The NHL trade deadline is just over a week away, but before the Habs reach it they’ll have a chance to measure themselves against their toughest competition in the Eastern conference. The Canadiens are in Pittsburgh Tuesday and Boston the night after to square off against the Penguins and Bruins. The week presents GM Marc Bergevin with a golden opportunity to determine what, if anything, his team is missing heading into the final stretch of the season and beyond.
Pittsburgh already pulled the trigger on a high profile deal, they brought Brendan Morrow over from Dallas Sunday. Monday they added Douglas Murray to their roster, picking up the veteran defenseman from the Sharks in exchange for draft picks. The moves help solidify the Penguins as frontrunners in the Eastern conference. With a pair of the best players in the league today, the Penguins are already stacked with talent.
The Canadiens will get to test themselves against the best Tuesday before deciding what moves, if any, they should make before the trade deadline. With a trip to Boston the next night, the team will also get to face the next best bet to represent the East in the Cup Finals.
While the Habs did earn three out of a possible four points when they faced these two teams back-to-back earlier in the month, there were times when they looked as though they could be badly outgunned by the Penguins and badly outmuscled by the Bruins. The Habs could probably use another offensive threat or a gritty, in-your-face player to truly be considered contenders, but will Bergevin make deadline moves to pick up players that could fit those bills?
Who Might the Habs Be Eyeing?
If Bergevin does decide to pull the trigger on a deadline deal, there is one name being kicked around as a possible option for the Habs: Ryane Clowe. At 6-2”, 225lbs, Clowe sets the mold of what the Canadiens might be looking for at the deadline. Clowe has 61 hits in 25 games this season, which compares nicely to Brandon Prust’s 62 hits in 25 games. He also has offensive upside, with at least 40 points in his last 4 seasons.
The Hockey Writers’ Fred Poulin has already discussed why Ryane Clowe could be a possible option for Montreal. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, agrees that the Habs would be interested in a player like Clowe:
Several teams interested in San Jose’s Ryane Clowe. I’d put the Bruins, Sens, Leafs Rangers and Habs among a list of lots. #NHL
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) March 21, 2013
While Clowe would add some size and toughness to the Habs’ roster, he is also having one of his worst seasons in his career. Clowe has yet to find the back of the net this year and has a -7 rating.
If Prust’s injury was to keep him out long term, Clowe may be an interesting pickup for the Habs, but Prust is expected to return to the lineup sooner rather than later. The question is, with Prust set to return, do the Canadiens need more size that badly, or would trading for a rent-a-player like Clowe do more harm than good in the long run?
Is Bergevin Looking for an Extra Scoring Touch?
Some fans have their eyes more on a scoring forward than a checker. It should be no surprise that names like Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Ryan have started popping up. TSN690 Montreal Fans (no affiliation with the Montreal sports radio station) points out that even French sports station RDS has gotten in on the speculation:
So RDS during the 2nd intermission were discussing if the #Habs should make a deal for Jagr.Would you like to see Jagr in habs uniform?
— TSN690 Montreal Fans (@TSN690MTL) March 24, 2013
There also seems to be enough fans that would love to see Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan in a Canadiens Jersey:
Cue the Bobby Ryan trade talks. Him in a #Habs jersey would be nice.
— Habs Talk (@Habs_Talk) March 19, 2013
But a blockbuster deadline trade is likely wishful thinking on the part of Habs fans, especially when it comes to Ryan. The Ducks are making a strong push this season, so even if Ryan won’t re-sign with the team this smmer, it still makes sense to keep him around for the playoffs. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun had this to say about Ryan:
Obviously if a team makes a monster offer they can’t refuse, you never know, but the sense now is that Ryan is safe in Ana
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 19, 2013
That last tweet is very telling. Don’t expect Marc Bergevin to throw away top quality prospects to attract a rental for Montreal’s playoff run. Looking at the moves Bergevin has made so far this season and it becomes apparent that the Habs’ GM is looking at the big picture.
When Michael Ryder was brought in for Erik Cole, Bergevin not only cleared up valuable cap space down the road, he also helped improve the team right away. On Friday, the Canadiens claimed Jeff Halpern off waivers, a move that cost the team exactly nothing in return.
Bergevin has a long term plan, and while it may be tempting to stock up for a long run don’t expect Montreal’s GM to risk the long term stability of this team for a quick payoff. Based on what we’ve seen so far, if Bergevin does make a deadline deal, he’ll be looking to benefit the team both now and down the road.
Rob has been blogging about the Habs since 2011 at MontrealHockeyTalk.com and can usually be heard before every Canadiens games on the MHT Pregame Show.