Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NHL Trade Deadline: In the Canadiens' GM Chair, Part 1

Tomas Kaberle - Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
The 2012 NHL Trade Deadline is approximately two weeks away.

If any of you are like me, excitement is building within.

To be honest, I am really not sure why I get all giddy at this time of year.

Generally speaking, the Montreal Canadiens make little or no moves at the deadline. Minor trades, little tweaking and roof repair have been the norm in recent years.

However, this year I truly sense something different.

For the first time in many years the Montreal Canadiens find themselves on the outside looking in. 

This team isn’t looking through the window, they aren’t even at the end of the driveway. They find themselves down the street, around the corner and seven blocks over.

In short, the Montreal Canadiens will not be making the playoffs.

This is something that I came to terms with many weeks ago. It’s time the rest of you do as well.

To quote the great Dick Vitale upon watching then NBA superstar Vince Carter in the Slam Dunk contest of 2000 (wow has it really been 12 years): “It’s over ladies and gentleman, it’s over.”

Now that the proverbial nail is in the coffin there is really only one thing left to do: Sell, Sell, Sell !

The Foundation

The Habs were always a bubble team to begin with, but I truly believe that they are better than their record indicates.

It is hard for the squad to perform to its full potential when Andrei Markov ($5.75 million), Brian Gionta ($5.0 million) and Scott Gomez ($7.387 million) collectively do little or nothing. 

Could Detroit or Boston or San Jose or Vancouver thrive, or even survive. with $18.15 million out of the line-up? No way.

On the flip side, how many teams in this league would not kill for the chance to have a foundation featuring Carey Price in goal, P.K Subban on the blueline and power forward Max Pacioretty on the wing? 

With Alexei Emelin, Josh Gorges, Lars Eller and David Desharnais in the mix, the Habs have a group of key players all 26 years or younger.

With that in mind, I dare to say that this team is still good enough to compete in the Eastern Conference. However, management needs to part ways with some assets, acquire some building blocks and re-tool for a promising 2012-13 season.

What’s that you say? You want to know what I would do if I was named GM of the Montreal Canadiens?

Well thank you for asking. Now sit back, relax and take hold of greatness as I single handedly re-tool the Montreal Canadiens in just two short weeks.

There are many crazy ideas circulating in my veins right now. As such, I will break this exercise down into two articles. Today, we will focus on the defense and look at the moves I would make on the backend.

Here goes nothing.

Who is available?

Before wheeling and dealing, it is worth mentioning who I feel should stay. P.K Subban, Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz are four players who should remain with the organization. 

Naturally, if a “knock your socks off” type of offer presents itself then absolutely anyone on this team can be moved.

As for Hal Gill, Chris Campoli and Yannick Weber, they should find themselves playing in a different area code by the end of the month. 

Realistically though, of the names above, only Hal Gill has any significant value.  

Players like Campoli and Weber have found themselves out of the line-up frequently and, as a result, their value is not as strong was what it could have been.

Then there is Tomas Kaberle. 

I have not been shy in hiding my displeasure towards him and would be ecstatic to move the rearguard. However, he has a nearly unmovable contract that will see him play out two more years at 4.5 million dollar per season. He is virtually untradeable, unless we do something unthinkable. 

Chris Campoli

He is a puck moving veteran who can add inexpensive depth to a playoff bound group. Teams like Boston, Chicago, San Jose, and Detroit appear to be showing some interest.

What I would do: Chicago has the most familiarity with Campoli, but I can see him going to Boston for a third or fourth round pick. Boston has only six NHL D-men on their roster and look to again be a contender. Campoli would be an ideal fit to play limited minutes on a third pairing.

Yannick Weber

Weber is a little bit of a conundrum. He is young, has an NHL-caliber shot and still has room to grow. He could attract a few teams, but his limited experience and defensive woes will push others away.
Nonetheless, he certainly possesses some upside and could fetch a decent return. Because of his powerplay abilities, teams like the Kings, Rangers and Blues may bid for his services.

What I would do: The Devils have had success with young, small puck moving defensemen like Brian Rafalski and Andy Green. That, along with their struggles on the man advantage, make them the best fit. In return, I can see Montreal acquiring J.S. Berube from Matane, Quebec and a fourth round pick.

