This entire article is going to be based off of hypotheticals and projections, but sometimes those are the most fun things to read and write. What if? These are the questions we spend our late sleepless nights thinking about. What if this happened? What if this didn’t happen? How would things change and what would be different. Well in the case of the Canadiens, what if they had traded for big center Vincent Lecavalier during the 2009 off-season like they had rumored to be?
Let’s start off by mentioning that this was only a rumor, but lets talk about what the proposed deal was.
There are multiple reports out there that the Canadiens had offered a big package that included Carey Price, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty. This report came from former Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton, but it appears that this was not accurate according to Bob Gainey. We may never know the true story, but from what Gainey said, the offer included Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins and Josh Gorges.
Repercussions of the Lawton Rumor
Let’s say hypothetically that the Canadiens actually did offer Carey Price, PK Subban and Max Pacioretty for Vincent Lecavalier back in 2009. Keep in mind that these players don’t hold the values that they pertain today, but certainly still had value back in 2009. Try to picture Price, Subban and Pacioretty in Lightning gear and try not to activate the gag reflex in the back of your throat Habs fans. Where would the Habs be now if they had made that deal?
Carey Price’s first stand out season was in the 2010-2011 season where he posted a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 G.A.A. In 2010, the Lightning had Dwayne Roloson, Mike Smith and Dan Ellis all play over 22 games, so it’s safe to say that the Lightning could have used a more stable goalie like that of Carey Price. It wasn’t until the 2013 season when Ben Bishop began to receive the bulk of the load that the Lightning actually found an established starting goalie that was capable of playing the bulk of the games.
Let’s look at it this way, the Lightning selected Victor Hedman 2nd overall in 2009, so this trade ultimately could have put the Lightning over the top. Hedman had a rocky start to his career, but is now considered one of the NHL’s premiere defenseman. The Lightning selected Brett Connolly 6th overall in 2010, Vladislav Namestnikov 17th overall in 2011, Slater Koekkoek 10th overall in 2012, Jonathan Drouin 3rd overall in 2013 and Anthony DeAngelo 19th overall in 2014. With the addition of Subban, who made an immediate impact when he made the jump to the NHL in 2009-2010 Habs playoff run, the Lightning would have stabilized their back end and added an above average goalie at the time in Price. Of course Price is the best goalie in the league right now, but at the time of the deal who knows how he would have developed in Tampa Bay instead of Montreal.
This trade likely wouldn’t have hurt the current state of the Lightning because most of their current core wasn’t drafted early, besides the obvious in Stamkos and Hedman. The Lightning have drafted phenomenally after the first round and that is why they’re currently the odd’s on favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Now if we are looking at this from a Canadiens perspective, there a lot of question marks and interesting scenarios that you can look at to see how the Habs would currently fair if they didn’t have the likes of Carey Price, PK Subban, and Max Pacioretty. Now this is completely hypothetical, but it’s clear to me and a lot of others that there would have been quite a few high first round picks in the Canadiens near future if they had made this trade. The Canadiens would have had a massive setback at the goaltender position, and would likely have needed to draft a defenseman with a high pick which is always risky as well as finding another high scoring winger which is never an easy task.
In 2010, the Canadiens selected Jarred Tinordi 22nd overall. Lets assume that with a replacement goalie, the Canadiens position doesn’t alter very much and the Canadiens stay in the 17 to 23 pick range.
In 2011, Price posted a solid 2.43 G.A.A to go along with a less than mediocre .916 Save Percentage. Max Pacioretty broke out in 2011 scoring 33 times and tallying 32 assists. 2011 was PK Subban’s second full NHL season and he tallied 36 points to go along with a +9. The Habs selected Nathan Beaulieu 17th overall in 2011, and were a very mediocre club, so just imagine where they would be without a great defenseman in Subban and 30 goal scorer in Max Pacioretty. Lets predict they finish top 10, and are able to select one of Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Brodin or Sean Couturier.
In 2012, the Canadiens selected Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall. Some feel that Galchenyuk is still the most valuable player to come out of this draft, even with the likes of Morgan Rielly, Nail Yakupov, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Murray touted highly by many. In any case, regardless of the good season PK Subban and Max Pacioretty had, the Canadiens could ultimately not have fared much worse in the 2012-2013 season.
In 2013, the Canadiens selected Michael McCarron 25th overall. Price struggled in the 2012-2013 season, where Subban almost posted a point per game in the shortened season with 38 points in 42 games. Pacioretty also played at a near point per game pace tallying 15 goals and 25 assists in 44 games. You have to figure that the Canadiens would have been much closer to the 15th overall pick in this case, than the 25th overall case and in other words, they would have likely had the chance to select Max Domi, Samuel Morin, Alex Wennberg, Nikita Zadarov or Curtis Lazar judging by their draft positions.
In 2014, the Canadiens selected Nikita Scherbak 26th overall. Carey Price posted a .927 Save Percentage to go along with a 2.32 G.A.A. In other words, Price finally broke out of his shell and started to become the goalie that we knew he was capable of. Max Pacioretty posted 39 goals to go along with 21 assists and a total of 60 points. Lastly, Subban posted 53 points to eclipse himself as an elite defenseman in the NHL. We have to figure that without these three elite players contributing in this case that the Canadiens would have been much closer to the top 10 in the draft and had a chance to select one of William Nylander, Nick Ritchie, Kevin Fiala, or Nikolaj Ehlers.
So let’s look at who would be inserted into the lineup and who would be taken out as a result of this deal.
OUT: Max Pacioretty, PK Subban, Carey Price
IN: Vincent Lecavalier
IN: One of Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Brodin or Sean Couturier.
IN: Stick with the selection of Alex Galchenyuk
IN: One of Max Domi, Samuel Morin, Alex Wennberg, Nikita Zadarov or Curtis Lazar
IN: One of William Nylander, Nick Ritchie, Kevin Fiala, or Nikolaj Ehlers
Of course it is pretty evident that the Canadiens would have been much worse off with the contract Lecavalier had to go along with his also declining play. The Canadiens would have likely stock piled draft picks and sold off other assets in order to improve their club in this case. Some of the proposed incoming hypothetical pieces would have been nice adds for the Habs, but none compare to the impact that Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and PK Subban currently have on the Canadiens organization.