You have to hand it to Marc Bergevin. Minor trades of players who never see NHL ice rarely ever happen in November, and Bergevin has made two big moves now with players on contracts that aren't expiring at the end of the 2014-15 season, clearing out $5.183M in cap space for this upcoming summer in the process.
There's a lot to like about both the Sergei Gonchar for Travis Moen trade, and the Rene Bourque for Bryan Allen trade, but while Gonchar has looked pretty solid so far, this trade should be entirely about the future of the Canadiens. The reason for that is, Bryan Allen isn't very good, and he doesn't fit with the current mold of the team at all.
Why the trade is a win
Allen is an expiring unrestricted free agent that costs about the same against the cap as Bourque did this year, just $167K more, who the Habs will undoubtedly walk away from in July. He has no trade protection, no movement protection, and could be sent to the AHL at any time.
Rene Bourque had this year and next year on his contract, and clearly can no longer play at the necessary level to crack Montreal's top nine forwards, so he was dead weight, and since he had requested a trade last season, possibly a distraction as well.
Bergevin also did Bourque a solid by finding a trading partner relatively quickly after Bourque's AHL demotion, keeping the player happy and showing that he's not willing to just let veterans rot down there when he can do something for them.
Why the trade might not be so great
Well, as I said a bit earlier, Bryan Allen isn't very good. Over the last two years, only Luca Sbisa and Sheldon Souray, two players no longer with the Ducks, had worse possession numbers than Allen did. At 34 now, he's slowing down, and has started to become chronically injured.
Allen's numbers don't look too bad on the surface, with just a 48.4% Corsi while starting a slight majority of his starts in the defensive zone, but just under 500 minutes spent with the incredible young defenseman Sami Vatanan bumped him up that high, as without him he's a lowly 46.7% Corsi over the last two seasons, which is about mid-way between Alexei Emelin and Douglas Murray, so not good at all.
Allen wasn't used against tough competition either, as you can see in his player usage chart from war-on-ice.com:
Essentially, this isn't a player that's going to help the Canadiens win this year, but his own play isn't what really costs if the Habs do elect to play him this year instead of send him to Hamilton.
Consistent refusal to let the young players grow
If the Canadiens are going to play Allen, Nathan Beaulieu's time in the NHL is over for a while. That is a very, very bad thing. It was already bad enough when Michel Therrien moved him up to the fourth line for six minutes per game in favour of Gonchar, but being sent down to the AHL is a complete waste of time for Beaulieu.
Even last year, Beaulieu, and at times Jarred Tinordi too, have shown that they're too good for the American Hockey League. They have both played spectacularly at the NHL level, though both have been prone to big, high profile mistakes that lead to being in the coach's dog house. Here's the problem though, they need to make those mistakes. They need to learn from them, at the NHL level, consistently, without getting demoted to an inferior league they can no longer learn anything from.
Nathan Beaulieu was the MVP of the Hamilton Bulldogs at 19 & 20 years old, what is he going to learn there at 21? Patience with prospects is a good thing to have, but when they're knocking at the door, you don't brick the door over. You have to let them earn their spot, instead of overreact to every little mistake.
The Montreal Canadiens are better with both Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi on the roster, and if both are to be sent down in favour of two players well past their primes with an average age of 36, there's not much reason to think the Habs will do anything special this season, and next season, they'll have to let Tinordi and Beaulieu make the mistakes they should have made last season, and learn from them. Young players have to learn, and continually delaying when they get to learn isn't going to magically remove future mistakes.
As smart as these trades are for the future of the team, cap space isn't the future, the players are.