Montreal Canadiens Spotlight: One Win, One Loss and One Contract to Sign

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

By James Stephan (@J_Habs)

Disappointment was what every Habs fan was reluctantly expecting on Tuesday, January 22nd as the Montreal Canadiens hosted the Florida Panthers. Fans were hoping that Saturday’s Home opening loss to the Leafs was just a case of the jitters and a very short pre-season to prepare.

Habs fans rejoiced around the world as they witnessed a couple of key events such as Andrei Markov, dubbed “The General” by his teammates and coach Therrien, had a stellar performance of two goals, and playing a total of 23 minutes. Another treat fans enjoyed was Montreal Canadiens top prospect Alex Galchenyuk scoring his first NHL goal, and prospect Brendan Gallagher receiving his first NHL point on the very same goal, in his NHL debut no less.

Michel Therrien is likely going to keep the same line up for Thursday; many are curious if the Prust-Galchenyuk-Gallagher line can continue to produce and how long will Lars Eller remain a healthy scratch.

It can be said with great certainty that Canadiens fans were satisfied in seeing a team with energy, speed and offense, a model which was non-existent in the previous season.

A charter flight takes the Canadiens to Washington where they will be greeted with a closed fist by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Many hope that Montreal can create a winning streak, and find some offensive consistency that’s often eluded the club in the past.

 

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The Montreal Canadiens have played two games without P.K. Subban as he and his agent Don Meehan continue to negotiate with GM Marc Bergevin.  While the hockey community has speculated that both parties are worlds apart, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie expressed his thoughts on the Subban situation Wednesday night: “I think it’s ultimately headed towards a trade”

While fans don’t wish to cater the thought of fan favorite P.K. Subban being traded away, it may be the end result if neither party can reach an agreement over the course of the season. Another scenario that could leave Subban elsewhere is if a team that is desperate for a top pairing defender with potential, offers a deal that no team, not even the Habs could refuse.

GM Marc Bergevin expressed his thoughts on the contract situation the same day he announced the plans to buy out former Canadien Scott Gomez. Bergevin explained his number one priority was to sign the young defender, and that trading him was not an option at the moment; fans pray that Bergevin stays true to his word and comes to a reasonable agreement with the young defender.

For the sake of argument, if such a situation were to occur the big question would be what would a player’s rights like P.K. Subban fetch on the open market?

Subban is an asset that any general manager would love to have: a speedy, creative, offensive wizard with the puck, who has a decent shot, can deliver highlight reel open ice hits, and play solid defense. Subban is your prototypical defender that can do it all, but he has a lot to learn, and has yet to reach his full potential.  A team like Detroit would love to have P.K. on their back end, to try and fill the void left by future hall of fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.  The return would have to be significant for Bergevin to even consider moving the young defender, likely starting with a young roster player of equal skill or potential, or a prospect and a high pick. Detroit forwards Zetterberg, and Datsyuk are likely off the table, and Montreal would probably prefer to receive a younger asset.

Anaheim, Dallas, Philadelphia and Edmonton are just a handful of teams that would also be interested, and their available assets make for an intriguing list of offers.

Anaheim – It’s safe to expect one of Perry, Getzlaf, or Ryan would be the center pieces for discussion, as both Getzlaf and Perry are Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of this season. It is doubtful that the rights for P.K. alone would net either Perry or Getzlaf alone, but the fact that both players are upcoming UFAs makes them unappealing; with some tinkering and clever asset management might get a deal done. If Bergevin were to trade for one of them, the frame of mind would likely be once they would be acquired immediate action would be taken to re-sign one of them long term.

Dallas – The Stars possess two assets that would intrigue Montreal, RFA Jamie Benn and defensive prospect Jamie Oleksiak. Benn would give Montreal a serious upgrade at center, with the future depth chart to feature Galchenyuk, and Benn as a solid one-two punch for many years to come. For the first time in decades the Canadiens’ strength would be at center, and they would be one of the most lethal center combinations.

Oleksiak, who currently measures at six foot seven, 242lbs is an offensive mammoth that has yet to make his mark in the NHL, and it may be feasible for the Habs to negotiate for both Benn and Oleksiak for a combination of Subban, a solid prospect, a pick and a center roster player likely to be Lars Eller or David Desharnais.  Subban would be a welcome addition to the Dallas blue line, and would be a more than ample replacement for aging defenseman Stephane Robidas.

Philadelphia – With Chris Pronger’s career likely over, the Philadelphia Flyers would most certainly be in the race for P.K. Subban. Judging by their aggressive attempt to sign Shea Weber to a 100 million dollar contract in the off-season it is clear that they are desperate for a top pairing defender to fill the void left by their former captain.  In order to deal a player of Subban’s caliber to the Flyers, a significant offer would have to be in place and Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has shown that he isn’t afraid to make a significant splash if it means improving his team.  Bergevin’s asking price would likely revolve around former QMJHL star Sean Couturier; during his draft year it was said that the Montreal Canadiens were enamored with his combination of size and skill, and this would be one of the few opportunities they would have to acquire the young highly talented center.

On September 12, 2012 it was reported that the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers had had brief talks regarding P.K. Subban. There is a real possibility that those talks could spark again if a contract agreement cannot be reached. A concern of many would be the fact that Subban would be dealt to a conference rival which would leave many fans with a sour taste in their mouth. If Subban were to be traded to Philadelphia, many could expect that the bitter rivalry would be amplified ten fold for many years to come.

Edmonton – The young up and coming team has made a reputation for themselves by drafting so many players in the top five in the last five years which has allowed them to build an impressive roster. Edmonton drafted Nail Yakupov first overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and there were whispers leading up to draft day that Montreal may try to snatch up the dynamic forward to pair him with his former Sarnia team mate Alex Galchenyuk. This combination would be a huge upgrade at the forward position for Montreal as they would have added two impact forwards to their roster in the short span of one year, and for a team that’s been gasping for offensive punch, that need would finally be addressed.

Essentially a one for one swap has been speculated ad nauseum since Subban became an RFA, and this scenario makes quite a bit of sense for both parties as Edmonton bolsters their blue line giving them a dangerous pairing of Justin Schultz and Subban while trading a player who on their depth chart currently plays on the second line.

If P.K. were to be dealt emotions would run high, comparable to the shocking and dramatic departure of Mike Cammalleri. P.K. stated in an interview with Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs how much it means to him to play in Montreal and how the contract talks are part of business. A glaring concern is the longer these talks linger on, the grimmer the possible outcome of the situation becomes. Habs fans around the world surely want their young defender back, and are hoping that GM Marc Bergevin can pull a rabbit or two out of his hat as the world waits for Montreal and Subban to reach an agreement.

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