Tape2Tape Trading: Who Wins the Sekac/Smith-Pelly Trade?

As the March 2 NHL Trade Deadline draws closer, smaller pieces are starting to change hands. In one of the more recent moves, Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens shipped out forward Jiri Sekac to Anaheim in exchange for another young forward, Devante Smith-Pelly.

Reaction on Twitter from the Montreal faithful immediately demonstrated the disappointment in trading the young Sekac, with many questioning the reasoning behind the move.

As Ryan Dixon of Sportsnet.ca writes, Sekac’s time in Montreal developed a “chicken-and-egg aspect to it.” He was consistently a healthy scratch throughout the season and maybe wasn’t offered the opportunities he was expecting when he sign as a free agent with the Canadiens prior to the season.

Au Revoir Jiri

Jiri Sekac, NHL, Trade, Montreal Canadiens
Sekac is still an unknown in terms of his NHL skill level. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

While Sekac did show glimpses of NHL ability during his short tenure with Montreal, some still believe that he has a ways to go before he’s considered a top six forward.

“Anytime you come from Europe, it’s a learning process. He had some ups and downs just like any young player. But, by far, he was on the right track,” said Bergevin in a post-trade scrum in St. Louis.

“We’re giving up a really good player also,” said the Habs GM. “So there’s a price to pay to get something that you want.”

As Matt Larkin of The Hockey News writes, “the Ducks acquire the lower-floor, higher-ceiling guy in Sekac” which could end up being the riskier move in this trade. While they didn’t have the space for a guy like Smith-Pelly who plays a similar game to the gritty and sizeable pieces they already have (Perry, Getzlaf, and Maroon), they do acquire a guy who – if he plays to expectation – could add another dimension to an already interesting prospect pool.

Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, Jiri Sekac, Trade, NHL
Devante Smith-Pelly could be a good piece for the Canadiens playoff push. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE)

Devante Gets A Better Opportunity

On the other hand, in Montreal Bergevin’s been known to make some relatively good moves as the GM of the Montreal Canadiens. While this tends to be a safer acquisition for Montreal, Bergevin discussed just how Smith-Pelly would fit in with Montreal’s plan.

“I think he fits what we’re looking for,” said Bergevin in a post-trade scrum. “He’s a big body, right shot that goes to hard areas and that goes to the net.”

Bergevin went on to say that he will leave it up to head coach Michel Therrien on whether or not Smith-Pelly will fit right into the top two lines when he puts on the Montreal jersey for the first time.

“He has some playoff experience. He’s a kid that, I think, once you get in he could help you do some damage,” said Bergevin.

Winners and Losers

While some will argue that it’s far too early to even discuss this kind of outcome, the question many of us ask following a trade is who wins and who loses.

Short term, this trade seems to help out Montreal more so than it does the Ducks. Forget that Smith-Pelly is a lopsided four days younger than Sekac, and let’s break it down just a bit. Both players have one year remaining on their contract.

Sekac will earn $925,000 next season, while Smith-Pelly will be paid slightly less at $800,000. Not a big difference right? Well it does save the Canadiens $125,000 next season – something that could play into a later deal if the team should want to go that route.

Smith-Pelly’s played in 129 career regular season games with 40 points (14g-26a) over that span. He adds 12 games of playoff experience where he’s added five goals. This season, he’s already reached a career high with 17 points (5g-12a) in 54 games and could potentially break the 20-point plateau if he were maintain a similar point-per-game average over the Canadiens final 22 games.

Sekac has played in 50 games this season – his first in the NHL – added 16 points (7g-9a). While it remains that his NHL and North American experience is one of his current downfalls, he has an incredibly high ceiling as THN’s Larkin pointed out in his article.

So, while Habs fans have a right to question this move, it does seem that the short term win is on their side. Smith-Pelly will likely play a role – of some sort – in helping the small-sized Canadiens in their playoff push. But the long-term could be more of a question if Sekac lives up to expectations in Anaheim.

However, with both teams in playoff contention and looking to dig deep come playoff time, Bergevin’s ability to make a strong hockey move may have landed his team a significant piece heading into the postseason – a player with size, grit and skill. For now, I’d give the edge to the Montreal Canadiens, but this is one that will definitely need to be revisited a few years down the road.

Tape2Tape, Amy MacKenzie, The Hockey Writers, THW, NHL
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Tape2Tape is a column looking at some of the biggest stories from around the world of hockey. Discussing different topics, it focuses on one major story each week. Agree or disagree, writer – Andrew Forbes – would love to hear what you have to say.

10 thoughts on “Tape2Tape Trading: Who Wins the Sekac/Smith-Pelly Trade?”

    • Jack – thanks for the read. Couldn’t agree more. They should find a spot for him a little higher in the lineup if they can though. Help out some of the smaller talent like Gallagher.

  1. Between habs and ducks its too early to tell. But the immediate winner is Jiri for getting away from a coach that had little room for him in his system and therefore wouldn’t play him.

    • I liked Sekac, but to say the coach wouldn’t play him is not exactly accurate. He averaged almost 14 minutes icetime in the 50 games he played. Pretty good icetime for a rookie. Consider Galchenyuk’s playing time 12 minutes in his rookie year, 14 min last year and approximately 16 this year, and he’s turning into not a bad player.

      • Not to mention that Galchenyuk had 11 more points in 2 less games in his rookie season, all while averaging less ice time than Sekac did and playing on the third line, just like Sekac did as a hab. Galchenyuk earned his spot in the top 6 by playing great hockey! I don’t think anyone who watches the habs can say the same about Sekac…. even though he could end up being a solid NHLer.

        • Now, this isn’t to say that Sekac won’t turn out to be the player we all expected. Let’s not forget that his ceiling is much high than Devante Smith-Pelly, however, it remains to be seen if he can hit that plateau!

  2. The issue at hand isn’t points, its overall team balance. The habs have for YEARS been out of balance and if you look closely, most of our future offensive prospects are small. Going forward, bergy knew we would need grit and toughness to complement and balance the lineup and help create a physical presence that all teams have to have.

    • Muranowska – I couldn’t agree more. Great hockey move by Bergevin and really filled a spot heading towards the playoffs. Smith-Pelly clearly wasn’t going to get the opportunities in Anaheim and Sekac matched the same mold as a lot of players that Montreal already has. It’ll be interesting to look at this move down the road, but at this moment… Montreal’s got my vote.

      • Good points. The Habs have several guys in Hamilton who could probably step up and produce similar to Sekac, possess similar skill, and play better defensively to boot. The only guys they have in the pro organization like Smith-Pelly are Crisp and Nevins, and not only are both of them far from NHL ready, but they lack the offensive upside of Smith-Pelly.

        • Thudgmar – You’re right. This is a “take-the-step-now” move and he adds a presence to the lineup which should be good.

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