Montreal Canadiens Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize

Matthew BisharaContributor IFebruary 25, 2009

With only one fourth of the season remaining it’s time to examine the health of the Montreal Canadiens. As the trade deadline approaches it is the final chance for teams to put their final touches on their roster in order to build towards the future or make that final push towards their ultimate goal.

Since the addition of Mathieu Schneider the power play has been bolstered tallying up eight goals in the past four games, but the team is still struggling five on five.

As the division is now out of reach, the Canadiens are focusing on securing themselves in the top eight of the eastern conference, the expected return of Alex Tanguay should assist a struggling offence, but help down the middle and on the back end is still necessary.

As the trade deadline approaches it is clear that this team still lacks a big centerman and they need a bit more help on defence.

Here is a list of my top three available deadline centermen.

1. Vincent Lecavalier: The consensus among most analysts is that he won’t be dealt, but if a deal is at all possible I would encourage Bob Gainey to pull the trigger no matter who they want.

2. Olli Jokinen: The Coyotes are interested in trading the 30 year old veteran for a young talented proven player. i.e. Chris Higgins?

3. Michael Nylander: The Caps need the cap space in order to seek the top flight defenseman that is desperately needed in Washington.

The available talent on defence is not usually as apparent as this season; teams are not as quick to deal away with primetime defensive talent (the backbone of any championship team). Here is a list of my top three available deadline defensemen.

1. Chris Pronger: Stanley Cup Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and not to mention one of the premier Dmen in NHL history. If there is any truth to the reports that Anaheim is shopping him he would be an exceptional pick up for any contender in the eastern conference.

2. Jay Bouwmeester: A top 10 NHL talent with some offensive upside makes Bouwmeester a great pick up for any team, but the Panthers are looking for a top young prospect and a immediate impact forward in return, Montreal may not be willing to give that up.

3. Dan Hamhuis: A young Dman who can help any team on both sides of the puck. The Preds are looking for a forward with enough talent to help their team right away.

The Habs need to make a move to keep the contender status as they head into the playoffs. Keep in mind this is the final year of Gainey’s five year plan, it’s time for him to step up and pull the trigger on major move before he starts feeling the pressure. Here are a few players the Canadiens might be willing to deal in order to enhance their lineup.

Chris Higgins: Would be on the top three lines of any NHL team, but he has not lived up to his potential thus far in his career. He needs to learn how to putt before he can be considered a  top NHL talent.

Ryan O’Byrne: Has nearly worn out his welcome in Montreal with costly turnovers, but he is still young and has more upside than people think.

I wouldn’t throw all our eggs into one basket (a la Pittsburgh Penguins/Marian Hossa deal) but if the opportunity to make a deal without giving up the farm is there, I would not hesitate.