Looking in the Rear-view Mirror
With the trade deadline fast approaching and rumors swirling that the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators could very well be in trade discussions, the Habs managed to pull a very important “under the radar” trade last night in acquiring Paul Mara from the Anaheim Ducks for a 5th round pick.
The move may have caught many by surprise, but what they may be missing in all of this, the so called ‘writing on the wall,’ is that in acquiring Mara the Canadiens essentially addressed their depth on defense and without saying as much, will now clearly be turning their attention to an anemic offense.
Why would the acquisition of Mara mean the Canadiens are likely out of the market for a defenseman this trade season?
The answer to that lies in managements faith in their blue line. Although injuries have piled up and caused extensive concern over what Pierre Gauthier and company would need to to do at the deadline, the reality, it seems, is that the Habs GM felt confident enough in the group of defenders he presently has that he sought only to increase the teams depth, and not create another situation whereby other players might feel threatened.
Truthfully, Mara’s return shouldn’t bother anyone. Although Alex Picard is the lowest defenseman on the totem pole, given all the injuries the Habs have sustained on the blue line, everyone will likely get a turn helping out through the end of the season.
Which brings us to the logic behind the move.
With 5 games to go until the trade deadline, the Habs are gearing into crunch mode.
With only 9 points separating the Canadiens from the 9th and 10th place teams in the Eastern Conference, the Habs shouldn’t feel comfortable sitting in 6th.
Yes, they are tied with the Bruins and are but one point behind the Washington Capitals, but in order to do well in the standings a good team will always worry about the teams behind them, never in front.
And so the Canadiens must consider the way they address any more possible moves.
Despite the concern over teams attempting to catch them, there is also another factor that plays into the trade deadline; loading up for the playoffs.
As you can tell, balancing out a roster at this time of the year is clearly the most important priority of a general manager in the NHL, yet it all depends where their team falls in the standings.
In Montreal’s case, they are in the middle of the pack: not far enough ahead to be comfortable, not far enough behind the division leaders(and home-ice advantage)to think they cannot compete with them.
Therefore, in order for the Canadiens to balance out their maneuvers at the deadline they were clearly going to have to address both offense and defense. Yet with their limited budget, it remained unclear how much the Habs would spend on both offense and defense.
Now, following the Mara deal, it would appear that the Canadiens will be able to take on a player worth approximately $2,75 million(in terms of cap hit). Of course Montreal can clearly go after a player worth more than that, but it will require them parting with salary in return and considering that Gauthier only parted with a late round pick to add depth to the blue line, it may stand to reason he will be willing to give up a little more for some help on offense.
The return of Michael Cammalleri will play a very large role in how much the GM does indeed commit to, but it would still stand to reason that, even if they do not go the route of a large acquisition, the Habs will likely add to the depth of their offense.
With the Oilers on tap for this evening and the Heritage Classic set to go on Sunday versus the Calgary Flames, the Canadiens will be under the media microscope, an element which may keep the team from announcing any possible other moves until trade deadline day.
Speculation is running rampant as only 7 of 30 teams in the league have a record under .500. Who’s a seller and who is a buyer have yet to be fully determined and so while the trades are starting to fly, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the Canadiens continue to look in the rear-view mirror, waiting until the last minute to fly under the radar with at least one more move.
Don’t hold your breathe for the big trade, but be ready to gasp if they manage to land home-ice advantage.