Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone and, once again, Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier failed to make a trade for an impact player. As such, when the 3:00 PM EST deadline came and went yesterday afternoon, the anger and hand-wringing among Habs fans started in earnest.
It seems that year after year—since Bob Gainey became the GM of the team in June, 2003—the Canadiens have failed to act at the trade deadline while teams around them are continually making deals.
Aside from the trade that brought Alex Kovalev to Montreal at the 2003-2004 deadline, neither Gainey nor Gauthier has made anything more than depth acquisitions over their tenures.
So what does this say about the Canadiens' management philosophy?
Are their GMs, from Gainey to Gauthier, timid, uninterested and delusional about the quality of their teams or just too conservative to make an impact trade?
Love them or hate them, Gauthier, and Gainey before him, are eminently qualified to be General Managers in the NHL. Moreover, as much as fans and media alike enjoy pontificating about moves that should or shouldn't be made, few of them, myself included, have the ability to actually manage an NHL team.
So while it's nice to dream, there are some very clear realities in place that often trump the desire to make a splash.
Gauthier was working the phones
By all indications, Pierre Gauthier was extremely aggressive in this year's trade market—working the phones in an attempt to add scoring punch to his team. But when you're out there fishing for big fish, the asking price is usually high and sometimes you have to know when to walk away.
The name that is on everyone's lips this morning is Dustin Penner, since he is a player that many Habs fans thought would be a great fit in Montreal. Moreover, most thought that the Canadiens could just swap Andrei Kostitsyn for Penner, straight up.
While Penner undoubtedly brings the scoring size that the Habs are missing from their lineup, he also brings baggage and a hefty price tag. Penner has scored 21 goals this season and scored 32 last year, but much like Kostitsyn, he's been dogged by inconsistency.
Moreover, with one more year remaining on his contract after this season at $4.25 million, Penner would not exactly have been a cheap addition.
Prior to him being dealt to the Kings, there was a rumour floating around that the Habs had acquired Penner for Jarred Tinordi and a first-round pick. Looking at how much the Kings gave up for him, that price sounds about right.
The L.A. Kings, in my estimation, grossly overpaid by giving up defensive prospect Colten Teubert, a 2011 first-round pick and a 2012 conditional third-round pick. Teubert, who was selected 13th overall in the 2008 draft, is projected to be a power-house stay-at-home defenseman who should grow into a top two or three role in the future.
The only players or prospects in the Habs' system that fit this bill are Tinordi and P.K. Subban.
The Habs are not a contender
If the Canadiens were going to compete with or beat the Kings offer, they would have had to give up a similar package—essentially two first round picks and a conditional third.
Would that have been in the Habs' best interest? Would Habs fans be happy to see Tinordi or Subban shipped out of town for Penner?
In my estimation, no.
The reality is that despite some success this season, the Canadiens are a middling team and need more than once piece to be considered a contender.
Sure, adding a big, scoring winger to the mix would help the Canadiens but it wouldn't put them over the top.
The Habs have too many holes to be plugged by just one player and unless they would be acquiring a young, proven player that could play on the team for three-plus seasons, there was no reason to mortgage the future.
The window to being a contender is just starting to open, for Montreal, and there was no reason to jump the gun by trading away key picks and assets unless there was a reasonable certainty it would get them to the Cup final.
With young players like Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Subban and Ryan White already playing on the team and prospects like Louis Leblanc, Jarred Tinordi, Alexander Avtsin and Danny Kristo in the pipeline, the future is already bright for the Canadiens.
So while acquiring a player at the deadline is always exciting for fans, it's not always in the best interest of the team. As such, I believe that by sitting on his hands Pierre Gauthier made the right move by not moving at all.
The Canadiens fate lies in the player’s hands now. The lineup is set and despite their struggles they still have the ability to start the playoffs with home-ice advantage.
From there, as they have done all season, Montreal will go as far as Carey Price can take them.
While they're not a contender on paper, anything can happen once the playoffs start.