31 Games Left In Habs Season... Buying? Selling? Both?
The Montreal Canadiens are coming out of the All Star Break well rested. Price, Weber, Domi, and Petry all were able to avoid the festivities and the hangovers that likely came with it and I'm glad they did.
Price has had to publicly address his lingering injury he's been playing through so it is good to know he will have had 10 days off from game action before they return to the ice Feb 2nd against the NJ Devils. I would also say the same for Weber who has returned from Foot and Knee injuries like he was shot out of a cannon. The fact he isn't being considered for the Norris right now is a joke, but I digress.
Shea Weber likely has more than a few bumps and bruises to heal himself not to mention the likely strains he has had to endure jumping back into NHL pace hockey after a year off. How he has been able to do that without missing a beat is astounding, but Weber make no mistake about it, Shea Weber is one of the NHL's elite players overall. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.
So with the rest I hope to see the Canadiens return with vigor and tenacity. 31 games left to qualify for the playoffs. 31 games to have a chance at pro sports toughest trophy to earn. So, after 51 games how do we look?
The Habs are sitting right on that 55% Win Percentage that is most likely needed to make playoffs. A win or two either way could send some Habs fans roaring from the mountain tops or throwing themselves from the top of it so the grind is very real for the Montreal Canadiens.
I think they have shown they have what it takes to make the playoffs this year. The advanced stats show it as well. The Canadiens issues lie in the defense at the moment and there are many of us talking about what the Habs will be doing heading into the trade deadline. Well, the Habs front office is likely also trying to find out where they stand as the team balances on the win percentage. A few wins in a row might have them exploring dealing one of their 2nd round picks for help. Conversely, a few losses in a row will have teams calling for Petry, Tatar, Benn, and maybe even Niemi.
Which way is the right way?
The right way is clearly staying the course and let the players decide.
The team will either find the resolve and battle their way into playoff contention or they won't. Bergevin and Co. likely feel a bit handcuffed at the moment as they are caught in a great Divisional/Wild Card race. If someone was willing to deal a superstar for that 2nd rounder I'm sure the deal would be done already to bring in help. But with the cost of rentals being a 1st round pick, Bergevin is likely waiting to see who wants to bite on that 2nd anyways. You know there's a good chance a GM like Poile will do his usual 1st rd pick for a 3rd liner so someone will pay. Those deals will have to shake out before Bergy can even think of adding because there is no chance in hell he is dealing his 2019 1st round pick. Well, never say never I suppose but his big deals lately suggest he will only part with quality for big time quality.
Should the Canadiens look to sell there will be no shortage of potential moves. Petry, Shaw, Tatar, Benn, Schlemko, and Niemi could all find themselves on the move if the Habs pull the plug and start preparing for next year.
Petry and Tatar are both high quality players with term so expect a high end return if they get moved. Shaw might get a surprisingly positive return for MTL as well if he can get, and stay, healthy. The rest are depth moves and unless the deadline brings some big buying frenzy I wouldn't expect anything more than what Oleksiak was just trade for today (4th round pick). Even saying that you know there will be guys in my comments saying the Habs would never get that. Maybe not, but there really is no way to tell.
The option is always there to do both as well. Sell some guys (Benn for example) while acquiring someone else to help (Hamilton for example). This is likely the course Bergevin wants to take, adding improvements while cashing out on UFA's you don't intend to resign. The good thing about this playoff race so far is that there are many teams battling and there are also teams struggling with cap space.
The Habs will have roughly $45 million (!!!) in deadline cap space so if teams need some space to finish their huge rental add then Bergevin is reaping the rewards. I was not a fan of the Habs letting the Jets out of Mason's contract and then subsequently buying him out. Yes, when healthy Armia is a serviceable 3rd liner who has had 2 or 3 games where you seriously noticed his play, but if we are going to take major cap issues off of teams hands we need more than 3rd liners and late picks.
I know I just offended some people but that's my opinion. You want $5 million in cap relief so you can load up you awesome team to win the Cup? Then you must pay the piper. No more favors for 3rd liners please. We will still have Mason on the cap for $1.3 million next year and while some will point out our abundance of cap space, like I actually just did, but what if Karlsson wants to work close to home next season and has MTL high on his list of destinations? We will need $11 million minimum to bring him in an estimated $21 million in space next year (if the cap goes up another $3.5 million). They still have to sign Lehkonen, Armia, Kulak, and Reilly and figure out who's playing back up to Price. They can definitely do it, but it would be better if our cap space wasn't playing dead so the Winnipeg Jets can chase a Stanley Cup.
Yes, I said it. I want the Habs to go after E Karlsson. Why wouldn't I? Anyways....
The Canadiens will be setting sail on a 31 game audition for the Stanley Cup playoffs starting February 2nd, 2019. This rest could be paramount in the upcoming grind to April and mark me down as someone who thinks the Canadiens are going to surprise in a positive way. We might actually see Toronto in the 1st round of the playoffs if things keep going this way and try telling me the fans (and NHL) wouldn't LOVE that...
Go Habs Go