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The Habs are listening to offers on Nathan Beaulieu

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The Canadiens should consider trading him, but only if the return is an immediate improvement.

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Francois Gagnon revealed yesterday that General Manager Marc Bergevin is listening to offers on defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.

« Mon travail consiste à améliorer l’équipe. Nathan (Beaulieu) n’est pas dans la vitrine pour employer une expression de hockey, mais j’ai reçu des appels et oui j’écoute ce que les autres clubs ont à offrir. C’est ma job d’écouter, d’analyser. Nathan est un bon jeune défenseur. On ne sait pas encore quelle sera sa niche précise dans la LNH. Si je veux améliorer mon équipe, je dois bouger des joueurs qui ont de la valeur. C’est exactement ce que j’ai fait en échangeant P.K. (Subban) pour mettre la main sur un gars comme Shea Weber. On n’a rien pour rien dans la LNH », a insisté Bergevin.

Translation: “My work consists of improving the team. Nathan Beaulieu is not being shopped, but I received offers and yes I am listening to what other teams have to offer. It’s my job to listen, analyze. Nathan is a good young defenceman. We don’t quite know what his exact niche will be in the NHL. If I want to improve my team, I have to move players that have value. It’s exactly what I did in trading Subban to put my hands on a guy like Weber. You need to give to get in the NHL.”

On the surface, this is seemingly cliched talk from a General Manager. Bergevin is right, it’s definitely his job to listen to offers and improve his team. However, one can’t read that quote without thinking of the deal that sent Subban to Nashville. In fact, some of the wording is incredibly similar.

“It’s not even listening to offers is I’m taking calls,” Bergevin said. “When a GM calls me I don’t know who he’s calling me about so I answer the phone. Yes, I’ve received calls on P.K., but I’m not shopping P.K. Subban. I can tell you that.”

Asked if it was realistic that a trade could take place with Subban, who’s posted more points than every defenceman but Erik Karlsson over the past five seasons, Bergevin replied: “I would say no.”

The concept of trading Beaulieu shouldn’t scare anyone, as long as the return fits Montreal’s needs. At the moment the Canadiens desperately need a top-notch puck-moving defenceman, which is a role that many, including myself, thought Beaulieu would fulfill this upcoming season.

If Bergevin can trade Beaulieu for a more established, yet quite mobile blue liner, then there’s no issue to worry about other than a lack of cap space.

However with the exodus of Subban, the Canadiens are now short on puck-moving defenceman, which makes the idea of trading Beaulieu a lot less enticing.

Truth be told, Beaulieu is yet to establish himself in the NHL as a top-four defenceman, and seeing as Weber joined the fold, and Carey Price’s contract expires in a few years, the Canadiens have shifted to “win now” mode. If they can find a better defenceman and leverage Beaulieu’s potential into established talent on the blue line, then the Habs would be foolish not to consider it. That being said, Beaulieu did play rather well in certain situations last year, meaning he clearly brings value to the team.

They need to tread carefully here. Changing a team identity and culture can perhaps do wonders for the locker room, but the fact of the matter is you still need people that have the ability to drive the play up the ice when the puck finally drops.

Not to mention the fact that the Canadiens don’t have much cap space to play with going forward. Beaulieu will cost them $1M this season, and the team itself has roughly $1.5M left in cap space to consider an upgrade. There aren’t a plethora of established defenceman available at $2.5M or less, which makes the idea of trading Beaulieu that much more complicated, although it does open up the possibility of moving him once the Canadiens have accumulated more cap space by the trade deadline.