NHL Trade Speculation: How Much Is Plekanec Worth at the Deadline?

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 30, 2012

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 27:  Tomas Plekanec #14 and Erik Cole #72 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrate a goal against Alex Auld #35 of the Ottawa Senators in a game at Scotiabank Place on December 27, 2011 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

For as much as there is to like about what the Canadiens are trying to accomplish by relying on younger players (supplemented by veteran talent), there are a few question marks among the older guys on the club.

When you take a look at Montreal's two highest paid defensemen, you realize that Andrei Markov is getting paid off reputation and hope, not necessarily production. The $5.75 million price tag he carries wouldn't be a big risk if he was guaranteed to play at least 70 games, but recent history has taught us otherwise.

Tomas Kaberle, formerly a longtime rival with the Toronto Maple Leafs, was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes that nobody can really justify. The Canes were able to dump him and his remaining years, a move that didn't cost the Habs much, but was still of no consequence to the organization.

Tomas Plekanec is a player that every single contender is going to want come trade deadline time next season.

While sending your No. 1 center away is an extremely unpopular idea among any knowledgeable fan, one has to wonder what pieces the Canadiens are going to be moving around should they find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, as they were last season.

With wingers like Max Pacioretty, Rene Bourque, Erik Cole and Brian Gionta, the Habs are going to need some reliable centers to anchor the lines with such skilled players, and it might be too early to let David Desharnais hold the bag as the team's top playmaker, and certainly too early to hand the team to Alex Galchenyuk and Louis Leblanc, two centers drafted in the first round.

What makes Plekanec so intriguing is his relatively cheap price (he's owed $20 million for the next four years), as the Czech is a workhorse and one of the better proven scoring centers in the league.

The amount of games played and the points, despite the fact that they've dropped due to a struggling team, make Plekanec one of the most sought-after targets in the game.

All teams have to worry about is the not so simple matter of getting through his no-trade clause, and for a guy who was drafted by Montreal and has not played a single NHL game for any team but the Habs, there is a huge question regarding how well he would play in a different environment and whether he'd even be willing to relocate.

If Montreal wants to get younger and better, it will suffer in the present by getting rid of Plekanec, but in terms of what he could bring back to the organization in a trade, it would pay huge dividends towards the future.