Time To Shake The Foundation But First, The GM

When will enough be enough? The Canadiens have only played seven games so far this season and the game against the Seattle Kraken was already the third one in which the team didn’t show up at all. The Habs find themselves in the basement of the NHL in many team-related categories and many of their players are totally under-performing. How nice would it be to be a fly on the wall in Marc Bergevin’s office? Or in Geoff Molson’s office for that matter. Leaving your GM as a lame duck without a contract next year is far from an ideal situation, one that can potentially have some impact on the way the team performs, contrary to popular belief. And that should be the first order of business for the Montreal Canadiens’ organisation.

What’s Bergevin’s future with the organisation? It is time for Molson to crap or get off the pot, as my grandpa would so elegantly say. The Chicago Blackhawks investigation is over and Bergevin’s name appears nowhere in the 107 pages report from Reid J. Shar on the events around the Hawks for the events of 2010. Bergevin is clear so if that was a stumbling block for his return, it shouldn’t be one anymore.

So Geoff Molson needs to stop the nonsense and either sign Bergevin to a contract extension or replace him with his successor. As professional as Bergevin can be (and wants to be), there’s a huge difference between making moves knowing it will be your team and making decisions not knowing if you’ll be gone tomorrow. And please Mr. Molson… can we kill the speculations around Patrick Roy before you make the mistake of starting to believe that it’s a plausible alternative?

A case for Eichel

With the team sitting with a record of 1-6-0 and the third worst points percentage in the entire NHL, the Habs need to find a solution and find it fast. While there is no doubt in most people’s mind that the team’s biggest need is a top rated right-handed top-4 defenseman who can log big minutes against the opposition’s top lines, there might not be one available as we speak. But there is one impact player who is definitely more than available, and his name is Jack Eichel.

While I was against the thought of going after the Sabres’ injured player for the longest time, I’ve changed my mind. Only fools never change their mind, right? And it’s the team’s performances that made me do that. Think about it. With the departure of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the Canadiens are very thin at center once again. More so, they’re extremely thin with offensive centers. So let’s look at the pros and cons:

PROSCONS
Only 24 years oldNeeds neck surgery, will miss about 4 months
6’2″ – 213 lbsQuestion mark about surgery recovery
Former 1st overall pick$10M cap hit
Dynamic franchise playerHigh price to acquire him
Career 355 pts in 375 GPIn-division trade, harder to complete
178 Pts in 166 GP last 3 years (1.07 Pts/GP)
Under contract until 2025-26
Sabres have plenty of cap space to take salary in trade
Habs have 11 picks at next Draft and many good prospects

Missing four months is less relevant to the Canadiens today than it was in the off-season as the likelihood of making the playoffs is now minimal. If anything, it’s a positive for next summer’s Draft which is held in Montreal, allowing the team to select lower. Of course, the Habs first round pick might have to go the other way in a trade, but it could very well be lottery protected too. Just as important, remember that teams who select lower in the first round also do so in each round thereafter…

It has been reported that the Sabres’ GM Kevin Adams is now open to having conditions included in a trade for Eichel, based on his health and games played. For the team acquiring him, it would be a lesser risk, as if Eichel plays and is healthy, he will be worth it. Otherwise, the compensation is lesser.

As far as cap hit is concerned, if he’s not healthy and goes on LTIR, the Habs would be getting cap relief from it as they do currently for Shea Weber being out. The risk is not as high as it seems due to that. And there is always the possibility of having a third team entering the deal to make it a three-way trade, helping with assets and intra-division player swap.

Trade deadline and off-season

As the Canadiens would likely miss the playoffs, it will allow them to trade some of their assets to contenders for picks and prospects. By trading away some salary at the deadline, it would allow the team to either trade for a stud defenseman or sign one if one becomes available through free agency in the off-season.

Another option the Canadiens have is to do what other teams have done and trade for cap relief with players on LTIR. When doing so, you get a player for nothing (see Joel Armia).

Trades are not easy. Making the decisions to make those trades, calculating the short term and long term impact cap implication is a challenge. But that’s the reality of the NHL and other teams manage to do it. If Bergevin stays and signs his extension, we know that he’s one of the best in the business with trades and he has shown multiple times not being afraid to pull the trigger on big deals.

As it stands now, the team is going nowhere so here’s yet another opportunity to make substantial changes on the fly. The door is closing for a playoffs’ spot, but it’s opening wide to continue, and even accelerate the reset started in the summer of 2018.

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