Through just over a third of the National Hockey League season, the Montreal Canadiens have gone through enough ups and downs to last most teams an entire campaign.
The Habs came out of the gates flying, faltered, got back up, and are now slowly starting to fall back to the pack in a typically tightly contested Eastern Conference.
Emotionally, the Habs lived through the high of the retirement of Guy Lapointe’s number 5, and have been through the crushing blow of losing one of the greatest of all-time, Mr. Jean Béliveau, just last week.
General manager Marc Bergevin has already been active on the trade market, shipping out struggling veteran forwards Rene Bourque and Travis Moen for defenseman Bryan Allen and Sergei Gonchar. Now that Bergevin has solidified the team’s defensive depth, he may be looking to shore up the forward position with another piece or two in the next few months. Here are a couple of names the Habs boss might be looking too as potential trade targets.
It seems like every team in the league has a hand in this auction, so (if the Oilers are smart, and we know that that’s usually not the case) this move might not even happen until the draft, unless someone knocks Craig MacTavish’s socks off (which, again, probably wouldn’t take much). The Oilers are a mess and currently working with no leverage, so it would be surprising to see Edmonton part with their young star this early in the season. In terms of how this helps the Habs, Eberle would provide another legitimate scoring threat alongside current Habs sniper Max Pacioretty. Eberle is struggling horribly so far, but so is everyone else in Oil Town – he only has 6 goals in 28 games this season, but we’ve all seen what Eberle can do when he’s on.
If the Habs want any shot at Eberle, they’ll have to pay up. Any deal would probably start with one of the Habs top two defensive prospects (who aren’t getting much of a chance to play here at the moment) in Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi. It would probably also cost the Habs a roster player – unloading David Desharnais would be ideal, but the Oilers would probably be more intrigued by a Lars Eller. Finally, the Habs would likely have to throw in a first-round pick or a top prospect – either Michael McCarron or Nikita Scherbak – although it’s doubtful Bergevin would be willing to part with one of those two for a guy like Eberle.
Evander Kane’s name has been swirling around trade rumors for years, partially because of his persona and partially because Winnipeg has not been very good since they’ve returned north of the border. Kane seems to have straightened out and settled down – not to mention he and the Jets have both shown significant signs of improvement early in the 2014-2015 campaign. Kane only has 10 points this season, but he missed some time with injuries. The Jets are currently sitting in a wild card spot in the wild Western Conference, so this point is moot unless the Jets eventually drop out of the playoff picture.
It would be hard to foresee anything other than the same package mentioned above for Eberle. The Jets would love to add Jarred Tinordi to their already big blueline, along with another solid mid-line center and a young prospect.
Martin St. Louis
This comes a bit out of left-field, but we’ve seen that Bergevin likes to catch Habs fans off guard. Martin St. Louis is nowhere near the player he was two years ago, but he can still contribute to a team’s secondary scoring. St. Louis is a UFA at the end of this season and is in the twilight of his career. What better way to end it than to come home for one last run at Lord Stanley? St. Louis would fit in nicely on a wing with Alex Galchenyuk or Tomas Plekanec, and if the Rangers stay out of the playoff picture until the trade deadline (they’re currently in 4th in their division), they might look to get something out of the diminutive but talented forward.
Barring a ridiculous run by St. Louis down the stretch, there’s no way the Rangers land a massive haul for him in a deadline deal. The Habs might be able to tempt Glen Sather with a prospect or a draft pick – a high one, too. If Paul Gaustad can land a first-round pick at the deadline, there’s no way to argue that Marty St. Louis is worth any less.
Nick Foligno has never been a guy that “popped,” having topped out at 47 points with Ottawa in 2011-2012. It seems like the 27-year-old Foligno is starting to put it all together, as he’s picked up a startling 26 points in 27 games thus far, and has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While the Jackets will probably look to lock Foligno up, their tumble down the standings might have changed the entire outlook for GM Jarmo Kekäläinen. If the Jackets don’t sign Foligno by the deadline, Kekäläinen might look to get something for the former first-round pick as he’s a UFA at season’s end.
If Marc Bergevin thinks he’ll be able to hoodwink Kekäläinen the way he did Garth Snow in the Vanek deal last season, he’ll probably come back empty-handed. Kekäläinen will probably be looking for a player and a pick should Foligno keep this pace up – and other than St. Louis, there aren’t many other top-end forward UFA’s that could be available come March. The Jackets, if they play this correctly, could be able to leverage that into a nice return for Foligno – something like Eller and a high pick, or one of Beaulieu/Tinordi and perhaps a close-to-NHL-ready Hamilton Bulldogs player, like Charles Hudon or Sven Andrighetto.
Overall, Bergevin will have plenty of option to look at around the league if he feels the Habs need some more scoring punch down the line. Other names that might be available include Jaromir Jagr, Chris Stewart, Martin Havlat, Drew Stafford and Mats Zuccarello, to name a few.
For now, Bergevin needs to let another chunk of the season pass to identify what exactly the Habs need going forward – but with only 73 goals in 30 games, it’s clear as day that Montreal is going to need to add some scoring touch down the stretch if they want to compete with high-octane teams like Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
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