  2. Julien, to teach the young man a lesson, put him at centre on the fourth line due to the logjam.
  3. With the Canadiens out of the playoffs, Domi removed all affiliation to the Habs (he knew it would stir stuff in such a market).

I don’t believe there’s room for both men in Montreal anymore and, from what Julien and Bergevin were saying last week, it doesn’t seem like the team is planning on changing coach… to yours truly’s disappointment. This would leave only two options, really. Either the player bites the bullet and plays where the coach tells him to play or he’s gone.

During his last press conference, Julien addressed the situation by saying that Domi is a centre, as he’s more efficient at that position. It is my humble opinion that by saying that, the coach knows something and he’s helping his GM. Otherwise, he would have talked about how polivalent he is, and other canned answers like that. We all know that centres are worth more than wingers on the trade market. We also know that Domi had his breakthrough season in Montreal playing at that position. By pumping Domi’s tires as a centre, he’s helping raise his value. Whether it’s intentional for an upcoming trade (as I think) or not, it has that effect regardless.

Potential targets

Going back to Colorado, is it remotely possible that Domi was a target for Sakic but at that time, Bergevin wasn’t willing to part with him? That’s a stretch and I don’t know that. But what if the Canadiens’ GM, knowing the talks he had with the Avs, throws his name into the mix? Could this persuade Colorado to pull the trigger on what was discussed? Don’t be surprised if it does.

But who would the Canadiens be targeting? They did have a big hole on left defense back then but that’s before Alexander Romanov signed his deal and committed to the Canadiens come November at training camp. What were – and what still are – the Canadiens’ biggest needs? Allow me:

  1. Scoring winger with size
  2. Size and grit on the bottom six
  3. Left defense for a couple of seasons until Romanov develops into a top-4
  4. A suitable backup goaltender
André Burakovsky

Those would be the Habs’ needs, in order. At least they are, in my humble opinion. I’ve heard rumblings that the player Bergevin was targeting back in February was not Graves as some speculated. The player that the Canadiens apparently wanted was 25 year-old André Burakovsky, a 6-foot 3-inches left handed winger who can play both wings. If that’s the case, could a deal be worked out seeing Domi heading to Colorado? It seems more plausible now than it did back in February, doesn’t it? The Avalanche also have Joliette, QC’s own AJ Greer, a 6-foot 3-inches winger in the AHL and have no room for him in Colorado… but no matter the targets in Colorado, don’t expect Price to be traded.

Free Agency

It has been reported that Bergevin and the Canadiens will, once again, be trying to convince this year’s top UFA, Taylor Hall, to sign in Montreal. With the salary cap staying at $81.5 million, it will take several teams out of contention for the former first overall pick. And Hall makes a lot of sense for the Canadiens.

As for pending UFA goaltenders, there are plenty to be had. One name that comes to mind is Montreal born Corey Crawford, if he can’t find a place wanting him as the starter.

The NHL Draft is scheduled for October 9th and 10th, while training camps will kick off on November 17th. From now until then, you can expect a lot of action around the league with teams juggling to stay under the cap and making the necessary changes to their formation. It should be a good time for Bergevin and the Canadiens. Go Habs Go!

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