Montreal Canadiens Trade Analysis: Brent Sopel for Ben Maxwell

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2011

TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 7:  Brent Sopel #3 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates with the puck in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 7, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Thrashers 5-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier continued retooling his injury-depleted team today, trading prospect Ben Maxwell and a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft to the Atlanta Thrashers for Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes.

With Jaroslav Spacek on the sidelines with an undisclosed injury and rumours circulating that he could be done for the season, Sopel represents insurance on the back end.

Dawes, who is playing on his fifth NHL team in four years, will report to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Cap Implications's Brian La Rose explained that:

"Sopel's acquisition eats up a little more than half of the Habs' remaining full season acquisition space, dropping it to a little below $1.85 million. However, with the uncertainly surrounding Spacek, that number could grow still. Sopel makes $2 million this season with a $2.33 million cap hit, while Dawes makes $650,000 at the NHL level, and $105,000 in the minors. Due to that AHL salary, he doesn't require re-entry waivers."


This is an excellent, if slightly expensive, insurance move by Pierre Gauthier who bolsters his back end with a playoff-hardened veteran in Brent Sopel.

With the logjam at center—Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez, David Desharnais, Lars Eller and Jeff Halpern—it was becoming more and more apparent that Maxwell had lost his shot at making the big club.

The emergence of Desharnais this season was the final nail in Maxwell's coffin.

While Dawes, who will report to the Bulldogs, is another smallish player (5'9"), he plays with a ton of grit. He will provide depth for the Habs if they need an NHL ready player to fill a spot in the bottom-six.

Back to Sopel, his acquisition means that the Canadiens now have nine defensemen on their NHL roster: Hal Gill, P.K. Subban, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek, Yannick Weber, James Wizniewski, Alexandre Picard, Paul Mara and Brent Sopel.

Something's got to give.

If we assume that Spacek will be out for a while, if not the rest of the season, then that leaves eight defensemen. The Habs are sure to, at a minimum, waive Picard or send him down to the minors, but Jacques Martin is a coach who likes to roll six defensemen.

To me this either means a change in philosophy from the coach or another move by the GM, possibly for a top-six forward and possibly shipping Yannick Weber out of town.

Now before you blow your computer up at the Weber comment you have to remember that if Gauthier is going after a bona fide top-sixer, and that is a big if, Weber represents one of the Habs' best trading assets.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that Gauthier has one more move up his sleeve.

Overall, this is a good move for the Canadiens who bring in another Stanley Cup champion player with experience to play on the back end. The Habs just became more experienced and grittier and I, for one, am a fan of the move.

Trade Links

Habs Press release - Canadiens Acquire Brent Sopel

Brent Sopel player page on

Brent Sopel cap information on

Nigel Dawes player page on

Nigel Dawes cap information on

Habs ongoing cap chart at

Follow Kamal on Facebook, Twitter, and


    Lightning Win 3-1, Take Out Devils

    NHL logo

    Lightning Win 3-1, Take Out Devils

    via Tampabay

    Habs360 Podcast | Best Moments of Habs360 [e245]

    Montreal Canadiens logo
    Montreal Canadiens

    Habs360 Podcast | Best Moments of Habs360 [e245]

    Chris G
    via Allhabs

    Montreal Canadiens Off-Season: Tools for Success

    Montreal Canadiens logo
    Montreal Canadiens

    Montreal Canadiens Off-Season: Tools for Success

    Colton Osmond
    via Last Word on Hockey

    Coaching The Farm: 1981-1990 — Canadiens develop successive NHL coaches

    Montreal Canadiens logo
    Montreal Canadiens

    Coaching The Farm: 1981-1990 — Canadiens develop successive NHL coaches

    Eyes On The Prize
    via Eyes On The Prize