With three games under their belts after Sochi, the Montreal Canadiens are playing very well. After picking up five of a possible six points in that stretch, all without Carey Price in net, the team is poised to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. But with the trade deadline on March 5, all 30 teams including the Canadiens will look to upgrade.
Surprisingly. the Habs have only been connected to one trade rumour: that Andrei Markov will leave. But considering the team is only four points back of the division-leading Boston Bruins, they should be kicking the tires a little bit on some of the names that have been circulating. One player who would be a big upgrade is Ryan Kesler.
But that probably won’t happen.
At 6’2, Kesler would be Montreal’s biggest centre and for a team always considered small, he would help change that perception. His 39 points would place him third on the team and his 21 goals would be second.
But he can also play a strong two-way game. Kesler is currently winning 52 per cent of the draws he takes, good for 12th in the league. He also leads all the Canucks forwards with over two minutes a game on the penalty kill. A two-time US Olympian and only 29-years-old, Kesler would bring size, skill and a strong two-way game to the Habs.
But if this is the asking price, they would have a lot to consider.
Price to get Kesler is high. 1. Significant/established NHLer, preferably a C, 20 to 25; 2. Top prospect, preferably a F. 3. 1st rd pick.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 2, 2014
Montreal really can’t afford that. The established centre is easy. David Desharnais would be better off being in this deal than competing for ice time with Kesler and Tomas Plekanec. But after that, things don’t fit for Montreal.
Kesler will make $5 million each year for the next two-seasons after that and the Habs are about $1.5 million under the current cap right now.
But the biggest problem for the Habs in this trade, and probably why they are not tied to a lot of the top names swirling around, is their prospects pool isn’t very deep. While they had a good draft in 2013, their AHL team the Hamilton Bulldogs are a .500 team that will probably miss the playoffs. Behind Nathan Beaulieu and Sven Andrighetto, there is a steep drop off in the quality of prospects Montreal has. Sacrificing the limited depth they have is probably going to be a costly move for the Canadiens. They also will want to keep their first-round pick to help stock the cupboards.
That is the price of doing business in this league. Vancouver is going to want to maximize the return on their most valuable asset and Montreal isn’t really equipped to pay it. His name has been tied to the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins in trade rumours and they have more assets to offer. Our Canucks writer Kevin Cawthra thinks trading Kesler will be good for that team and he would be a much needed upgrade down the middle for Montreal. But Habs fans shouldn’t let their hopes too high this year.