We may still be a few weeks away from the Trade Deadline, but the market is already beginning to set itself.
As the suddenly slumping Montreal Canadiens look for answers, they've decided to look at addressing their blueline first.
In a move that many were looking to Les Habitants to make, the Canadiens added another defenseman to their back-end, adding a puck-move with some experience.
The only aspect of this deal that needed to be sorted out, was who that player was going to be. Some rumored that Jay Bouwmeester might have periodically perked Montreal's interest, while many figured that if he wanted to, Tomas Kaberle would be a Hab.
It's a former-Leaf however, that'll be looking to help Montreal end it's recent struggles as Mathieu Schneider has been brought back into the fold.
Schneider, a veteran of six-and-a-half seasons in Montreal, has bounced around a bit this season. Beginning the season as property of the Anaheim Ducks, then-Anaheim GM Brian Burke shipped Schneider to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ken Klee, Brad Larsen, and Chad Painchaud.
Five months later though, and Schneider is worth so much more as the New York-native was able to grab a second-round selection in this year's draft, and and a third-round pick in the 2010 draft.
But while many will wonder if Schneider can rediscover a bit of his offensive flair ( Remember, Schneider is just two seasons removed from back-to-back 50-point campaigns with Detroit so his 15 points may not be age so much as a bi-product of a lackluster Atlanta team) and help this Montreal team (3-7-0 in their last ten and eight road losses in their last nine), others wonder what this will do for the other defensemen on the chopping block.
While the Florida Panthers still have to decide whether to hold on to Jay Bouwmeester in hopes of an extended playoff push, or to deal him to better prepare for the future, it suddenly doesn't seem impossible for the Panthers to get a 1st rounder, a 2nd rounder, and a roster player (or mid-level prospect) if the Cats dance partners adhere to the Schneider model.
If Tomas Kaberle gives the green light on his exit out of Toronto, his injury may hinder a potential deal, but is a second rounder and a second-line prospect out of the realm for this injured defender? As of Friday Kaberle had the cast removed so is it possible that he could get Toronto a Bouwmeester-esque package if he can prove that he's healthy?
Then we can start to wonder what the worth of names like Niclas Havelid, Filip Kuba, and Brendan Witt are on the open market. Granted it's less than the likes of a Kaberle or Bouwmeester, but one could surmise that if the right buyer comes along, they could be worth as much as a Schneider couldn't they?
The snag in all of these scenarios (and in some cases there is more than one) however, is the 'i' word.
If the Panthers can find the right trading partner; If Kaberle is worth equal value as damaged goods; If anyone is willing to pay what can only be called an inflated price for the likes of Kuba, Witt, and Havelid.
Looking at Schneider's prospects, the trade isn't overly logical for Montreal: A second and third rounder for a 39-year old free agent to be whose only got 15 points and is playing 20 minutes a night on the second-worse defense in the league? At least Atlanta is making back draft picks from that 2007 Keith Tkachuk trade.
Although Schneider does bring experience from a variety of winning systems in Detroit and Montreal, and knows the struggles of truly lowly teams, he and his 1993 cup ring certainly aren't worth that much are they?
Maybe they are, but don't expect that to be the consensus.
So while the selling teams may look at this and say "If Schneider is worth this, than our guy is at least worth this", the buyers may be looking at this and seeing Montreal, a desperate team looking to stay in the playoff picture, scrambling to do something to right the ship.
A desperate deal for a desperate team may be all this is, but for the Toronto's and Florida's of the NHL, this could be a blessing in disguise.
It's all in who you talk to.
Sidenote: TSN.ca has reported that Kaberle has supplied the Leafs with a list of teams he's willing to be traded to and Pavel Kubina may yet do the same.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.
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