Hal Gill

Gill's value is high.

Two weeks ago he was likely the fourth or fifth best d-man available this deadline. Now, with Francois Beauchemin, Andy Sutton, Tim Gleason all signing contract extensions, he may be the best name available.

Gill lacks foot speed, but is a Stanley Cup champion, a leader and one of the elite penalty killers in the game.

He could pay tremendous dividends for teams struggling on the penalty kill. Namely, Chicago, San Jose, Florida and Detroit all find themselves amongst the league’s worst when down a man.

The Canadiens could easily flip him to any of the above mentioned teams and find themselves with a second round pick - along with perhaps another late pick thrown in as well. I would be tremednously happy with this however I would like to take it a step further.

It has been rumored for a few weeks that Chris Stewart is being shopped by the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are thin on the backend and are 21st overall on the penalty kill. They also own some depth at the forward position and are a cap conscious team. The stars seem to aligned to somehow work a deal sending Gill to St. Louis in exchange for Stewart.

I am not suggesting a one-for-one move. That would be what I like to refer to as "Milbury-ish". Yet, if the Habs could create a package with the right assets, then acquiring Stewart may not be so crazy.

What I would do: I would like to think that Hal Gill, a 2012 second round pick and Danny Kristo would be enough to pry Stewart from St. Louis. If this is not enough then, I am talking with St. Louis to see what sort of tweaking is needed to make this deal happen.

I am not prepared to sell the farm to land the forward, but given the team's limited size down the middle, Stewart could provide necessary physical insulation for Tomas Plekanec.

Tomas Kaberle

I know that he is practically untradeable at this point. I've heard the arguments that he is producing points but let's be honest here: he makes $4.5 million and is a bloody useless player on this team. Moving him will be next to impossible, but...

What I would do: Pick up the phone and call Brian Burke. We need a defensive D-man and the Leafs, given their style of play, could perhaps use another puck mover familiar to the city. Let's see if we can swap two equivalent contracts by shipping Kaberle for Komisarek. To be honest I would even be willing to add a pick or second tier prospect to get this done.

Their deals are nearly indentical and Kaberle has absolutely no role on this team. Meanwhile, Komisarek could help fill Gill's eventual departure.

So there you have it folks.

Go ahead, tell me what you think of my moves? I am more Ken Holland or Mike Milbury?

On a personal note

For those who follow me on Twitter, I have been continuing to tweet quite a bit about the progress that my wife is making with her involvement with Team In Training Marathon and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada.

Melody continues to put in the hours needed to complete the Marathon but needs your help when she is not on track.

In just three weeks Mel has raised 20% of her donation goal, but she is still a long ways away. If you can find a little bit of extra change, please consider helping her out for this great cause.

Thank you all for any and all support that you can provide.

Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!

(Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images North America)


I don't see the Habs giving up prospects and don't want to part with Danny Kristo. Aside from that, I like all of your ideas--especially Komisarek for Kaberle.

On another note, when Eller missed his shot in the shootout tonight, I was kind of wishing that we had Halak in nets and no Eller. After what Halak did in that miracle playoff run, it was bad karma for the Habs to trade him. And we could have received more for Price than we got for Halak. And I'm still pissed that the Habs got rid of Huet.


Thanks for reading and posting your comments.

I would love to see Kristo in a Habs uniform but I am sure after reading this you are going to change your mind.

Essentially, Kristo is set to become a Free Agent as of next season and many believe that he will simply walk away.

ake a look at the following article. It is just one that I read in regards to the situation. Sucks for Habs fans but it is what it is.

Sorry, give up a pick and prospect and trade value of Gill for who??? Stewart, MIlbury move for sure.

Trade Kaberle for Komisarik, again a major Milbury move, as i think Kaberle is playing super (once you realize he is and has always been a bit soft) and $4.5 for a 50+ point, puck moving d-man is overpaying?
Kaberle has poise with the puck and experiance that will be valuable for all the young d-men turning pro next fall.
On these 2 trades i could disagee more.


Really good stuff.

Excellent idea about Kaberle-Komisarek. Its a smart move, although I think Kaberle has value for the Canadiens, especially if Markov cannot start next year.

