According to TSN/ESPN insider Pierre Lebrun, the Montreal Canadiens are looking to add size and grit to an already potent line-up before the NHL trade deadline, which is four weeks away. Currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference rankings with 32 points in 23 games, the Canadiens will most likely be buyers at the trade deadline compared to last season where they were sellers and finished dead last in the conference.
New Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has already been active this season, trading disgruntled forward Erik Cole and his three-year contract worth $4.5 million annually for impending UFA and former Hab winger Michael Ryder. The transaction freed up much-needed cap space for next season, when the salary cap will drop from $70.2 million to a mere $64.3 million. After four games, Ryder has yet to score his first goal with the Habs, but he has recorded four assists, three of which were on the power play. Bergevin also managed to receive a third-round pick in 2013 in the deal.
The Canadiens now have three 2nd round picks and two 3rd rounders this year which will come in handy when Bergevin is calling the 29 other general managers to improve his already-potent team. With Rene Bourque sidelined by a concussion, the Canadiens are severely lacking size up-front, especially with the soft and lacklustre play of veteran Travis Moen and new acquisition Colby Armstrong. Both players have been invisible for most of the season, and especially last Sunday against the Boston Bruins, recording only a combined 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points in 45 games together.
Brandon Prust, who has been signed to a four-year deal worth $10 million last summer, has been the lone Canadien playing with a physical edge and ready to drop the gloves, even against much bigger opponents like Milan Lucic earlier this week. While Prust is a warrior and great team player, he will need help to keep his inspired play in the playoffs. This is the main reason Bergevin will try to get his team bigger and meaner by adding a power forward and a stay-at-home defenseman who can clear the front of the net and lay big hits.
The problem is that power forwards don’t grow on trees and that when they are made available by their own team, the phone won’t stop ringing. Yet, Sharks’ power forward and impending UFA Ryane Clowe is drawing interest around the NHL, despite his poor play this season. While Clowe plays around 18 minutes every game, he has yet to score a single goal this season, heck Scott Gomez has one more goal than him, and he has recorded only six helpers in 19 games.
Clowe even received a two-game suspension in February for leaving the Sharks bench on a legal line change before initiating an altercation with Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. After three consecutive seasons with at least 50 points, Clowe’s play regressed last season when he scored 17 goals and added 28 assists for 45 points in 76 games. The 6’2”, 225-lbs, forward is slated to become an UFA at season’s end is making $3.625 million this season.
Clowe would fit perfectly on the Habs’ third line with Lars Eller and rookie Alex Galchenyuk, allowing the youngsters to be creative on the ice and concentrate on scoring goals rather than taking physical abuse in front of the net. Clowe would certainly bring size on the man advantage in front of opposing goalies allowing PK Subban and Andrei Markov to benefit from the increased traffic.
Still, don’t expect the Canadiens to mortgage their future for a rental player unless the price is reasonable, such as a depth player like Yannick Weber and a middle-round draft pick in exchange for Clowe.
Another Sharks player who could interest the Canadiens, is rugged defenseman Douglas Murray. The 6’3”, 245-lbs, rearguard is mostly known for his thunderous bodychecks and his defensive play alongside offensive Dan Boyle. However, this season, Murray has played less and has been mostly paired with young defenseman Justin Braun instead of Boyle. Slated to become an UFA like Clowe, the 32 year-old Swedish blue liner is only making $2.5 million in 2013, which the Bleu Blanc Rouge can easily fit under the salary cap this season, with currently $4,363,433 of room.
Douglas Murray – Fights and hits
The only physical player on the Canadiens blue line this season is Alexei Emelin, with Francis Bouillon and PK Subban laying the occasional hit. Murray’s presence on the blue line would make the Habs tougher to play against and the addition of both Clowe and Murray for the playoffs, depending on the price, would give a few more inches to every Habs player, especially guys like Gionta, Plekanec, Markov and Desharnais.
Do you think the Habs will go Shark fishing? If so, what should they give for the above players?
A long-time Joe Sakic fan, Fred, 35, is a freelance sports writer and translator. Fred earned a Bachelor of Translation in 2002 at Laval University in Quebec City. He also writes on the Montreal Canadiens for HabsAddict.com and he is an associate editor and a baseball columnist on Dobberbaseball.com. He is also fluent in English, French and Spanish.