After another embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, a night removed from another embarrassing loss to the San Jose Sharks, it has become clear that the Montreal Canadiens are trending downwards this season due to their lack of offensive creativity and center depth. It has come to a point where Alex Galchenyuk has played on every line since the start of the season and yet has one of the only two power play goals scored by the Canadiens this season. Alex Galchenyuk is not the problem for Montreal Canadiens and any smart fan will be able to see that he has probably shown the most amount of heart out of all the Canadiens’ offensive weapons since the start of the season. Max ‘Casper’ Pacioretty is in fine playoff form, which means he’s already disappeared since he scored the first goal in the season in Buffalo two weeks ago. Watching Pacioretty play hockey this season has honestly made me miss the leadership qualities of Saku Koivu, because that man never took a game off and never coasted as much as Max ever has. In as such the trade rumours have been swirling over the last week, as reports of Bergevin working the phones have been leaked by various GMs who are looking to catch Bergevin at his most vulnerable.
It should come as no surprise that the Canadiens, who have been looking for offensive help since the early 2000s, are in desperate need of it now. The only problem is that they also have a major hole on left defense. Although Victor Mete, the Canadiens’ 2016 4th round pick, has performed valiantly and has been rock solid, the left side of the Canadien’s blueline (Mete, Alzner, Morrow/Benn/Davidson) is not NHL worthy at this point and needs to be rectified. With Shea Weber and Jeff Petry in the NHL and Noah Juulsen and Brett Lernout in the AHL, the right side of Montreal’s defense is solid for the next few years.
Montreal’s other glaring need is an immediate fix at the center position, as Jonathan Drouin can simply not do it alone. Tomas Plekanec and Philip Danault are, at best, third line centers that can fill in a top 6 role during a short time. However they require a solid one-two punch down the middle if they ever wish to go forward. Some seem to think that the Canadiens have that one-two punch already in Drouin and Galchenyuk, but both Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien do not have the same vision. In as such, the hunt for a center is officially on and here are the potential trade targets that Montreal has been rumoured to have looked at.
Brock Nelson (NYI)
Brock Nelson for the New York Islanders would be a wonderful target to acquire if the Islanders are comfortable with the idea of rookie Matt Barzal centering their second line. Nelson is a natural center who can also play wing and has scored 20 goals or more three times in his young career, but has only ever had a career high of 45 points. Nelson would certainly help bring a strong presence up the middle with his huge 6.3 frame and his strong lower balance, but he certainly doesn’t have the pure offensive tools of a Galchenyuk. I would certainly like to acquire Nelson, but there must be more to be added.
Calvin De Haan.
This is where it begins to get interesting. Arthur Staple, a beat writer for the New York Islanders recently said that Bergevin was scouting the Islanders for 4 straight games to start the season. Word our is that the Canadiens are dangling Brock Nelson and Calvin De Haan, while the Canadiens are firmly interested in Nick Leddy (a former Chicago Blackhawk). Calvin De Haan seems like a more realistic target if Galchenyuk is expected to go the other way. His contract comes up after this year and is an unrestricted free agent. He is a left-handed defenseman and would slot in nicely next to Weber on the top pair. There has been steady progression in De Haan’s game, as he doubled his 2015-2016 output by put up 25 points for the Islanders during the 2016-2017 campaign. Ultimately, a package of Galchenyuk + vs Nelson and De Haan seems like the more plausible trade, but we all know Bergevin never makes the obvious trade.
I believe Nick Leddy is the real piece that Marc Bergevin is after. With Calvin De Haan, Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech ready to take over the team’s defensive responsibilities, the Islanders need to move quickly to properly insulate their franchise center and soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent John Tavares before he decides to go elsewhere. This might prompt them to dangle Leddy for a package that includes either Galchenyuk or, in a shocking twist, Max Pacioretty. A deal built arounf either of these players would make sense for the Canadiens going forward. If they chose to unload Captain Max in favor of a Nick Leddy, it gives Tavares both Pacioretty and Eberle to play with on the top line. Meanwhile, Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, Andrew Ladd and Anthony Beauvilier would fill out the rest of a very impressive top 6.
How ironic was it that Jake Muzzin was playing on the first pair against the Canadiens, and Alex Galchenyuk was also playing on the top offensive unit with Drouin and Pacioretty? In my opinion, the Canadiens were showcasing Galchenyuk to the Kings as they look to acquire Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez. With Martinez fresh off a long-term contract extension, Muzzin (28 years old) seems like the most logical choice for the Habs. He has had multiple 40 point season and already has 5 points in 6 games for the Kings. His good possession stats, along with his great physical game, would allow him to slot in nicely on the first or second pairing.
The Kings, who are also looking for offense, would gladly welcome a player like Alex Galchenyuk to their lineup. He would easily slot onto their top line with Anze Kopitar and the resurrected Dustin Brown. As much as I love Galchenyuk, this deal would most likely favor Montreal in the short-term. However, if Galchenyuk is traded to the far reaches of the Western Conference, expect him to explode on a team that actively makes room for him to dangle and shoot in the offensive zone, rather than playing the perimeter.
Ultimately, a move must be made soon. It could be a change in the dressing room via trade, it could be a young player like Nikita Scherbak or Michael McCarron being called up or it could be a front office change. It is unfortunate that the Canadiens, who had such a promising young core five years ago, are now in a situation where they are teetering on the notion of a full rebuild and lottery pick. The longer the fans must wait for a significant move, the harder it will be to not request the firing of Marc Bergevin. Either way, it will be an interesting next few week for NHL fans, so stay tuned!