Friday, 6 June 2014

Should the Canadiens trade away Tomas Plekanec? (Take #3)

A couple of seasons ago, the thought of trading Tomas Plekanec was highly controversial, verging on heresy.  He was the underrated #1 centreman who could produce offensively, shut down opposition superstars and kill penalties superbly.  A homegrown player, he was signed for a reasonable amount.  So why mess with success?  Who would replace him, anyway?

Fast-forward to today, and the equation has a few more variables.  There are young centremen on the roster who can and should play more.  Tomas' performance has stalled.  Again, his contribution in the playoffs left something to be desired.  The 'mix' of the team could be adjusted.

All these considerations are valid.

Alex Galchenyuk can be considered the Prime Mover, the big reason we even consider this move.  After two seasons (well, 1.5 seasons, and thank you Gary Bettman) apprenticing at left wing, most fans think it's time he took over at centre, the position he's been envisioned at since he was drafted.

Also, Lars Eller needs to move up the roster, get more playing time.  He's a big body, a great skater, that's a way we can 'size up', by having that big body on the ice for more of the game.

David Desharnais is a special case.  We're married to him since he signed a deal that will run for three more seasons.  It's a reasonable cap hit, and David is producing enough that he's actually a cost-effective player.  The fly in the ointment in his case is that his small size makes him hold a very low trade-value in Don Cherry's NHL.  So he's almost an 'untouchable' functionally, but in a different way than a Sidney Crosby or a Drew Doughty.

Add in Daniel Brière, who's under contract for another season and can pitch in, since he's much more comfortable at centre than right wing, the position he was intended to play when he was signed, and that provides some depth for injury situations.  On the fourth line, we have Ryan White who was underutilized this season and can have a make-or-break year next season.  Brandon Prust can also centre the fourth line, and Gabriel Dumont in Hamilton is more than ready to do this as well.

So we can withstand the significant loss of Tomas.  The upside would be the opportunity to obtain a significant piece in return.  Ideally, it would be a young right winger who can play in the Top 6, a player with size who can take the team further in the direction that Marc Bergevin has, a skilled, fast team with size and character.

This ideal trade outcome would address the 'mix' we often discuss, removing an older player and plugging in a younger player with more size, who can withstand Bruining and truculence, and thrive in the playoffs, not that Tomas ever shied away from his duties when playing in physical games.

The big question is whether we can get our hands on that "significant piece" in return for Tomas, and maybe other throw-ins.  Will other teams just look at the warts that some of his detractors are always ready to point out, too small, not physical enough, disappears in the playoffs, doesn't score enough, etc?

The thing is, the market for centremen may be heating up at just the right time for us.  I've come across a few articles that describe teams purportedly looking for a good #2 or 3 centreman.

The Canucks if they trade Ryan Kesler will want a #2 centreman on their roster, if not through the Kesler trade itself.

The Ducks apparently don't want to waste Ryan Getzlaf's and Corey Perry's 'window', and want a veteran #2 centre to help load up the team, to get past the Kings and the Sharks in the playoffs.  They expect Saku Koivu to retire, so that will make the need more urgent too.

The Penguins who are apparently not satisfied with Brandon Sutter and want to upgrade at that #3 spot, especially for when they put Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby together on a line.

The Oilers who want a veteran centreman to support Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, take some of the pressure off him.  Right now they have RNH, Sam Gagner, then a bunch of nobodies.

If these are mostly legit, we might have the makings of a seller's market for centres, which would make Tomas a valuable commodity, at a time when we can actually think of sparing him.


  1. I don't disagree per se, but the return would have to be one hell of a good one. The experience and overall steadiness he brings to the team can't be undervalued. Although his performance has dipped some, I think that's more due to him being overplayed than his skill being in decline. I think a simple switch in line roles between Lars Eller and Tomas may work. The question then becomes what we do with Galchenyuk. Until Plekanec's contract runs out (should we keep him), maybe place both Eller and Galchenyuk on the 2nd wave of the PP (assuming that DD, Pacioretty, and Gallagher make up the 1st PP unit), giving the Habs the benefit of 2 centres on the PP, maybe even switching up who takes the first draw on occasion.
    That being said, if we can package him, with say, Josh Gorges, for that big 1st/2nd line winger we need so desperately and a pick, I say Bergevin jumps at it. (And that's not a shot at Gorges, but if we can sign Weaver and Markov to reduced roles for their experience, there's no reason why not to start the same movement to influx youth into our D as well.)

    1. Agreed. I'm focusing on Tomas Plekanec as I think he does have value, other teams would covet him, not trying to trade him to 'get rid of him'. Also, he's a veteran with still a few years left, like Ryan Kesler, an attractive option for maybe a team in the West, that needs to 'load up' to compete.

      Generally, we tend to undervalue our players, familiarity breeding contempt, but after reading how many teams want help at centre, I feel better about the ability of the Canadiens to trade Tomas for a good return. If they were to swap Lars, I think the sky's the limit almost.

      The crying need is to bring is size and scoring on the wing, and bump Brendan Gallagher down the roster, as good as he is. So we'd sacrifice a more important piece with a centre, but receive in return youth, size, physical play, goalscoring ability.

      And yeah, with Andrei (potentially), Josh and Alexei on left D, with Jarred and Nathan knocking at the door, and the three vets on bigger cap hits, we need to move one, and Josh would be my choice. Again, maybe we undervalue his contribution, and would be surprised at the return, maybe a young team like the Oilers or the Panthers or Stars would value his brand of leadership, his steadiness.

      I think Mike Weaver will fall back to earth somewhat next season, but would still be useful as a third pairing veteran, being a rightie. I'd see him as the placeholder-transition guy, would make up for the loss of Josh somewhat, but help balance out our lineup. He leaves room for the young lefties, allows Alexei to maybe play some on his natural side. Cross our fingers, Greg Pateryn and/or Magnus Nygren can be worked in during the season and hold up, and we can flip him for a pick at the deadline.