His first salvo, in what is sure to see more fireworks to come, was to ship disgruntled forward, Michael Cammalleri, to Calgary with goaltending prospect Karri Rammo and a 5th round pick in this year's draft.
In return, the Habs get forward Rene Bourque, a second round pick in the 2013 draft and prospect Patrick Holland.
Despite all the hand-wringing and calls for Gauthier's head on this deal, I've got to say, I like the trade.
What they give up
The Habs are giving up a one time 39 goal scorer—incidentally he scored those 39 goals playing in Calgary. But they are also giving up a player who has now worn out his welcome in three cities—Calgary being one of them—and has a reputation as being selfish.
On the scoring front, Cammalleri's goal-scoring production has dropped precipitously since being acquired by Montreal. Cammalleri had 26 goals in 65 game of an injury shortended 2009-2010 campaign, 19 in 67 games for 2010-2011, and nine, so far, through 38 games this season.
However, it is Cammalleri's 13 goals in 19 games during the 09-10 playoffs that standout. But considering that Habs have little chance of making the post-season this year or contending, that's not too much of a loss.
The Habs also give up a fifth round pick in this year's draft and goaltending prospect Karri Rammo.
The fifth rounder is nothing to write home about and, from the Habs perspective, Rammo is a player who would never have a chance to suit up in Montreal.
For the Flames, however, Rammo presents an interesting pick-up as a player who has No.1 goalie potential. But there's a long way to go from potential to hitting that mark though, so time will tell.
What they get
The corner piece of the trade is left winger, Rene Bourque. Bourque is a player who comes with his own set of baggage. Namely, he has been dogged as an inconsistent player. A guy who, like Alex Kovalev, shows up when he wants to and disappears at other times.
Habs fans are all too familiar with this kind of player and, if this turns out to be the case, Bourque will surely becoming frustrating to watch.
That being said, given that he has a rep as being inconsistent it is interesting to note that in the last three seasons (dating back to 2008-2009) Bourque has 21, 27 and 27 goals.
In addition, he already has 13 this year in just 38 games and is projected to finish around the 27-goal mark again.
I don't know, that seems pretty consistent to me.
Bourque has a long-term deal, with four more years (after this season) at an average cap hit of $3.33 million. That is a savings of almost $3 million per season on Cammalleri's $6 million cap hit.
And I think this is being overlooked by many.
The Habs have absolutely butchered things when it comes to the cap. Moreover, Gauthier, and Bob Gainey before him, have shown that they do not know how to manage a team under the salary cap.
So to be able to get rid of an underachieving, smaller player with an over-inflated price tag is actually a huge deal. Plus, Montreal will now have $8.2 million to play with at the trade deadline.
That's pretty significant.
Montreal also gets a second round pick in the 2013 draft—which many Flames fans are upset about this morning—and a decent, if unspectacular prospect in Patrick Holland.
Holland seems to be a player who is projected to be a solid bottom-sixer. Nothing spectacular but a nice piece with size.
Speaking of size, that is the other major factor here.
Montreal ships out a 5'9" player who plays like he's 4'2", for a 6'2", 215 pound winger. And this is not something that can be overlooked.
The Habs needed to and continue to need to get bigger and this deal addresses that issue. And Bourque is not just big, but he is tough and maybe a little dirty, as evidenced by his back-to-back suspensions.
For a team that had become "Mr. Nice Guy" under Jacques Martin, it will be nice for them to have some ornery characters in their lineup for a change.
So now that I've told you what I think about the trade I have to point out a few things that I find troublesome.
Firstly, yes, the Canadiens need to get bigger. But their need for size, as it has been for almost the last two decades, has never been more important than at center.
With Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Scott Gomez and Lars Eller, only the latter posses any size to speak of. If Montreal is ever to become a contender they must get bigger down the middle.
Can you imagine how good Plekanec would be as the second line center behind, say, Ryan Getzlaf?
That being said, I don't think Gauthier is done retooling yet. In fact, I think he's just getting started.
And that brings me to another concern.
Dead man walking?
Could Gauthier have gotten a little more for Cammalleri if he had shopped him around (apparently he only spoke with Calgary)? Possibly. Maybe even probably.
But that's not what concerns me the most.
While Gauthier's inability to maximize his assets is well documented, it is the fact that he is making trades at all which is disturbing to me.
It is widely felt (by myself included) that Gauthier will no longer be the team's GM after this season. But after this trade I have to question that idea.
If Gauthier is on his way out then why would owner, Geoff Molson, let him make significant trades? He already approved bringing on board contract, dollars and term in Tomas Kaberle. And now, he is letting him trade some of the Habs biggest assets.
And I think by Gauthier press conference, you can see that it pretty clear he's just getting started.
But if a new GM is just around the corner, wouldn't it make sense for that person to be pulling the trigger? I mean it's bad enough that they have to inherit a team filled with overpaid, second-tier players, but now they won't t even have a chance to move those assets as they see fit.
To me, this all means that Gauthier has a vote of confidence from his owner. Or, at a minimum, he has been told to fix it or he's next.
Either way, I find it patently dangerous for a potential lame duck GM to be pulling the trigger on trades. Especially one who is known for his inability to maximize his assets and who has historically been a poor evaluator of pro talent.
The last piece of this trade which is a major head-scratcher is that Cammalleri was traded mid-game. I mean, he was pulled off the ice as the trade was finalized, sent back to the hotel and told he was traded.
Broche à foin?
And this is not the first bizarre and strangely executed move by Gauthier this season, firing assistant coach Perry Pearn just before game time and head coach, Jacques Martin, the morning of a match.
There is no question that, under Gauthier, whatever organizational standards this team had have fallen. Badly.
Once an organization that was the class of the league, the Habs look more like the Ringling Brothers than the model to aspire to right now.
And all of this, again, makes me wonder what Molson is thinking and doing. Is he giving this Gauthier enough rope to hang himself? Does he actually believe in his GM and agrees with his moves? Is he just biding his time until he can find a replacement?
The answers to all of these questions will become clearer in time but, for now, I don't think I've ever seen this organization in such a shameful and unbecoming state.
Umm, except for maybe once. Cough, cough...Rejean Houle.
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/
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