NHL Trade Deadline - What to do about Tomas Kaberle - Part 1
When the Canadiens put Tomas Kaberle on waivers last weekend, they were obviously hoping he would get claimed, but that avenue isn't going to work, but is there something that could work?
The Canadiens are in a bit of a situation with Tomas Kaberle. They clearly don't want to play him in games anymore, preferring to try out Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, then Nathan Beaulieu. If Beaulieu is sent back to the AHL at some point, I expect that Yannick Weber will be played instead of Kaberle as well.
The odd thing is that Kaberle hasn't been bad this season, he just hasn't been good enough to justify a roster spot over a developing player. He's not the kind of player Therrien wants on his third pairing with Francis Bouillon, and Therrien wisely values even strength play far more than he does special teams.
To be effective at even strength, Kaberle needs to be put in a role where he doesn't face the opponent's top players, and he plays a lot in the offensive zone. That kind of player is hard to justify at $4.25M a year, but what if the Canadiens take salary back in trade? Then everything gets a little bit more interesting.
One team that may be open to this scenario is the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are currently in playoff position, and their third pairing defensive unit is Clayton Stoner and Jared Spurgeon. Spurgeon seems to be handling semi-tough minutes on this pairing fairly well, but Stoner is a drag on him from a possession standpoint. Kaberle could be placed on an all offense pairing with Tom Gilbert, allowing Brett Clark to play with Spurgeon in a more effective defense minded pairing.
Kaberle has played easy minutes this season, but only mildy easier than GIlbert has. And while Gilbert has an admirable Relative Corsi of +2.9, Kaberle clocks in at +17.4. It's easy to forget after last year that Kaberle was an exceedingly effective player for a really long time. He's not what he once was, but he can help a team. Kaberle's 1.63 points per 60 minutes at even strength is in a small sample of 10 games, but it's similar production to Zach Parise (1.68).
The Wild are tight against the cap though, so as previously mentioned, they need to shift salary Montreal's way to make this trade work. Who's both expendable and workable for Montreal? How about Sherbrooke, QC native Pierre-Marc Bouchard?
Bouchard is by no means a game breaker like he was billed to be when Minnesota drafted him 8th overall in 2002, but Bouchard has the 3rd highest points per 60 minutes on the Wild at 2.19. He's struggled with concussion issues in the past, but seems to be healthy this year. The versatile 5'11 forward can play either wing, and with Rene Bourque still a question mark while out with a concussion, Bouchard could slot onto Lars Eller's right wing to play with him and Galchenyuk as a 3rd scoring line, allowing Brandon Prust to solidify the 4th trio.
Bouchard's fancy stats aren't amazing, as he has a +0.7 Relative Corsi with a 51.2% offensive zone start and a Corsi Relative Quality of Competition rating of -1.716, but he's not playing with players as offensively gifted as Eller and Galchenyuk. Nonetheless, there's a chance Bouchard could really struggle in the tougher role that Eller's line plays.
But there's another factor to consider; Bouchard is an impending unrestricted free agent, meaning the trade would save an amnesty buyout for the Canadiens that they could hold onto in case another player falls down the proverbial elevator shaft between now and the summer of 2014.
Bouchard makes $4,080,000 against the cap this year which means that the Canadiens are actually gaining immediate flexibility with the move, and if it doesn't work out, they're not sitting more salary in the press box than they were before.
They would also being doing a solid for Kaberle, who hasn't complained a single time after being a healthy scratch 24 times this year after coming into camp in great shape and playing well.
If you're Marc Bergevin, do you make this deal? Maybe through in a low round pick as well to sweeten the deal? The Canadiens have three 3rd round picks after all.
Hockey Wilderness wrote about Bouchard's odd situation two days ago here.