Woulda Coulda Shoulda: Bergevin to Address Habs Needs

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By J.D. Lagrange, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

BergevinAnalyzeEN

During this holiday season, with the Canadiens on a well-deserved break, many take the opportunity to catch a few games from the World Junior Championship and rightfully so, especially with Montreal and Toronto hosting this great international tournament. In the meantime, while watching some of their top prospects perform in the tournament, the Habs’ brass is evaluating the team’s needs from this point on.

PENTICTON, BC. – While you never wish any injuries to anyone on the team, Lars Eller’s time off has allowed coach Michel Therrien to test young Alex Galchenyuk at centre and the experiment, while relatively short thus far, has been extremely positive. Galchenyuk seems to have developed some great chemistry with fellow American and the team’s best goals’ scorer Max Pacioretty and alongside his good friend Brendan Gallagher, they form a great offensive line. Furthermore, Galchenyuk has looked very good defensively at that position after spending two-plus years learning the ropes as a left winger. Guy Carbonneau, a guy who knows a thing or two about a centerman’s defensive game, was quoted recently saying that the Canadiens’ young phenom has not committed any major mistake defensively since being moved to the centre position.

This has created a bit of a dilemma for the coaching staff, first by moving David Desharnais to third line centre duties and, when Eller came back from injury, he took over that spot with Desharnais performing at left wing. The amazing and somewhat surprising thing is that Desharnais has not only taken the “demotion” in strides, but he has taken advantage of not having to face the opposition’s top defensive coverage to elevate his play and produce like he did in the second half of the season last year, making it a win-win situation for the Canadiens.

Let’s take a look at what the forward lines have been since Eller’s return:

Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
Prust – Plekanec – Sekac
Desharnais – Eller – Parenteau
Andrighetto/Bournival – Malhotra – Weise

Brandon Prust and Dale Weise are the types of players who are versatile enough to go up or down the line-up based on game situations (and they have), but let’s face it: for the Habs to be a force to reckon with down the stretch, they will need to replace Thomas Vanek on the Top six.

Unlike last year, there is no Vanek-type player on the list of pending UFA forwards this season, which means that if a team wants to improve their scoring depth for a playoffs’ run, they will need to complete a hockey trade as opposed to get a rental player for the short term.

Options available?

As Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin has often acknowledged himself in a few occasions since taking over the team, trading is quite difficult now days as so many items factor into completing a trade. Of course, teams still must find tradable assets to answer a need not only on their own team, but on the team they are trading with. For that, one must first determine their own need(s), establish their own position of strength (team depth) and find a partner or two who have not only the asset(s) that your team needs, but also needs the asset(s) you are willing to part with. That’s nothing new though.

But unlike pre-2005, there is another extremely important factor to take into consideration: the salary cap… and it’s not as easy as some fans may want to believe. Teams around the league must now have a plan, one that goes well beyond the current season. And this is why we saw Bergevin trading Travis Moen and Rene Bourque, guys with contracts stretching beyond this season, for pending UFA’s Sergei Gonchar and Brian Allen; to free salary for next season.

The Canadiens have some depth at centre right now, and they have a lot of depth on defense with Weaver and Allen sitting in the pressbox lately but having said that, Bergevin is of the mindset that you can never have too much depth on defense. The team does need some scoring help, preferable on the wing and most particularly on right wing, in my opinion. According to Capgeek, the Habs have approximately two million dollars available under the cap right now and at this rate, they could add a player with a salary of around five million at the trade deadline (that’s without giving salary back).

The Canadiens must rely too often on Carey Price to win games as they simply don’t appear to have enough scoring depth so let’s take a quick peek around to see which team(s) could use a centreman and might consider trading a scoring winger in order to get that help at that position: the Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers and the Arizona Coyotes.

Chicago is in great shape with Jonathan Toews centering their first line but they had to take a gamble with Brad Richards, offering him a one-year contract worth two million dollars. Having racked up a disappointing 18 points in 33 games on one of the league’s best teams, Richards is set to become a UFA at season’s end. In comparison, David Desharnais has 20 points and Lars Eller has 12 (in 30 GP) on a more offensively challenged team, but both those guys are younger, are under contract for a few years and have winning faceoff percentages, contrarily to Richards’ 48 percent in the faceoff dot. They do need to shed some salary as Capgeek has them at 69 million dollars for next year with only 14 players signed. Patrick Sharp (two more years at $5.9M) and Bryan Bickell (two years at $4M) could be sacrificed. Bergevin knows Sharp well and he may have his sight on that target.

Patrick Sharp and David Perron could be targetted by the Canadiens
Patrick Sharp and David Perron could be interesting targets for Bergevin and the Canadiens

The Oilers don’t have a centre who can support Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they have a surplus of offensive-minded wingers. They also have a dire need of help on defense and neither Viktor Fasth nor Ben Scrivens have proven that they can take the bulk of the work in goal for Edmonton. Eller and Desharnais would be great fits for the Oilers and one would think that they wouldn’t mind trading one of their goalies for Dustin Tokarski. While rumours have been thrown out there about Taylor Hall, I highly, very highly doubt that the Oilers would be stupid enough to trade their franchise player. Many Habs’ fans would love to see Nail Yakupov be reunited with former Sarnia Sting teammate Galchenyuk but the asking price from the Oilers for the former first overall pick would be too steep for the Canadiens. However, I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of Jordan Eberle or Sherbrooke native David Perron finish the season with a different uniform and that’s where Bergevin could very well turn his attention.

A team that hasn’t made much noise but could be looking for help at centre if they can’t come to an agreement with pending UFA Antoine Vermette is the Coyotes. Believe it or not, Vermette is the Coyotes’ best offensive centre and his production is similar to Desharnais, although Martin Hanzal has played less games this season due to injuries. Martin Erat is a pending UFA but he only has six goals and 15 points this season and there one year left to Shane Doan’s contract with a cap hit of $5.3 million. As the Coyotes aren’t anywhere close to a Stanley Cup, the aging veteran right winger might welcome a trade to a contender, although he seems to prefer staying in the Western Conference.

If I’m Marc Bergevin, I keep in constant communication with both Craig MacTavish (EDM) and Stan Bowman (CHI) as they both have the most desirable assets needed by the Canadiens, who happen to have some assets that could help both those teams in the mid to long term. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the ride this team is giving us fans, as it seems like the Gauthier/Martin era seems to be well behind us. Go Habs Go!

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

4 COMMENTS

    • If they went after Perron instead of Eberle, I’m not convinced that it would be “just because he’s French”. Eberle is playing two more minutes per game than Perron and only has 3 more points. Perron, who is 15-20 lbs heavier than Eberle, is a lot more physical with 71 hits to 25 by Eberle. The most physical forward in Montreal is Pacioretty with… 53 hits! Last but not least, Perron’s cap hit is $3.8M compared to Eberle’s $6M. A lot more than the language spoke would be taken into consideration in my opinion.

  1. If they trade Eller or DD for a scoring winger then they open another hole that will need to be backfilled. The difference you will get between Eller or DD and someone like Eberle/Perron will not be enough to take them over the top as such a trade will involve +’s and -‘s and will result in little change to the overall power of the team. Eller and DD are both pretty good players so don’t underestimate the negative impact getting rid of them will have.

    If they want to take a shot at this post season and then a defenseman, 4th liner, prospect, or draft pick for scoring winger is what makes sense to me. That may not seem like enough for a scoring winger now but at the trade deadline a non playoff team and/or cap crunch team (hello lower can $$) may be willing to part with one as we have seen last year.

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