Montreal Canadiens: Habs Most Likely to Be Traded Once the NHL Lockout Ends

Ryan SzporerContributor IIIOctober 13, 2012

Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens about to be checked by then-New Jersey Devil Matt Taormina.
Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens about to be checked by then-New Jersey Devil Matt Taormina.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The good news is there is a scenario in which Scott Gomez can be traded.

The bad news? It involves the lockout lasting a good, long while.

Gomez, whose salary-cap hit of $7,357,143 leads one to believe that somewhere in his house he has a whole room dedicated to a massive unopened collection of instructional videos on how to play hockey (emphasis on the unopened), has become the bane of Habs fans’ existence.

It would be bad enough if the “top-six forward” had only scored nine goals over the past two years. However, the $15.5 million he “earned” over those two years translates to over $1 million per goal.

In fact, dating back to his first season in Montreal, when he played relatively well and scored 12 goals and 47 assists, he has received a total of $23.5 million and scored just 21 goals.

So, you might be asking yourselves, in what crazy world would a team be willing to take on a non-achiever like Gomez?

It’s hard to predict what the collective bargaining landscape will look like once hockey starts up again.

One has to hope, excluding a general lack of scorched earth, that the owners are somehow able to convince the players to directly tie their salaries to their salary-cap hits (which would likely only come about following at least one full season of negotiations and lost wages).

Seeing as Gomez will make $4.5 million next season, the last in his current contract, it’s easy to envision a situation where he’s not all that unsavory of a pick-up come the trade deadline, especially for a team looking to solidify some scoring punch—scratch that—a healthy body on its fourth line following an incredibly localized flu outbreak that wreaks havoc through its entire locker room.

And barring a buy-out, that is likely the only way Montreal will cut its ties to the former Eastern Coast Hockey League most valuable player—spelling it out like that makes it sound even more pathetic.

Here’s hoping he repeats this season and “two-time” can be added to the front of the title, which may as well be code for “not even good enough for the American Hockey League.”

Gomez, it should be noted, does have a no-trade clause, but it’s limited. He can list only three teams to which he will not accept a trade, so, for all intents and purposes it’s non-existent when discussing a situation such as the one above.

Other Habs currently with no-trade clauses include Erik Cole, Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec (via The Fourth Period).

Of those, Montreal wouldn’t even bother trying to trade Cole—at least not until the last year of his contract.

Meanwhile, both Markov and Gionta aren’t exactly at the peak of their careers, production or health wise.

It’s pretty evident that Tomas Plekanec, who has a modified no-trade clause, is the most appealing player, not just on that above list, but in general of all those Montreal would conceivably trade—Max Pacioretty, Carey Price and P.K. Subban aren’t going anywhere.

Of course, despite rumours last season that Plekanec was on the trade block, both his agent Rick Curran and Plekanec denied any suggestion that the forward had been asked to waive his NTC. That doesn’t change the facts that he could very well be in the future and his two-play would make him very attractive to a team looking for depth up the middle.

Meanwhile, Plekanec, as of Oct. 8, led all NHLers in scoring overseas with seven goals and seven assists in eight games playing for HC Kladno in the Czech Extraliga.

That’s not to say his play overseas would dictate his trade value in the NHL, only that he’s capable of relatively great things offensively that have yet to consistently materialize for him in a Habs uniform.

Perhaps a change in scenery would be best for both parties.

Looking at the rest of Montreal’s current roster:

-Peter Budaj may be expendable from the standpoint of his long-term worth to the Habs, but trading your only back-up goalie is kind of nonsensical

-Colby Armstrong, Petteri Nokelainen and Francis Bouillon are all signed to one-year deals and likely wouldn’t be traded based on their intrinsic value to the Habs

-David Desharnais, despite his playmaking prowess, would likely be a tough sell to most NHL clubs for what Montreal would want in return (because of his size)

-With Ian Schultz recently being cut from the Hamilton Bulldogs, Lars Eller will never be dealt as long as Jaroslav Halak is still alive and well in the NHL

-Travis Moen just resigned and likely won’t be traded until the tail end of his latest deal if at all

-Brandon Prust and Tomas Kaberle will either play as they have in the recent past and become too expensive for other general managers or play over their heads leaving the Habs no choice but to keep them

-Ryan White would sooner be put on waivers and demoted than traded

-Josh Gorges is the heart and soul of Montreal’s defense right now and GM Marc Bergevin would have to have a gun to his head to even consider trading him

-Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin are too valuable, considering Markov’s precarious health situation, and they’ve only been around for one season, meaning management is likely to want to wait and see how they pan out. Emelin is especially untouchable, seeing as he’s Montreal’s most physical d-man

As such, Yannick Weber, who first played a game with the Habs four seasons ago and has yet to establish himself with the team, might be a possible trade candidate. He lacks size at 5’11” and 193 pounds, but on the plus side his production and number of games played have gone up significantly in each of the last two seasons.

Having played forward in the past, he is also versatile and could at least fetch a second-round draft pick from a team looking to build up for a lengthy post-season run. His defensive play is a liability, but he’s also still young (24) and his upside as a power-play quarterback may be enough of a sell for most teams.

Meanwhile Rene Bourque, who rather impressively notched 164 points in 249 games with the Calgary Flames—at least compared to the 75 points he put up as a Chicago Blackhawk over 183 games—only scored eight points in 38 games with Montreal last season.

His salary-cap hit is a reasonable $3.33 million, if he shows up to play. However, that’s a pretty big “if.” Following a hot streak, Bourque would most definitely be an easy trade-bait target, and not just because he’s slow moving. Consistent production on his part can never be sustained and at this point Habs management has realized (too late) this very sad fact.

That’s why the team would do well to trade him to the highest bidder whenever the opportunity arises, even if that bid consists of a bag of pucks...going the other way along with Bourque.

Hey, they’ve got to be compensated in one way or another.

So, to sum up:

Player Montreal would pay another team to take: Rene Bourque

Player Montreal could not pay another team to take: Scott Gomez

Most appealing, potentially available player to other teams: Tomas Plekanec

Most likely player to be traded: Yannick Weber

Of course, this is all the purest form of speculation with no hockey currently being played and no one knowing how the new collective bargaining agreement will shape up. Few things in fact are certain nowadays when it comes to hockey.

For instance, considering Gomez came back from the last lockout after regaining his confidence in the ECHL and scored a career-high 84 points (and a career-high 33 goals) in 82 games with the New Jersey Devils, can anyone safely say he won’t do the same next season with Montreal? With Brian Gionta being his linemate once again? With it being a contract year???

Unlikely, yes. But impossible? Okay…yes. But dare to dream.


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