Midway through last season, new General Manager Marc Bergevin rewarded Desharnais with a lucrative four-year contract extension that will pay him $14 million (an average of $3.5M/year). The diminutive pivot's offensive production has since gone downhill to the point where he will be made a healthy scratch for the second time this season on Tuesday night. Desharnais will receive $42,682 to watch the game from the press box.
In his first complete season with Montreal, Desharnais centered the Habs' best line, potting 16 goals and 44 assists for 60 points with a +10 rating in 81 games despite playing for one of the worst teams in the league under Jacques Martin and Randy Cunneyworth.
While Desharnais' production slipped a little bit during the lockout-shortened season to a 48-point pace over a full season (he had 28 points in 48 games), things went bad to worse this season, as the Laurier-Station , Québec native is not the shadow of his former self.
Through 17 games this year, the 5'7'', 170-lb center (soaked wet) has only recorded a single helper despite playing on average 15:06 per game, 1:33 of which are on the power play. What is even more alarming is that Desharnais can't see to produce with anyone in spite of playing a regular shift with talented wingers.
Heck Desharnais has not even taken a shot on goal in his past five games! Even former Hab forward Scott Gomez was not that invisible. Desharnais has only taken 17 shots on goal this year, but instead of scoring at his career-pace of 14.3% he has yet to find the back of the net.
With the return of Daniel Briere in the line-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the emergence of rookie Michael Bournival, there is simply no more room for Desharnais on the team's top-three lines. His lazy hooking penalty in the third period that led to a New York Islanders' goal on Sunday might have been the final nail in Desharnais' coffin.
With Brandon Prust and Alexei Emelin slated to return in the next week or so, the organization will have to make important roster decisions as to which players will remain with the team and which players will head to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
Since the 27-year-old center doesn't kill penalties, he needs to contribute offensively to be an effective forward in the NHL. As a result, the best course of action would be to send him down to the AHL as Montreal's new mayor, Denis Coderre, said on Twitter on Sunday night. Desharnais, who looks lost on the ice most of the time, needs to go back to the basics to regain his confidence and start producing again on offense.
Desharnais will have to battle harder along the boards to win his battles for the puck and play a more aggressive game in front of the opponent's net in order to succeed in the short term. A short stint to play in the AHL for a few games could help jumpstart him and make him the player he once was for the Canadiens. While he will have to go through waivers, it is highly unlikely that another team would claim him due to his massive contract (see John-Michael Liles).
Do you think the Canadiens should keep Desharnais around, trade him or simply demote him?