As the dust settles after the NHL trade deadline, Habs fans flock to social media to voice their opinions on the job completed by general manager, Marc Bergevin. Some were supportive and optimistic, while others are decrying his inability to add a top six forward to instantly help scoring.
In the weeks leading up to the deadline, Marc Bergevin was active, and made changes. Some changes, such as moving Greg Pateryn, were said to be necessary. Some moves seem to be simply tweaks to the roster, while some seemingly have no meaning behind them that those of us outside of the management team can decipher.
Let us look at the roster moves made leading up to, and including the deadline starting on the blueline.
The slightly undersized, left-handed, defenceman is a solid puck moving depth defenceman. He can fill in on a third pairing while providing passable defence and a good first pass. His size becomes an issue when playing against larger forwards, as he does lose some board battles. However, his mobility is a weapon he uses well to gain puck possession and clear the defensive zone.
Adding Nesterov to the roster came at a cost beyond the sixth round pick and an AHL-level defenceman. It meant that Mark Barberio had to be put on waivers and eventually lost to the Avalanche to make space on the roster. This move may seem like a sideways move, however, the playoff experience (26 games played, 7 points) and age were likely a factor in favor of Nesterov.
Bergevin was faced with Greg Pateryn’s growing, yet private discontent in the dressing room. That discontent became public when Mrs. Pateryn made comments on social media that management seemingly felt were unforgiveable. Despite the pressure to move Pateryn, Bergevin was able to upgrade the blueline by acquiring Jordie Benn.
Benn has term remaining on his contract of $1.1 million on the cap for two more seasons. It is higher than Pateryn’s, but provides an extra season. Benn plays a simple defensive game just as Pateryn does. Yet, Benn’s game is more mature as an experienced penalty-killer and a willingness to defend his teammates. In my opinion, this move will help the Canadiens in the medium term.
In my opinion, adding this defenceman is a win. His addition came at the cost of a forward who had lost any usefulness to the Canadiens. While Bergevin had to retain 20 per cent of David Desharnais’ expiring contract, adding Davidson still provided over $1 million in cap savings the day before the deadline.
At six-foot-two-inches and 210-pounds, Davidson has ideal NHL size. He also plays a physical brand of hockey while providing a good shot and the ability to protect the slot in the defensive zone. He fulfills a useful role as he provides defensive depth for the third pairing. This move will go a long way to improve Montreal’s roster.
While none of these moves provide an upgrade to the top four, these roster additions provide the Canadiens with nine NHL-capable defenders when Zach Redmond is included. This gives Claude Julien several options to tailor the lineup to the opponent he faces.
Moving on to the one group most in need of an upgrade, the forward group. Montreal’s forwards have been having difficulty providing depth scoring, and have been easily out-worked and out-muscled since the New Year began. The three games leading up to the trade deadline were all overtime wins, yet provided insight into the team’s capabilities when playing at it’s peak versus one with shaky confidence and inconsistent effort.
With the Desharnais trade, there was a need for another depth centerman. 34-year-old Steve Ott was the player that Bergevin felt filled that need. Ott is on an expiring contract at a cost of $800,000 for the season.
Ott is a well-known agitator who is capable of playing the gritty style that Julien enjoys from his bottom line players. Ott also provides a proven ability to win faceoffs as his current 58 percent success rate can attest to. His arrival came at the cost of a sixth-round pick. For a depth veteran addition that will platoon in and out of the lineup, that price is acceptable.
This roster move is one that came as a surprise. The addition of the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound forward provides size and aggression with 146 hits in 55 games. Yet, his value as a depth checking forward is minimal. His arrival came at the cost of Sven Andrighetto.
Andrighetto had parts of two seasons to prove that his AHL success could translate to the Canadiens roster without success. That lack of success can be argued is shared by his implementation as much as his inability to seize chances. His position on the roster was also that of a depth forward. While his speed was useful, he did lose his share of puck battles.
This roster move was unexpected. The only logic behind this type of trade, in my opinion, would be that Martinsen has the size coveted for a checking role and can play center as well as wing. Another possibility is that the new coach requested this move.
This addition is the one that provides the most offensive punch. King is a legitimate top nine winger who can contribute a respectable 10 to 15 goals per season. The 6-foot-4-inch, 232-pound winger also plays a physical style while being defensively responsible. King has the ability to line up with more talented players in a complimentary role and do the dirty work on his line along the boards and in front of the net.
King also adds playoff experience as a two-time Stanley Cup Champion. The cost of $1.95 million on the cap and a conditional fourth round pick (increases to a third round pick if King re-signs with Montreal) is fair for a player of this caliber. In my opinion, this trade was Bergevin’s best decision of the week.
Overall, the Canadiens are a harder to play against, with more grit and size. This lineup is more in the mold of a typical Claude Julien-coached squad. They can wear down an opponents’ defence and free up space for the Canadiens goal scorers. However, this did come at a cost. While the additions have serviceable speed, they aren’t as fast as the remainder of the team. That said, they are capable of keeping pace with their new teammates.
The new found size and aggressive play could help to translate to an increase in confidence which in turn could add some increase in offence from the current core and secondary scorers.
After 65 games played, the Habs are on pace for 226 goals, which is slightly higher than the last two seasons at 221 goals. They are also on pace for allowing 207 goals against which is significantly less than last season’s 232 goals against. The new additions all provide responsible defensive play, which could help to decrease the pace of goals allowed.
That said, the deadline day was not the surefire success that most had hoped for. While Bergevin did add much needed size and grit, adding players that will help ‘grind out goals’, as Bergevin stated in his post-deadline press conference, he was unable to add any proven scoring forwards. There were few available, yet, Bergevin did have enough assets in the form of coveted top 60 picks and quality prospects remaining to sweeten any deal to land any that may have been.
#Habs Bergevin wants more from players whose early season offence has dried up. No magic bullet: "Grind it out & score ugly goals."
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) March 1, 2017
While no proven top line centerman changed addresses, there were some forwards that could easily have been grafted onto Montreal’s top six. Players such as Tomas Vanek, who had a history in Montreal, went to division rival Florida instead.
Valterri Filppula, a proven second line centerman with term remaining on his contract ended up in Philadelphia. His two-way style and production could have filled a much needed need for the Canadiens.
In a final strange twist in what can only be seen as a failure for a team known to be selling, aging rental forward, Radim Vrbata, remained in Arizona instead of going to one of his rumored destinations, which included Montreal. These forwards that moved were acquired relatively inexpensively and would have added some depth scoring that the Canadiens desperately needed.
Will the new look Bell Center Bruisers provide the current core players the confidence needed to score at a higher rate? Will players such as IceCaps leading scorer Chris Terry, or AHL point per game forward Charles Hudon be called up and be able to provide some scoring punch? Is the addition of the size, grit, and defensively responsible play enough to win playoff rounds?
The disappointment many fans have been voicing in the inability to add proven top line scoring is justified. It would seem that Bergevin wasn’t willing to sacrifice the core to make that blockbuster deal happen. Having said that, he wasn’t alone.
No team was able to add a true top line player, even with some being rumoured to be available. With the biggest addition at the deadline to the Canadiens being the coaching change, we should know soon whether the moves made at the deadline were enough.