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Habs and the trade deadline: The Bergevin dilemma

The following is Cowhide & Rubber contributor J.F., otherwise known as Gimchihabster on twitter’s take on the options the Habs have open to them leading up to the trade deadline. Should you have any comments, feel free to leave a comment below, or to contact J.F. directly via twitter. Like all of us, he has a passion for Habs talk.

by @Gimchihabster

With the April 3rd trade deadline fast approaching, Marc Bergevin has some decisions to make. His club sits first in its division and second in the Eastern Conference. This has to be well ahead of what management expected going into the season. Fans and media wonder what the new GM will do and he (Bergevin) is faced with a few options, I will discuss three of them here and then provide my own prognostic as to what Bergevin will do.

A brief situation report
Before delving into the scenarios, let us look at what Bergevin has done since the season started:

Trades:

  • ·Acquired Michael Ryder and a 3rd round pick in 2013 for Erik Cole.
  • Picked up Jeff Halpern off waivers.
  • Traded goaltender Cedrick Desjardins for goaltender Dustin Tokarski.

The Ryder trade was a cap savvy move that also meant to add scoring punch from a right handed winger. The Halpern and Tokarski moves are depth moves meant to shore up Montreal and Hamilton.

Habs needs:

  • Grit and size up front
  • Size and toughness on the defensive core

The grit & size issue up front may have just become more critical with the relapse suffered by Rene Bourque. No one wants to hear it but perhaps LTIR is in the cards for Bourque and even d-man Raphael Diaz. These would be serious blows for the Habs. The return of a healthy Brandon Prust will ease the grit issue somewhat but Bourque leaves a big hole.
On the back end, the play of Jarred Tinordi and his 6’6’’ 200 pound frame may plug a need but we are talking about a 21 year old d-man.

So what are the assets in Bergevin’s poker hand?

  1. A plethora of draft picks: 1 first rounder, 3 second rounders and 1 third rounder.
  2. Extra defensemen in Weber (if healthy), Kaberle (questionable value due to cap hit) with the big club and at the AHL level.

Let us now look at 3 trade deadline scenarios; all of these depend on how Bergevin and Therrien see this Habs team…

Scenario 1: go for broke or just win baby
This would be the ‘win now’ option and would include going for a big splash on the trade market. Bergevin has the picks and cap space to make moves. It would mean he and his management team feel the current roster has the makings of a deep playoff run.
In such a scenario, the GM would not hesitate to make an Iginla-like trade or to adopt the Nashville approach from last year when they acquired Gill, Kostityn and Gaustad for a playoff run. We all know how that turned out however.

Scenario 2: the fixer upper
This would be the plugging holes option but without mortgaging the future of the club. In this case Bergevin would look for depth acquisitions and would avoid rentals unless he could be fairly certain of re-signing them. That could mean a gritty third liner or a depth defenseman with size. The status of Rene Bourque comes into play here. Bergevin could also be looking for a Brandon Prust in bigger format. Once again he has the assets to make such moves.

Scenario 3: stand pat
This would mean Bergevin decides his club is decent as it is and that just making the playoffs after finishing fifteenth last season is more than reasonable outcome. This would also indicate that Bergevin has a mid-to-long term plan and he feels now is not the time to make big moves but rather that the summer with the draft and Free Agent season will be a richer environment for trades and key acquisitions.

My prediction: Bergevin will make small moves
When I listen to Bergevin and look at his body of work thus far I see a GM that is gradually locking up his core, not mortgaging the future and that knows the value of cap space at the right time (summer and draft). I also hear a guy who does not want rentals at this point. One could argue that Ryder is a rental but that trade also came with cap relief this year and unloaded two years of contract in the process.

The joker in this poker game has to injuries to Bourque and Diaz. These could potentially alter Bergevin’s mindset, especially if the club keeps winning. I expect smaller trades that will bring in depth for the third and fourth line. I do not see Bergevin chasing a guy like Iginla due to the astronomical cost. Then again, if Boston gets Jarome, the arms race may be on! It is clear now that Morrow and Murray with the Pens is first blood in the eastern conference waters.

My targets would be a gritty winger that can drop em but also play quality hockey. A guy like Ryan Clowe would be the prototypical target but the fact he is a UFA come seasons end seems to rule him out. You therefore have to look at clubs that are out of the running or nearly so. These are few at this point. I also think Bergevin could surprise us as he did with the Cole for Ryder trade. Teams like the Panthers would be logical targets but Bergevin has to find players he sees as a fit for his team. I am not sure what Bergevin will do with the defensive core. Tinordi may be the solution and perhaps giving the kid valuable playoff experience is something the organisation sees as a good thing at this point.

All this being said, the next week will be a wild one full of crazy trade stories and well know how maniacal Habs fans are, some with a clear case of chronic tradeholicism! The silly season begin…oh and let’s not forget the Habs have to play the Penguins, Bruins and Rangers this week too.


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