Daily Hab-it: Cue the panic button
Newly acquired Boston Bruins' Tomas Kaberle warms up prior to taking on the Ottawa Senators in NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. Kaberle was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
By Arpon Basu
Published Saturday, February 19, 2011 2:17AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Admit it, seeing Tomas Kaberle wearing the Spoked B makes your stomach turn a little bit.
It is perhaps that nausea that will have Canadiens fans everywhere asking the same question: Is Pierre Gauthier even awake?
It certainly didn't appear that way Friday, when the Bruins picked up not only Kaberle, but fellow Habs-killer Rich Peverly (6-5-11 in nine career games).
Then Tampa went out and grabbed Eric Brewer for a song, losing no one off their roster and not even sacrificing an A-list prospect to get the former Blues captain.
This follows Philadelphia's acquisition of Kris Versteeg, making an already stacked crop of forwards that much deeper.
In a span of a few days, the top three teams in the east got significantly better, at least on paper.
Then there's your Montreal Canadiens, shocking the world with their acquisition of Paul Mara. The Canadiens were reportedly talking to the Blues about Brewer before choosing Mara instead, if that makes you feel better.
How can this be? Why is it that the Canadiens always seem to watch the parade go by without taking part? Why don't they try to win like those other teams? Why? Why? Why?
Slim pickings remain
Well, first off Gauthier does still have nine days to do something, so he should at least be given that long before he's judged. In fact, knowing his disenchantment with trade deadline day itself, if he does anything it will likely be in the next 72 hours or so, especially in light of everything that transpired Friday.
Will he move, or won't he?
I've already gone on record that I don't feel anything major should be done, and I'm sticking to it.
A big reason for that is the lack of quality out there on the market.
In terms of rental defencemen, Chris Phillips appears as though he's available if he's willing to lift his no trade clause, and there is a history between him and both Gauthier and Jacques Martin. If the price for Brewer resembles the cost to bring in Phillips, then that's a no-brainer.
But I have a feeling the price for Phillips went up significantly Friday just based on basic principles of supply and demand. When you add in San Jose's acquisition of Ian White to the Kaberle and Brewer deals, that's three legitimate top-four defencemen that were taken off the market.
All that's left, for now, is Phillips and perhaps Bryan McCabe, who has a no movement clause and a fat $5.75 million cap hit.
The Canadiens and the Columbus Blue Jackets have reportedly been scouting each other rather heavily of late, and one name mentioned as a possible target there is Rostislav Klesla, who is currently out with a knee injury but is skating. Klesla couldn't be less of a rental, signed for another three years after this one at a reasonable cap hit of $2.975 million.
There's other possibilities at forward on the Blue Jackets, like underachieving and overpaid Kristian Huselius ($4.75 million for one more year after this) or pending restricted free agent Jakub Voracek.
Except the Jackets beat the Blackhawks 4-3 on Friday night to pull into a tie with Chicago for 11th in the Western Conference, leaving both teams four points out of a playoff spot.
Are they sellers yet? Might they consider adding parts for a playoff push?
Then there's the prototypical power forward the Canadiens lack, Dustin Penner of the Edmonton Oilers, who is also signed for another year at $4.25 million. Oilers GM Steve Tambellini doesn't appear to be in a hurry to move either Penner or Ales Hemsky, but I'm sure he could be persuaded if the right offer presented itself because with the abundance of young talent on that roster, those two have to be considered expendable.
What price is acceptable?
My buddy Eric Engels suggested a few days ago this year's trade market is not limited to rentals and that perhaps a more traditional hockey trade is the route Gauthier should take because, as Engels mentioned Friday morning, it's clear the Canadiens need some help.
That is obviously the case, the Canadiens do need help. A great deal of it, in fact.
But what exactly are fans willing to give up?
The Bruins sent one of their top prospects, Joe Colborne, to Toronto along with their own first round pick in the upcoming draft to get Kaberle, with another second-rounder in 2012 if he re-signs in Boston (I assume).
Peter Chiarelli could afford to do it because he has a ton of young centres already on his roster, and he has Toronto's first pick that is likely to get far better now that Kaberle is no longer with them.
For Gauthier to have competed with an offer like that, I would imagine he would have had to pony up a Louis Leblanc along with his first round pick. With a young core that's improving with every game on the big club, is Leblanc expendable? Are fans willing to see a homegrown first-round pick leave town for a rental?
I doubt it, but I may be wrong.
I'm sure a lot of people are hoping to see Andrei Kostitsyn switch jerseys over the next nine days as well, and if it meant a Voracek coming back the other way, I'd be all for it. But to just dump him for nothing would be waving the white flag on this season, one that has the Canadiens nine points up on the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres and only one point behind the fifth-place Washington Capitals.
That's in spite of winning only once in their past six games, a run that could easily go to eight games if the Canadiens come back from this western swing without having added a single point.
Kostitsyn may be maddening at times, and his production is far below what's expected of him, but you can't replace him with just anyone.
The same principle applies to Scott Gomez, who Gauthier probably couldn't trade even if he wanted to. But if he somehow found a team willing to take on that contract, there had better be a serviceable player coming back in return because as disappointing as he's been, Gomez's departure would leave a big hole in the lineup. Gauthier and Bob Gainey are big believers in the importance of team chemistry – as evidenced by the jettisoning of Georges Laraque last season – and Gomez plays a pretty important role in that department.
Other than those two clearly unpopular players, what real assets (you know, like the kind other teams actually want) does Gauthier have to offer? Are people willing to see Yannick Weber go in light of how he's been playing of late? The aforementioned Leblanc? And I won't even bother mentioning P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty.
In any non-rental trade, there needs to be value going the other way. Gauthier could dangle his first round pick seeing as this year's draft appears to be shallow, but is it worth it when you're going into the playoffs without your two best defencemen (with all due respect to Subban)?
A few others could be waiting for next year
I wonder what Ray Shero will do with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the coming week, because their situation is similar to the Canadiens in that they've lost two impact players indefinitely (relax, I'm not comparing Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).
Or how about Mike Gillis in Vancouver, who has watched as practically his entire defence corps has gone down to injury?
Shero and Gillis are facing the same quandary where they have their core players locked in for years, so their window for winning is not necessarily closing. But their current teams could use a hand.
Gauthier is in the same boat, to a far lesser extent. First off because his team is not in the same category as the Penguins and Canucks, and also because he needs to re-sign Gorges and decide what he will do with Markov.
But otherwise, Gauthier's core players – whether you like them or not – are here for a while, and if he's going to make the big push to win I would have to imagine he would like to do it with all hands on deck.
For the meantime, Gauthier can still add a piece or two to address his team's lack of size and scoring, but I'd be shocked if it was anything that could be termed a blockbuster.
For that, I fear you may have to wait until next year. Again.