Three Moves I'd Make if I Were Canadiens GM Bob Gainey
Note: Before I go into this article, I must admit that being the Montreal Canadiens GM may be the hardest and most pressure-packed job in the NHL. I write this with the utmost respect for Bob Gainey and the moves and the team he has built.
It's panic time in Montreal.
No, I'm not talking about the trade deadline.
I'm talking about the trade deadline and their current slump.
Already, Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey has made a move, adding a top four defenseman to the ranks with the return of Mathieu Schnedier.
Yet, there are other moves to be made. And situations and player roles to be addressed. And last, but not at all least, a myriad of free agents looming this off-season in the Canadiens lineup.
Deal Tomas Plekanec, Ryan O'Byrne, and a fourth Round Draft Pick to San Jose for Joe Pavelski & a second round Draft Pick.
Tomas Plekanec is a far cry from last season's performance. And it is mostly due to the lack of consistency shown by Alex Kovalev.
Plekanec thrived centering Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn in 2007-08, but since Kovalev is not on pace to come near his 83 points scored last season, Plekanec will probably not fare well either.
Plekanec's 11 goals and 14 assists are a far from his 21 goals and 33 assists at mid-February last season. Yet, his 50.5 face-off percentage is a bare improvement over last season's 49.5.
Still, Plekanec has an offensive upside as long as he is playing with skilled wingers, of which San Jose has many including Jonathan Cheechoo, who is also needing a boost in San Jose.
Pavelski, who is currently slotted as the No. 2 centre in the Sharks depth chart has 40 points in 52 games so far this season and is a big reason why the Sharks are doing so well.
Under no circumstances would Pavelski be traded one-for-one for Plekanec. If the Canadiens threw in Ryan O'Byrne, the Sharks have a defenseman that could possibly take over full-time if Rob Blake retires.
Pavelski's 54.5 face-off percentage could aid the Canadiens who's top face-off man is Saku Koivu (53.5 percent). Pavelski may not add size, but his speed and quickness would blend right into the Canadiens lineup.
Deal Chris Higgins, Jaroslav Halak, and a third Round Pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Ryan Malone and a second Round Pick
Chris Higgins was on the trading block last off-season when the rumours of Mats Sundin were circling. Now, Higgins has not improved, despite injury, and his name has been mentioned during the Vincent Lecavalier rumours.
In 32 games, Higgins has managed only seven goals and six assists, far from his 27-goal, 52 point performance last season, also plagued by injuries. Higgins has not lived up to expectations of being the Canadiens power forward of the future.
Jaroslav Halak is a good goalie, but his weaknesses have shown maybe that it is time for a move. He started to show potential when he almost single-handedly got the Canadiens to the playoffs with Cristobal Huet out of the lineup in 2006-07 only to not dress in the final game of the season. That was when everything went south for Halak.
So far this season, Halak has been average, having stellar games and then backing them up with mediocre games. His 12-10-1 record with a 3.06 GAA is far from when he went 10-6-0 with a 2.68 GAA in 2006-07.
Ryan Malone showed that he could be a great asset for any NHL team and decided to do that when he left the Pittsburgh Penguins in the off-season to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he signed a seven-year deal.
Yet, Malone struggled through his first month in Tampa to eventually find his scoring touch in November and December before only scoring eight points in his last 18 games. And in Tampa, perhaps Malone may not get a shot at success until the end of his contract.
Malone's power forward like play is needed in Montreal. His work in Pittsburgh was noticeably helpful for the Penguins in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2008.
His 16 points in 20 playoff games where no fluke, despite not showing up in the Finals, Malone's upside can only improve with a change of setting.
Deal Alex Kovalev and Sergei Kostitsyn to the Anaheim Ducks for Chris Kunitz and a third Round Draft Pick.
This one may be tricky. Especially since Kunitz's gritty style of play matches so well with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Yet, the Ducks depth of gritty power forwardesque players may hurt them.
The Ducks have pure scorers in Teemu Selanne and Brendan Morrison, yet the Ducks could use another playmaking winger.
Alex Kovalev's demise from hero in Montreal last season to possible trade bait has many wondering where he will go. Kovalev would be a decent fit in Anaheim.
The first line could consist of Bobby Ryan moving up with Getzlaf and Perry, while Kovalev takes the second line with Selanne and Andrew Ebbett or Todd Marchant.
With Kovalev and Selanne on the wings, whichever centre plays between them, they will benefit. Especially since Kovalev is a good set up man and Selanne can put the puck home. It could bring back the memories of the Selanne-Paul Kariya days in Anaheim.
Sergei Kostitsyn has known to be a bit of an inconsistent whiner when it comes to his play. Whenever he does not play well, he sulks and takes bad penalties, which is why a new place to play may be in order. Kostitsyn has a tremendous upside and great potential, only if he plays with the right players.
His grit, combined with his offensive upside, could help the Ducks on the third and fourth lines along with Rob Niedermayer, Travis Moen, Ryan Carter, and Co. Kostitsyn is another player with a deadly shot and gritty style of play.
Kunitz's grit and determined style of play would be a welcome addition. Kunitz is a proven 20+ goal scorer and his grit is proven in his 80+ PIMs seasons the last two seasons. Kunitz has only to go up in his career and the hit on the Canadiens cap space is not too significant.
The Canadiens do have grit, but mostly in their back end with Mike Komisarek, Roman Hamrlik, and Francis Bouillon. And yet with their gritty forwards up front, they don't put the puck in the net nearly as often as Malone or Kunitz do. Adding Kunitz, Pavelski, and Malone could make the lineup look like so:
Malone - Koivu - A. Kostitsyn
Kunitz - Pavelski - D'Agostini
Pacioretty - Lapierre/Chipchura - Dandenault
Kostopolous - Begin - Laraque
And these players have what the Canadiens need: grit and speed.
Possibilities and conjectures are all. But we wait for Mr. Gainey's next move.
Matt Eichel is a Community Leader for the Montreal Canadiens here on Bleacher Report along with Miah D. and Daniel Arouchain. Matt also co-hosts Habs All Out Radio, a in-depth talk radio show devoted to all things Montreal Canadiens.
It airs weekly at www.youcastr.com/shows/habs-all-out and is hosted by Matt and Miah.
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