Montreal Canadiens: Brent Sopel Makes Them a Legit Stanley Cup Contender

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IFebruary 24, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 31:  Brent Sopel #3 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 31, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Thrashers 3-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens acquired defenseman Brent Sopel in a deal that also brought Nigel Dawes into the Habs organization in exchange for prospect forward Ben Maxwell and Montreal's 2011 fourth-round pick.

Major? Blockbuster? Not really.

But this deal does make the Habs a legit Cup contender.

The Canadiens have been dealing with substantial injuries on their blue line all year and have been trying to find the right player to be more than a band-aid on special teams for a couple months. When they added James Wisniewski earlier in the season, they hoped he could fill a few roles.

He's been a nice addition, but not what they had hoped.

In Sopel, the Habs get someone that fits their shut-down mold much better.

Sopel isn't going to skate with the speed-racing forwards in the East. And he isn't going to score 20 goals in March. But he is going to provide great leadership in the locker room and add a dependable body on the Habs penalty kill.

So far this year, Sopel is among the league leaders, averaging 3:21 of short-handed ice time per game (ranks 21st in the NHL). He also ranks 10th in the NHL with 130 blocked shots.

Right now, Montreal is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Sopel was a member of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks last year and was one of their top penalty killers.