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What does the Gonchar trade mean for Tinordi and Beaulieu?

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The newly acquired Sergei Gonchar presents several questions, the biggest being what does Michel Therrien do with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu?

Bruce Bennett

Throughout the early course of this season Michel Therrien has alternated his usage of Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, almost refusing to play both in the lineup at the same time. With the acquisition of the 40 year old Sergei Gonchar we might see the playing time of both Tinordi and Beaulieu reduced even further.

Gonchar played around 13 minutes per night in Dallas, making him fit right into third pairing minutes Therrien is dolling out in Montreal, and that means that one of the Habs' young defensemen may sit out. Based on previous trends, Michel Therrien is likely to lean on the veteran over his younger players in almost any situation; see last season's fiasco with Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon for proof. Many have said that bringing in Gonchar is going to help the Canadiens struggling powerplay unit which he very well could do, however the issue is that putting Gonchar on the powerplay will likely take away time from Beaulieu, who is one of the better puck moving blueliners the Habs have, and needs to develop his powerplay skills at the NHL level.

For Jarred Tinordi, he could see his 3rd pairing minutes alongside Mike Weaver be given to the more offensively-inclined Gonchar. While Tinordi isn't known as an offensive force, he's been solid over the course of this season and it would be unfair to see him scratched or sent to the AHL.

With this trade the Habs also now have four left handed defensemen, with Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Gonchar, and Beaulieu. As mentioned above, it is highly likely that Therrien will play his veterans before his young players, which more than certainly means we're likely to not see a night with both Tinordi and Beaulieu in the lineup, and a few nights with neither of them.

Unless another defensemen is moved, it also means that one of Tinordi or Beaulieu will be sent back down to Hamilton in the coming days to make space for Gonchar. Tinordi has more NHL experience than Beaulieu, which may help keep him in Montreal right now, but we've seen that Bergevin is unafraid to send him down to Hamilton this season.

Beaulieu is the more polished player between the two, and seems to have the coach's favour right now while playing some outstanding games, is at a disadvantage since his skill set could be seen as similar to Gonchar's. The AHL option for either player is not the end of the world, due to the fact they'll be logging 20+ minutes a night for Sylvain Lefebvre on the top pair, but this season should be the development season in the NHL that both players should have experienced last year.

With Marc Bergevin it's hard to know whether or not he has another move up his sleeve, possibly to move out another player that isn't performing well like a Rene Bourque or Alexei Emelin, trades at this time of year are extremely rare, and we've already had one today.