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All Eyes On Gainey As Deadline Approaches

It only took Michael Ryder to leave the Bell Centre on Sunday, sticks in hand, to get things started.

The gestures of Bob Gainey and staff will be closely scrutinized. You'll hear about where every Habs scout has been and is going and you will read and hear about which birdogs from other teams are on Montreal's trail.

The reasons are solid ones - Montreal are armed and poised to deal better than ever in recent memory, and with something big on the line this season, Gainey will almost have to become active.

There are 21 more days of hockey trade rumours to put up with until the February 26 deadline. I say "put up with", because 95% of what you will read about trades in the next three weeks is absolute journalist fantasy hogwash.

It happens in the newspapers and fan sites because it is what we folllowers of the game think about most leading up to the trade deadline, and it follows the supply and demand credo of the media feeding us what we want to read about.

It doesn't make anything they speak of - truth!

When seeing our Habs through the view of this media, dust trails are magnified into mountains.
Don't believe everything you read, and trust little of what you see.

I laugh my tail off when I read something involving trades between teams that starts with "it is rumoured" or "sources suggest" or my all time favorite, "an insider says". Get used to it until February ends.

Any NHL employed "insider" that blabs to a paper about a trade would be fired.

Don't confuse a scoop for a shovelfull!

GM's of teams don't discuss potential trades with the waterboy and the chick at the concession stand. Often they don't even inform their own coaches until the trigger is about to be pulled - or after!

The rumours gain ink because they have a sensible notion to them, but for the most part they are just journalistic fodder.

One is often lead to thinking that the writers of these rumours have an inside track, but that is convoluted nonsense. The first person a GM wouldn't want this information to find is someone working in the press. Printing it, compromises the trade deal, and disrupts the players lives and performance at a time when it such a distraction is not what they would want to cause.

So when you read it - don't buy it! Use your common sense to divide fact from fiction.

Are potential UFA's being shopped?

Of course they are, if a GM is doing his job correctly.

Are they about to be traded to your favorite team?

Chances are, your team's GM has called about the player in question and shown a certain interest by tabling who he would offer in return at some point. The likelyhood of the scenario being played out in print by some crystal ball gazing rumour monger is obvious.

Three instances of trades that never hit ink before they happened were the Joe Thornton trade, and two involving Montreal players, Mike Ribeiro and Craig Rivet.

Where were the sniffers on these surprises where most of us where caught off guard?

In the case of the Rivet trade to San Jose by Montreal, even Ducks GM Brian Burke, the sharpest of hockey wheelers and dealers was admittdly caught snoring!

What, doesn't Burke read the papers?

It would matter if he didn't!

Habs fans, over the coming weeks will read all about Bob Gainey's interest in players such as Mats Sundin, Marian Hossa, Olli Jokinen and others.

The interest will be obvious and the scenario's often farfetched.

Suday, in the Ottawa Sun, under the heading "Trades We'd Like To See", they had Sundin coming to the Habs for Chris Higgins and Ryan McDonagh. (They also had Ray Emery off to the Kings for a puck!)

I'd rate this one a 4 on a scale of 10 truth wise.

First, Sundin has a no trade clause and doesn't seem to be all too willing to waive it. I know - go figure!

Two, Gainey will not throw McDonagh into any scenario - no matter what. The kid just has way too much upside to gamble with. As far as Higgins goes, Gainey would have to be sure the move would translate into a Cup win before he would part with him.

Three, the Leafs would want more than this, even though it is a hefty price, and will wait until a desperate GM pays their price. That man will not be the logical Gainey, who always has an eye on the future.

There will come a time when a deal such as this makes more sense for the Habs, but at this point, when the playoffs are not even guaranteed, never mind chasing the Cup, it is doubtful that Gainey surrenders the prospects that the Leafs would ask for.

Now if, and only if, Toronto would take Higgins, 2006 first rounder David Fischer, and a pair of Hamilton Bulldogs, say Locke and Grabovski, and that Sundin is prepared to sign a three year deal with Montreal for 13.5 M, then Gainey will be calling a press conference soon!

Unfortunately, it's never that simple, but as you can see, anyone can start a trade rumour.

Gainey had little to lose in 2004 when he aquired Alex Kovalev for Josef Balej, as a rent a player, at the trade deadline. It's a move that has paid off well and was a low risk move.

This time around, when Gainey comes calling for a big time name, the asking price will be much higher.

He'll offer the likes of Ryder, Ryan O'Byrne, Mathieu Dandeneault, Max Lapierre, Jaroslav Halak, the rights to Alexander Perezhogin, David Fischer, a second, not first, round pick, and could be tempted to include Chris Higgins, Josh Gorges, or Mark Streit for the right player.

Don't ask him about the Kostitsyn's, or anyone named Latendresse, Chipchura, Price or Plekanec!

Same goes for recent draft picks McDonagh, Alexei Yemelin and Max Pacioretty.

Somewhere between giving up what is no longer in the Habs long term plans, and a player that is a keeper, Gainey will assess the team's needs beyond simply the short term goal.

Supposing he can aquire a talent the likes of Hossa, who would in turn sign with Montreal upon aquisition, then the deal would be sweetened with a player both Gainey and Habs fans will gnaw their teeth over losing.

Much of what will happen will depend on the Canadiens play in the 20 days following tonight's tilt with the Senators.

If the Habs continue to surprise and play well enough to shoot for first in the East or remain destined to finish ranked fourth, Gainey will almost be forced to pull the trigger on something substancial. Seeing as how stacked the Canadiens are in prospects and young talent, other GM's will wait Gainey out if he hints he is going forward with a move - they would be foolish not to.

Many of the bigger names, with bigger salaries, are likely to still be around by the weekend of the 23rd. The teams in fight for playoff spots will not want to give in too soon at auction time.

As Gainey may be prepared to make an offer that, based on resources, could be superior to many teams that will not want to part with prime assets as the playoffs near, many GM's may be waiting for the Canadiens domino to fall first.