By now, I hope the vast majority of you have realized the playoffs are little more than a pipe dream for the 2011-2012 Montreal Canadiens. I won’t beat you over the head with unrealistic winning percentages and point totals the team needs to theoretically sneak into the playoffs but needless to say, they’re far off the pace of former coach Jacques Martin’s recently-admitted goal of six points for every possible ten.
With the trade deadline approaching in a bit over a month, it’s time for the Habs to start thinking about next season and beyond. This is more of a plead rather than an expectation as despite the team’s pitiful performance to date, Geoff Molson and Pierre Gauthier have shown every indication that they still fully expect to climb out of this deep hole and achieve playoff glory. However, pointing out the ineptitude of this front office is really besides the point of this post. Every member of this team needs to be evaluated on the basis of whether their value to the team is in the form of being a member of the Habs for years to come or whether their current value should be used to acquire assets that will better serve the team in the future. Here’s how I feel every current roster member should be evaluated:
Scott Gomez - What can you really say at this point? His mind-boggling albatross of a contract holds absolutely no trade value and no real use to the team going forward. The hope is that the team gets granted some sort of out when the next CBA is agreed upon or Geoff Molson suddenly opens up his pocket books and buries Gomez in the minors.
Tomas Plekanec - While he unquestionably is having a down season, Plekanec remains among the most important members of the team and is still one of the better two-way forwards in the league. He has a reasonable salary of $5 million and only turns 30 on Halloween. He’s still a keeper at this point if only for leadership among a young group of centres.
Brian Gionta - Due to his bicep injury that will likely keep his out for the rest of the year, Gionta is untradable at the moment. However, he does provide valuable leadership for a rebuilding team and you still need that element in the locker room even if you choose to blow the whole thing up.
Erik Cole - While Cole has exceeded the expectations created by his free agent contract, other teams will still likely be turned off by the terms of that deal, especially given Cole’s age of 33. If Cole had one additional year after this season on the contract, his value would be significant. For now, at least, the Canadiens would not get fair value for that Cole brings to the team.
Rene Bourque - Bourque has a long way to go to re-assert any value he has around the league among general managers not named Pierre Gauthier. His game-to-game work ethic is questioned and the fact that his contract only expires after the 2015-2016 season does his value no favors.
Andrei Kostitsyn - Kostitsyn is maybe the toughest player to judge as far as whether to try and keep or cut loose. His scoring punch can be attractive to a team looking for just that like the Los Angeles Kings or Nashville Predators. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year so there is no trepidation in acquiring his contract. He is one of the few trade chips the team has that can likely bring a decent return so I’d trade Kostitsyn.
Max Pacioretty - Pacioretty is one of the players I’m building the team around for the future so under very few circumstances would I trade him. He is exactly the type of player the franchise has been begging for for so long now and would be foolish to deal away unless a team were to give the Habs an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Travis Moen - Gauthier would be a fool if he hasn’t been fielding calls for Moen by now. Moen provides very good depth for any Stanley Cup contender and is the type of player built for playoff hockey. If he is still in a Habs uniform come February 28th, a terrible mistake has been made.
Lars Eller - Eller has yet to truly come into his own but you get the sense his potential will be realized sooner rather than later. Eller is one of the players I would build the team around going forward.
David Desharnais - I always have a hard time figuring out where Desharnais stands in my eyes. His production is undeniable but his size still renders me skeptical as to whether he can be an effective long-term top six centre. I also feel like the league as a whole doesn’t recognize his talent the way fans in Montreal do. Playoff contenders would also be unlikely to want to make their team smaller at the deadline.
Mathieu Darche - We’re hopefully seeing the Mathieu Darche farewell tour in a Habs uniform because the clock has stuck midnight on his Cinderella career. He is a fringe NHLer at this point and likely holds no value.
Ryan White - White is a player the Habs have greatly missed this year. His energy would’ve been a welcome addition to stagnant performances on several nights. He can be a valuable character guy on an energy line for years to come. His element of grit is also needed on a team still lacking in that department.
Michael Blunden - Like Darche, Blunden likely holds no value at the deadline. His greatest value could be in a Habs uniform going forward as a fourth-liner or 13th forward. He gives the team good, energetic shifts and his size and grit are welcome. I’d be interested in seeing how he pairs up with Ryan White on a line in the future.
Petteri Nokelainen - Noki’s value is also limited at the deadline but his young enough, gritty enough and productive on face-offs enough to perhaps have a role on the team going forward.
Andrei Markov - Obviously Markov has little to no value at the deadline due to his glass knee and his contract is looking more and more like another regrettable one that the team will be stuck with. Markov would provide veteran stability on a young blue line going forward….provided he can ever stay in the line-up.
Tomas Kaberle - Yet another awful contract that Pierre Gauthier inexplicably saddled the team with. I can’t see any team that would take him on so like Gomez, one can only hope the next CBA brings the team an opportunity to cut Kaberle loose with minimal consequences.
Josh Gorges - Absolutely a guy I’d keep under almost any circumstances. Logically, he will be the team’s next captain and is the glue that currently holds the defensive corps together. His contract is reasonable and is the kind of player I’d be thrilled to have as one of the faces of the franchise. Gorges would provide immeasurable guidance and leadership for our young defensemen going forward.
Hal Gill - Gill is exactly the type of defenseman a Stanley Cup contender would be interested in. The legend of his performance on a pairing with Gorges in the 2010 playoffs likely lives on and despite a decline in play this year, Gill is still a very effective shot blocker and valuable on the penalty kill. He would bring solid value at the deadline and like Moen, should already be shopped around.
Chris Campoli - Campoli could interest teams as a veteran, puck-moving defenseman and obviously doesn’t factor into the team’s plans long-term so any assets that could be acquired in return for him should be accepted.
Alexei Emelin - Emelin has had a predictably up and down first year in the NHL but the team should be excited about the element of toughness and aggression he brings to the team going forward. Emelin brings the only true physical element on the blueline at this point and I’d be excited about the role he could play in the team’s future.
Raphael Diaz - Like Emelin, Diaz has also had an up and down first year but that’s to be expected playing in a foreign country and going from the Swiss League to the best hockey league in the world. Going forward, Diaz would make for a good puck-moving defenseman and an asset on the powerplay.
P.K. Subban - Subban is a rare talent and despite a sophomore slump, is one of the franchise corner stones for years to come. His ability shouldn’t be taken for granted despite his growing pains and Subban should be one of the handful of players the Habs build around in the next few years.
Yannick Weber - Teams could find value in Weber as a hired gun for a powerplay but almost any offer the Habs receive would probably be a low-ball. Still, Weber has an attractive skill set and despite a tough year, his upside is something worth being excited about.
Carey Price - Probably the face of the franchise right now and for years to come. Never underestimate the value of a franchise goaltender as he is the greatest source of confidence for young players on a developing team afraid of making costly mistakes. It should go without saying that he is to remain in a Canadiens uniform for years and years to come.
Peter Budaj - Solid backup who can come in and give the team a chance to win on any given night but just not good enough to solidify the goaltending position for any playoff team.
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