As for trading Kristo, you correctly point out that he could be a UFA this summer. If the team cannot sign him, they best move him for value now.

Thanks Lou,

I cannot for the life of me understand how fans can actually support Kaberle. I understand he is good with his outlet passes and his poise but he is the #6 D-man on this team who is bloody horrible defensively.

But the reason I see little value of him in Montreal is because we will eventually have Markov, and have Diaz, Weber, Beaulieu on the horizon.

All of our D-men fit the same mold and it is exhausting watching the same types of players over and over again.

I am the first to say that Komisarek is not the same player that he once was here but he provides an element that we are lacking. A physical force and ability to shot block once we lose Gill via trade.

The other factor is that acquiring Komisarek would also mean that Geoff Molson would save $1 million per year in salary.

And finally.....I get to bring out my #8 jerseys. :)

I'm with Louis...LOVE the idea of swapping Kaberle for Komisarek. Komi is clearly done in Toronto. And, while he is injury prone and not the player he used to be he does bring the thump (as you point out).

I'd make that move in a heartbeat. I'm just not so sure the Burke would!


Hard to tell these days. I mean Komisarek was a healthy scratch for 6 straight days and then came back vs Calgary and was brutal.

Would Burke make this move.....I have no clue but Komisarek in Toronto is done.

@KP and Bryan

If Gauthier threw in a pick (which he could easily get by shipping Campoli, Gill or Weber), than Burke would have to seriously consider swapping Kaberle for Komisarek.

A resurgence of the Komisarek-Markov duo? Now that is one unlikely blast from the past!

Hypotehtical for next season:



Those duos could also be known as:

The Present: Gorges-Subban
The Past: Markov-Komisarek
The Future: Emelin-Diaz

Komisarek? Common guys, I thought you knew your hockey! The guy is slow and useless...

@Fred: Yes, Komisarek's best years are behind him but he can still be a physical force. Strictly going along Bryan's logic, I think swapping Kaberle for Komisarek wouldn't be a bad idea.

I'm not a fan of Kaberle and his contract. Komisarek's contract is equally brutal, but at least he brings a different aspect to the rink.


As KP was saying its not that I want Komisarek it's that I really don't want Kaberle and given Komisarek making $1 million less per season and given he can replace Gill on the PK it is a deal I would make.

I literally feel anxiety when Kaberle is on the ice, especially the PP and would do anything to see him leave. Komisarek would not be an upgrade nor a downgrade simply a change of elements.

Why do people think Diaz is good? Are you guys seeing something I am missing? He can't keep the puck in at the line, a pee wee hockey player could prob shoot harder then him, he is easily removed off the puck cause he is so small...nothing and i mean nothing about his game screams at me that this guy deserves to be on the team because he has potential...I'm on the tank bandwagon now cause for the good of the team I wanna see a high pick, so i dont mind seeing him play, but early in the year I would be so mad everytime I heard he was in the lineup...I'd be trading him in an instant if a deal came on the table for him


Many of the criticizes you levy against Diaz are similar to those against Markov early in his AHL career (he played in Quebec City, my hometown).

Diaz's stregnth and puck protection abilities will improve over time, much like we are seeing with Eller. Beyond that, he is sound positionally, has a decent shot and is able to make smart plays with the puck. I think he will blossom into an above-average NHL defender.

@Gerard: I fully hear what you are saying about Diaz and, for me, given that he isn't a big guy, he fits well if the Habs have an, overall, big(ger) D-squad.

The thing is, he has settled his game A TON since the beginning of the year. Plus he is a point producing machine.

I'm not sure if you're aware or not, but right now Diaz is tied for third overall, among ROOKIE NHL defenseman, with 16 points in 56 games. That's got to count for something, no?


I like to compare DIaz to Mark Streit because both have had similar careers leading to the NHL.

When I think of the 2 I see a Diaz who is more confident with the puck and better defensively in his own zone in his first year in the NHL than was Streit.

As I am sure you remember Streit was brought along slowly used primarily as a forward which is somethng that has not been done with Diaz.

Right now I think he is the 4th best d-man on the team behind Gorges, Emelin,and Subban so I can just imagine what he will be like 2-3 years from now once he has learned all the angles, and players habits in this league.

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