Tick tock, tick tock, the clock to Monday's 3pm NHL Trade Deadline winds down. I don't know if you guys are aware, but TSNis willing to waste your day with a show specifically devoted to this, starting at 8am Monday. Sorry TSN, you guys hooked me in last year, and what an exciting day that was! NOT!
Meanwhile, as GMs call, and text to make those final adjustments for a playoff run, or in some cases sell off and hope for next year, it's safe to say the Montreal Canadiens are done dealing, maybe.
According to CapGeek, the bible of NHL salary caps, the Canadiens have just over $1.8 million to apply to their maximum cap hit.
There could potentially be a little more if the future of Jaroslav Spacek's season were confirmed. Results of his MRI are thus far unreleased, and likely won't until after the deadline. In all likelihood, any move by Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier would be a small one, such as a prospect for a draft pick, unless he goes all out and makes a blockbuster deal involving roster players
If he were to make the deal, what would Gauthier be after? Backup goaltender? Doubt it? Defenseman? Likely not, since he's made recent acquisitions for Paul Mara and Brent Sopel. Big forward? Definitely what the Habs need to battle the retooled Boston Bruins and always physical Philadelphia Flyers. But can Gauthier find that element and keep his roster in decent shape?
In terms of goaltending, there isn't really much that can be said about Carey Price this season. The hardest working goalie in the league has proven why Bob Gainey chose him first overall in 2005 and making people forget about Jaroslav Halak.
On paper right now, the Canadiens are a team that would need a spectacular playoff performance from Price, in order to get into or past the second round. Can he do it? Without question the answer is yes, provided in has enough gas in the tank to go the extra 16-28 games. The 2007 Calder Cup playoffs showed that he can manage a long season.
The problem for the Canadiens would be if Price were to go down to injury during the stretch run. If that unsightly event occurs, you can write off any Stanley Cup parade in Montreal for 2011. Sorry, but Alex Auld is no Halak or Steve Penney. So does Gauthier look to upgrade the backup roll, and if so from where? One goalie suspected to be on the move is the Florida Panthers' Tomas Vokoun. According to this list of top-ten movers, the Canadiens could be interested, but his salary alone would scare off almost any GM in the league.
Ty Conklin of the St. Louis Blues might be an option. He was recently put on waivers by the Blues, and went unclaimed. His salary is $300,000 more than Auld's, and the two clubs have a good trading history of late, including a near miss for Eric Brewer. With Halak in IR, the Blues' season is basically over so a straight up deal could happen, and give the Habs a bit of insurance in goal.
Pascal LeClaire of the Ottawa Senators is another goalie recently waived, but his salary, and injury history, would be another concern. The big player of interest in Ottawa has been defenseman Chris Phillips. He's making $3.5 million and has a no-trade clause, so this year's fire sale king Bryan Murray would need to find a team he'd be willing to go to.
Murray has also reportedly been trying to get Phillips resigned, and Gauthier couldn't wait any longer and traded for Sopel. Thatsaid, it seems Gauthier is satisfied with his defensive corps for now. Mara and Sopel, along with Hal Gill, Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski, P.K. Subban, Alexandre Picard and Yannick Weber make up the current Habs defense corps. Gauthier likely has no intentions of tinkering with his blueline any further and will wait for prognosis on Spacek, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, before making any contract deals in the off-season.
That leaves the forwards, where fans of late have drawn their biggest concerns in terms of size and scoring. Until Satruday, the last Canadiens player to score 20 or more goals, in five straight seasons, was Stephane Richer. Tomas Plekanec ended that 20-year drought with his 20th goal against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta are both capable scorers, but when it comes to size in front of the net the problems begin. Gionta's 239 shots on goal lead the league, but he only has 22 goals to show for it. What if there's a big body in front to make the opposing goalie's life more difficult? If there is, the Habs captain is probably sitting at 35 goals right now. But, he's not and there lies the problem. More often than not it's Gionta who's battling the Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger types of the NHL right in the crease.
The Habs have players capable of getting in a goalie's face, and have a scoring touch. Max Pacioretty is developing into one, as is Lars Eller, and Andrei Kostitsyn can, when he wants to. Arpon Basu notes the Eller-Kostitsyn pairing might be a promising sign offensively for the Canadiens.
So does Gauthier seek out what is available in a forward? If so, it would have to be a good deal that would see a few Montreal stalls be emptied out.
One of the first names that comes to mind is the Dallas Stars' Brad Richards. There we go, straight up for Scott Gomez, who is rather equal on salary, and get Stars' GM Joe Nieuwendyk to throw in some picks as compensation if Richards goes UFA in July.
Could it happen? I strongly doubt it.
According to Pierre LeBrun, a deal for Richards might come last-minute Monday, and the Stars may just risk keeping him for a playoff run. The other concern is Richards current concussion situation. Would the Habs be willing to risk a deal for Richards, then play him six-or seven games against a banging team like the Bruins and/or Flyers?
Other options. The Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny? Not going anywhere, according to Adrian Dater. A package deal involving Gomez to Colorado had been floated about on Twitter, but nothing concrete has come of it. Besides, someone wearing a Habs jersey that said Stastny on it? C'mon!
Dustin Penner? There were reports a while back that Edmonton Oilers scouts were checking out the Canadiens, and vice-versa. Penner has always been in the "to Montreal" rumour mill for almost two years. For the Oilers to move Penner or Ales Hemsky, would seem rather foolish. Both have another year on their reasonably-priced contracts, and the last place Oilers have nothing to gain in a deal at this point, especially witha $13-million cap buffer to play with.
Clarke MacArthur? Brian Burke has the balls to pull off or attempt any deal, but would the Toronto Maple Leafs GM make a deal with the Habs right now?
I think it's safe to say that Gauthier has consulted coach Jacques Martin on what he feels the team needs. The latter will deny that this has happened of course. Any key deal up front would need some cap room, and that means somehow moving a guy like Gomez. Considering Martin never seems to punish No.11 in terms of ice time (micro statisticians will back that up), and knows of his value in a playoff situation as he was last season, chances are Gomez is going nowhere anytime soon.
That in place, expect to se the same Canadiens lineup at 3:01 pm Monday, as you do right now.
Now as I post this, watch a Habs deal happen.