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Should the Canadiens go after Steven Stamkos?

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Rumour has it that Steven Stamkos may be available as the trade deadline approaches. Should the Habs pursue him?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Lately, there has been a ton of talk about the availability of Steven Stamkos before this year's trade deadline. He's on the final year of his contract with the Lightning, and it has been a very long time since a prime player on that level was available at the deadline. He certainly seems available, and if he indeed is, there will naturally be a ton of interest league-wide.

With Stammergeddon quickly approaching, the talk about where he might land isn't going to stop until he actually gets dealt somewhere, or re-signs with Tampa.  Recently there has actually been some chatter about him going to Montreal, as both Bob McKenzie and Elliotte Friedman have mentioned the possibility.

That said, it's time we take a look at the prospect of Stamkos coming to Montreal, what that might cost, and whether it would be worth it.

What would it take?

For starters, let's just rule out those who are almost definitely not on the block for Montreal. I'm talking the likes of Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, and Carey Price. Jeff Petry can probably be added to that list too, as he just joined the team on a long-term deal, which also has a no trade clause.

That said, getting Stamkos carries a cap hit of $7.5 Million, and the Canadiens currently have under $1.5 million in cap space,  so they'd need to free up over $5M to get Stamkos now. At the deadline they wouldn't need to free up nearly as much, closer to $2M, but the cost of getting him is going to be high no matter when they hypothetically make a deal.

Some significant salary player, or two mid-range players, will have to go the other way. Tampa has next to no cap space, so they probably want to make a little breathing room, as well as capitalize on the value of an exiting superstar.

Here's a list of potential roster players to move, along with their cap hit.

Player Cap hit Status
Andrei Markov 5,750,000 Signed through 2016-17
Tomas Plekanec 5,000,000 Signed through 2017-18
Alexei Emelin 4,100,000 Signed through 2017-18
David Desharnais 3,500,000 Signed through 2016-17
Lars Eller 3,500,000 Signed through 2017-18
Alex Galchenyuk 2,800,000 Signed through 2016-17
Tom Gilbert 2,800,000 Impending UFA
Torrey Mitchell 1,200,000 Signed through 2017-18
Dale Weise 1,025,000 Impending UFA
Nathan Beaulieu 1,000,000 Signed through 2016-17

It is worth noting that Markov, Plekanec, and Emelin all have different versions of a no-trade clause. Any one of those three would need to be alright with the move in order to deal them.

In an ideal world, I would move David Desharnais, Tom Gilbert, and maybe a pick or two. Stamkos is obviously an upgrade on Desharnais at centre, Tom Gilbert can be replaced from within, so it's a low-risk deal where you get a superstar player in return. Unfortunately, this isn't a video game, and that isn't going to happen.

I have a sinking suspicion that if Tampa was to consider a trade with Montreal at all, the centre they're going to want coming the other way will be Alex Galchenyuk. If they're going to lose a 25-year-old superstar, they're going to want someone young, and with real potential to fill that gap at centre.

Any hypothetical scenarios should be taken with the following caveat; Tampa is going to want some throw-ins too. I'm talking a draft pick, maybe two, or a solid prospect. It's unlikely that they're going to want to part ways with a generational talent like Stamkos for couple of roster players.

Is it worth it?

This is a very tough question to answer. It hinges quite a bit on whether the Canadiens can afford to re-sign him. Considering the likely cost of getting him, he'd be a very expensive rental player if that turns out to be the case.

There is a very legitimate possibility that you move heaven and earth to get Stamkos, and then he decides to sign elsewhere at season's end. There's no doubt that he, being in his prime and one of the best players in the world, will want to cash in, and do so with term.

The cap is slated to go up next year, probably to around $74 million. If that happens, the extra space could make a long-term deal with Stamkos a reality. But again, he's going to command a lot of dollars over a long time, and the Canadiens have some guys to take care of in the next few years, most notably Carey Price.

Only Brendan Gallagher, Subban, Petry, and Pacioretty are signed beyond the 2017-18 season. That leaves a whole lot of roster space, which will be all the more difficult to fill with the type of commitment that Stamkos is bound to want. Even if they get him, and can re-sign him, it could handcuff them for a very long time.

Considering the potential issues in re-signing him, the only way this is a guaranteed worthwhile move is if the Canadiens can win it all this year. It's a gamble to say that if the Habs have Stamkos, they can win right now. If they do, it wouldn't matter if he re-signs, because they'll have achieved the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

It would be pretty risky, and Marc Bergevin is a man who only takes the most calculated of risks. I really don't see him paying the price that Tampa is going to ask for a player that very well could end up as a rental.

It is possible that the Habs could trade for Stamkos. It is undeniably enticing, but it is also highly unlikely.