Pundits across the hockey world dropped their jaws when a flurry of trade activity occured these past two weeks. A one-for-one swap of stars? A massive cap-friendly swap of a late-career former star who then announced his year-end retirement? A backup goalie for a minor leaguer? Hey, when you're excited enough, you'll take anything to keep the feeling going.
What preceded all of this activity was the announcement from Jonathan Drouin's agent that his client had requested a trade in November, and with the Habs faltering in December and in dire need of scoring, it was inevitable that the two teams would be connected to trade talks.
What talks they were! The packages that some fans and commentators put together ranged from reasonable to steep to fantastically biased. Let's take a look at some of the trades suggested on Twitter. Bear in mind that if Drouin isn't your flavour, these packages could be considered for any young scoring forward.
Drouin for Alex Galchenyuk
Reasoning: Tampa Bay is going to play hardball, and per Ray Ferraro at TSN, Yzerman is going to want a player back that is around the same age and has the same potential as Drouin. Galchenyuk is the only Hab that fits that description.
"Sure!" Galchenyuk hasn't reached that potential in the three seasons he's spent with the club, and by the midpoint of the season, he hasn't suddenly morphed into the number one centre the Habs were hoping he'd be.
"Well..." It's a lot to ask a player to develop completely over the course of six months. Galchenyuk is one of the most dynamic players on the team, and has only begun to scratch the surface of his talents while producing in limited ice time.
"Is this a joke?" Drouin is a player with potential, but Galchenyuk is one that has started to realize his. Outside of being an established NHLer, Galchenyuk is among the teams - and the league's - best in pts/60. With his prime coming up in the next few years, he's simply not a piece to be moved right now. Nuh-uh. No chance.
Drouin for D Nathan Beaulieu, LW Michael McCarron, unspecified pick
Reasoning: This one comes into play per Pierre McGuire. Tampa Bay needs a right-handed defenseman, and Beaulieu has established himself as a reliable presence in Montreal's top four. McCarron is a big-body prospect who was just named an AHL All-Star. The pick sweetens the pot a bit further, and would be likely to be a second or first rounder.
"Sure!" The Habs have considerable depth at defence, and the team should be comfortable moving anybody that doesn't wear number 76 if the return is good enough. McCarron's ceiling is likely to put him in a top-nine role rather than top-six, at least for a while - if at all.
"Well..." If McCarron can prove himself a standout in the AHL, his NHL contributions are likely to be useful at the very least. Beaulieu has provided a reliable presence on the blue line, and is capable of chipping in offensively.
"Is this a joke?" Beaulieu hasn't just been top four - he's seen time with PK Subban on what has arguably been the best defensive pairing the Habs have had all year. McCarron is the hulking LW fans have been clamouring over for years. Don't be ridiculous.
D Matt Carle and Drouin for C David Desharnais, D Greg Pateryn and a first-round pick
Reasoning: This one's a much tougher sell. It involves moving a bit of money around in a salary cap exchange, with the Habs taking on Matt Carle's $5.5 million while sending Desharnais' $4 million and Pateryn's $575k. But it makes sense: Tampa gets a reliable 50-point producer used to working as a setup man, and the Habs take on a salary dump.
"Sure!" Therrien has a weird compulsion to play the streaky, defensively suspect Desharnais over more competent players, so conceivably trading DD would correct this bizarre coaching habit. Pateryn is a cheap but capable and physical d-man who has spent much of the season rusting in the press box.
"Well..." Desharnais is a peculiar case. He's definitely overrated by the coach, but I think he's underrated by fans. Used properly, he's an effective forward, and if put in a position to feed Stamkos on the PP, he could really make a mess of any divisional rivals he might come up against. Cough cough.
"Is this a joke?" The Lightning wouldn't want this deal, because they likely see Desharnais as a limited contributor. Tampa has its share of small, skilled forwards, and it's hard to say with a straight face that Desharnais would be an upgrade on any of them. Pateryn is still a bit of a question mark at this point, and you'd need at least a top-four candidate for Tampa to see any value in this deal. Like I said, tough sell. Now, if Montreal still had Tinordi to plug into this deal...
Drouin for (Insert Your Least Favourite Canadien)
Reasoning: Look, if there's one player you really can't stand, it's (insert name here). He's (overpaid/overused/overrated). You'd give anything to get him out of town, because you're positive it would fix Montreal's scoring woes, improve their defensive game, and cure Carey Price. It might even make him better...stronger.
"Sure!" Well, yeah. You hate (that guy). What's the downside?
"Well..." Yzerman might be losing face in the media, but he's no fool. He's not going to make a bad deal for a valuable piece because of a little bit of pressure.
"Is this a joke?" To be frank, Tampa Bay doesn't want garbage. Steve Yzerman knows he has twenty nine teams drooling at the prospect of Drouin joining their lineup, and he's going to make sure the potential star doesn't go for an overpaid role player in need of a buyout. Give the man some credit.
There's little question Drouin is going to be moved, but given that Montreal and Tampa are divisional rivals, there's some skepticism about whether a deal can be made here although talks are reported to be intensifying. It's going to require Montreal to offer the very best package over every other team in the league, and the prospect of the team giving too much for Drouin is basically admitting this season to be a wash.
Sorry, armchair GMs - Alexei Emelin and David Desharnais aren't likely to be headed to the Sunshine State any time soon. After all, this isn't Playstation.