The Canadiens’ Final Countdown

Habs’ last 24 hours will be spent in San Jose awaiting the NHL Trade Deadline

As the Montreal Canadiens boarded for their five and a half hour flight from Montreal to San Jose on Sunday morning, some were still getting acquainted with newcomer Phillip Danault and others were adapting to life without teammates Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. As the NHL Trade Deadline creeps in to its last day, it seems like everyone’s tuning into an old classic by the band Europe:

We’re leaving together
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back
To earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?
It’s the final countdown…

As clearly shown by a tweet from star defenseman P.K. Subban, players understand that hockey is a business, but it doesn’t change the fact that those are human beings out there, and trades affect players and those surrounding them, no matter the circumstances.

In spite of all of the already consummated trades completed around the NHL, it’s not like there is a shortage of trade rumours circulating around the league as more teams are losing faith in their chances of making the playoffs. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida Panthers have already completed several moves but others will feel the need to react to those moves hoping to keep up and address some needs of their own.

Is Marc Bergevin done dealing?

While the pressure to trade their pending unrestricted free agents is now off, the Canadiens are certainly not done tweaking their roster in preparation for the 2016-2017 season. Marc Bergevin is in no rush to complete more trades though as he can afford to wait for the right time, which could very well be by June at the NHL Draft, the second busiest time for NHL trades to be completed. Since he cannot trade Tom Gilbert who is out with a season-ending knee injury, he will be keeping goaltender Ben Scrivens, his last pending UFA, until the end of the season, and he has already committed to Paul Byron for another three years.

Having said that, don’t count the Habs out of making any deals before the trade deadline either. Tampa Bay Lightning’s GM Steve Yzerman has clearly stated that he would prefer to deal hold out Jonathan Drouin by the deadline, and there are several young Edmonton Oilers available as well. Further, it has been reported that the Canadiens are dangling centre Lars Eller to other teams, he whose play has been excellent for the past month or so. As a matter of fact, Eller led all Montreal forwards in ice time against the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing over 18 minutes on Saturday. Whether it’s an acknowledgement of his good play, a way to showcase him to other teams or a combination of both is known only by the Habs’ brass, but it’s quite telling either way.

The bottom line is that if the right deal presents itself prior to the Monday, 3:00 PM deadline, Bergevin will pull the trigger but there will definitely be more action coming up by the June NHL Draft. Either way, Habs fans will be able to watch a much younger team for the rest of the season as the Canadiens are now icing the second youngest team in the NHL. Only the Oilers are younger as a group than Michel Therrien‘s group.

Image courtesy of Amy Irvin, The Hockey Writers