With the recent acquisition of Mathieu Schneider and a conditional pick, the Montreal Canadiens and their General Manager, Bob Gainey, are signaling that they are buyers as NHL teams near the Mar. 4 trade deadline.
As posted in previous articles here on the Bleacher Report, many have suggested (I among them) that Montreal is in need of a top flight centreman and some size for both the forwards and the defensemen. Montreal addressed its need of a puck-moving defenseman with the acquisition of Mathieu Schneider on Sunday.
There have long been rumors of a Vincent Lecalvier trade to Montreal, and those rumours have intensified during Montreal's latest train wreck on their Western road trip.
No to Lecalvier
Lecalvier addresses Montreal's current lack of a first-line centre. He has proven that he is a winner and everything that the Montreal Canadiens need. He is also the Francophone hero that the team has lacked since Patrick Roy.
Lecalvier, however, hits the cap at a figure of $10 million dollars for the next seven seasons—his NHL prime so to say. Although Lecalvier may be worth that much money, he would cause the Canadiens to devote one sixth of their payroll to one player—something I cannot see Bob Gainey ever doing.
Along with the cap hit that Lecalvier would be doing to the organization, Tampa Bay would also hold him for ransom if Gainey were to position himself for any possible deal.
Tampa would expect current roster players such as Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, and Josh Gorges, in addition to a prospect such as P.K. Subban and at least one first round draft pick—a price too high to consider.
Although in a perfect, cap-free world, Montreal could afford someone of Lecalvier's stature, in today's NHL, it is a potential franchise crippling contract—one the Canadiens should avoid.
Phoenix fills two voids
Although the Phoenix Coyotes are in the middle of the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race, the Coyotes could prove to be sellers near the deadline.
Phoenix has been building its team towards the future. Outside of All-Star forward Shane Doan and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, perhaps every other veteran on the team could be moved come deadline time.
Although he was traded to Phoenix in the offseason, Olli Jokinen has not produced up to his capabilities or those of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Perhaps after being in Florida so long, it has been hard for him to adapt, but it's clear that the Phoenix Coyotes intend on having Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris as their future centres—not the 29-year-old Jokinen.
Jokinen's usefulness in Montreal will be due to his size and his skill. He is capable of keeping up with Montreal's fastest forwards, and at making room for himself in the corners and in front of the net. At 6'3'' and 214 lbs., he would be the power forward that Montreal is currently lacking, especially up the middle.
Although Jokinen has had a reputation as a lackluster player in the NHL—never reaching the playoffs—he was a key component in the Finnish Olympic hockey team's silver medal—being their No. 1 centre followed by Saku Koivu.
Koivu has the possibility to be a mentor to Jokinen and perhaps a buffer in Montreal's enthusiastic atmosphere. The two Fins would complement each other immensely, with Jokinen's size freeing up room for Saku Koivu and smaller forwards.
Jokinen also only hits Montreal's cap at a figure of $5.5 million next season, allowing the team to potentially re-sign such valuable unrestricted free agents such as Mike Komisarek, Alex Tanguay, and Koivu himself. Jokinen becomes a UFA after the 2010 season.
Jokinen is not the only piece that could potentially help the Canadiens down the home-stretch.
Derek Morris, an up-coming unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and the prototypical defenseman that Montreal is currently lacking; a right-handed shot from the point. Morris also adds size and potential stability to a smallish defensive core when Mike Komisarek is on the bench.
Morris has been through the battles of long playoff races—something which will benefit the Montreal defense. At 29-years-old, Morris still has much to offer and would be an asset for the Canadiens down the stretch.
Who to move?
The two logical options to move, if a Jokinen and Morris deal were to come to fruition, would be to send Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges to Phoenix.
Montreal would have to add perhaps a prospect, such as Kyle Chipchura, who would fill a checking line need for the Coyotes—something they lack. P.K. Subban could also be moved in any deal. A first rounder may also be sent.
Logically, Montreal is gaining size for upcoming seasons with Jokinen as a pivot, instead of the disappointing Tomas Plekanec, who needs a change of scenery.
Although Gorges is a serviceable defenseman, he will be easily replaceable for the Canadiens. Should Morris not re-sign, Montreal could finally have a place in their defensive corps for new-comers such as Mathieu Carle and Yannick Weber—two smallish defensemen. Morris could also be an option should Komisarek decide not to re-sign.
Montreal could also afford to lose someone like a Chipchura or even a Sergei Kostitsyn.
Gainey has a lot to do, although perhaps he could fill his shopping list by calling only one team. Jokinen would be a good fit in Montreal, and with Koviu's leadership and encouragement, perhaps, Jokinen could finally realize his potential—living up to his billing as a third overall pick.
Whatever Gainey does, however, should not come at such a steep price. He must realize that he is not only building towards the 2009 playoffs but the future of the organization as well.
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