5 Montreal Canadiens Who Should Be on the Trading Block
All has been relatively quiet on the trade front so far this season, but every team still has their share of players on the trading block they’d like to rid themselves of, with the Montreal Canadiens being no exception.
While the Habs have displayed their fair share of problems recently—namely an inability to understand that the rules allow you to play both offense and defense in the same game—they also have a fair amount of depth. They actually boast the second-most 20-point scorers in the NHL (nine; St. Louis Blues have 10).
As a result, the Habs have some wiggle room and can afford to dangle one or two quality players in front of suitors. Here are the top five Montreal Canadiens who should be on the block right now:
5. Daniel Briere
Forward Daniel Briere was made a healthy scratch for the second straight game on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars, prompting speculation that the Habs are unhappy with his play. Of course, his 10 points in 29 games and $4 million salary should serve as proof enough to that effect.
If you need more, consider how the Habs scored just two goals in his last two games in the lineup. In the last two, without him, they scored 10.
While general manager Marc Bergevin should by all accounts want to trade Briere away (and erase any and all proof of his blunder by mind-zapping all of Montreal with one of those devices from Men in Black), you don’t always get what you want.
Sure, Briere reportedly wants out of Montreal, too, according to Luc Chenier at 104.7 FM, but the fact remains that he remains a 36-year-old, 5’9”, 174-pound forward with a history of concussions. It’s almost as if Bergevin stopped reading the scouting report once he got to the grave accent in his name.
To be clear, Briere is arguably the player the Habs should most want to get rid of based on his value (or lack thereof). However, because he’s also the least likely to attract a (single) trading partner, he takes the fifth spot on this list.
4. Brian Gionta
Since Brian Gionta is team captain, he also is unlikely to be traded.
That isn’t to say teams don’t trade their captains (Montreal fans certainly could have made a drinking game out of it in the '90s). However, teams headed to the playoffs rarely do. With 52 points in 42 games (on pace for over 100 points), the Habs almost certainly fall into that latter group.
In addition, he does have 20 points (which isn’t horrible), and he’s also defensively aware. As such, he would represent a big loss, and his departure would leave a hole on the second line, on which he’s become a staple…for some reason.
Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Habs trade him out of town and replace him in the lineup in one fell swoop, especially if they sweeten the deal for the other team with a draft pick or two.
Take, for example, the New Jersey Devils and Jaromir Jagr. Jagr, despite being 42, leads the Devils with 34 points (which would also be best on the Habs). He also has built-in chemistry with second-line center Tomas Plekanec, with both being Czech and having played together during the lockout.
To make matters even more interesting, Gionta spent seven seasons in Jersey, and his brother Stephen currently plays there. Both Gionta and Jagr have expiring contracts, and a trade would make for good press all around.
That’s the good news. The bad news is Bergevin seems to hate the idea of acquiring Jagr, or maybe he just hates Jagr straight up. That’s never been made all that clear. Maybe Jagr pissed him off when they were teammates once upon a time, or maybe Bergevin resents his ability to play into his 40s.
What has become public knowledge, however, is that Jagr has expressed interest in playing in Montreal for the last few seasons. He has even reached out to Habs management only to have Bergevin say "no" to the future Hall of Famer, according to the Montreal Gazette.
That was in 2012 when Bergevin was reportedly looking to give his younger players a chance to crack the lineup following a dreadful last-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Flash forward a year after the Habs won the Northeast Division, and Bergevin understandably decided to sign a veteran presence to push the team over the top. Incomprehensibly, he made that veteran Daniel Briere while Jagr remained available only to eventually sign with Jersey for $2 million less.
For more bad news, according to TSN, Jagr doesn’t want to be traded come the March 5 deadline. He may not have a no-trade clause, but Jagr has potentially earned GM Lou Lamoriello’s respect (and that of everyone else) to the point that he won’t be moved, as per his request.
That’s not even taking into account how the Devils are just two points out of the last Metropolitan playoff spot. There’s just no reason for them to downgrade from Jagr to a 5’7”, 173-pound forward on the decline.
This hypothetical dream deal, or any involving Gionta for that matter, is likely to remain merely a pipe dream as a result.
3. Rene Bourque
Forward Rene Bourque is another forward who has worn out his welcome in Montreal. Some might say he never even ever arrived.
After being traded to the Habs from the Calgary Flames for Michael Cammalleri, Bourque remained largely invisible the rest of the 2011-12 season, scoring just eight points in 38 games.
In 2013, his best season with the Habs, during which he actually showed up to games regularly when healthy, he got concussed and was limited to just 27 games. He’s now back to his old tricks with an insignificant seven points in 30 games this season.
Bourque is talented, as his 164 points in 249 games with the Flames would indicate. He has also got that size (6’2”, 217 pounds) of which the Habs are in such dire need, but it’s become readily apparent that he needs a change of scenery in turn.
His contract isn’t horrible (two years left, with a $3.33 million salary cap hit), and if the Habs could get a bottom-six forward with upside, which is essentially what Bourque has become, it would be a major win.
2. David Desharnais
David Desharnais has been on a roll recently, but that just means it’s arguably the best time to trade him.
The first-line center, who started the season with a lone assist in his first 19 games, now has scored 19 points in his last 21 games since he and Max Pacioretty were reunited with Brendan Gallagher.
Desharnais’ turnaround has been very impressive, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that even if he were to maintain that same pace the rest of the season, he’d still fall short of his career-high 60 points.
The point here isn’t that a near 60-point season would constitute a failure. On the contrary, it would be a major success. However, the point is that it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to continue scoring 0.90 points per game the rest of the way, when during his best season he only managed a 0.74 PPG clip.
In a bizarro world where linemate Pacioretty, who’s on pace for a 40-goal season, constantly finds himself in trade rumors that just will not go away, the Habs would be better served getting rid of some dead weight. Even if he’s just 170 pounds, that would be Desharnais.
Desharnais’ contract, which has a $3.5 million cap hit and three years left on after this one, isn’t totally unmanageable. However, even if this season’s first 19 games were the outlier and the last 21 were more representative of his abilities, he’s just not this team’s first-line center of the future.
That would be Alex Galchenyuk, who has been much more dependable and consistent despite playing a lesser role. With Plekanec firmly embedded in that No. 2 slot, ironically, there just isn’t room for the 5’7” Desharnais, especially in a bottom-six role, where size is a prerequisite.
Trading him away for a prospect or second-round pick could end up being a move that pays long-term dividends. If the Habs are able to get a roster player to help them with their playoff push, that’s even better. Whatever the haul, there may never again be as good of a chance to get it than right now.
1. Raphael Diaz
Defenseman Raphael Diaz may not be far from the team’s best, but he is arguably its most attractive piece of trade bait.
He is a 28-year-old puck-moving defenseman who has loads of upside. As a result, he could conceivably be the centerpiece of a deadline deal with a team looking for blue-line depth for the playoffs and beyond.
Letting him go also wouldn’t hurt Montreal’s chances that much if at all. His defensive shortcomings have been well documented, while his responsibilities on the second power-play unit could be easily taken care of by current Hamilton Bulldog Nathan Beaulieu.
With Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi poised to potentially stay with the Habs next season, there may not even be room for Diaz, who could walk away for nothing before then anyway come July.