Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Canadiens call up Eric Tangradi, sniffing around David Perron, dangling Tom Gilbert?

The Canadiens, after trading for Eric Tangradi in return for backup goalie Peter Budaj, have now called him up to the Show, after recently sending down Drayson Bowman and Nathan Beaulieu.  Eric Tangradi has the size and the skating ability to contribute something to our lineup, and specifically to our fourth line, maybe more than Mr. Bowman could, and more than Travis Moen was able to with his declining speed.

Especially with the current brain trust, I believe that any trades which happen are rarely accidental or come about suddenly.  Scott Mellanby, Rick Dudley, Larry Carrière, Marc Bergevin, the pro scouts, they're constantly scouting games in the NHL and AHL, and they have their list of targets that they'd like to acquire at the right price.  The amateur scouts probably have some say also, they had their favourites that the team never had a chance to draft, but think there's some potential there, the right character and the right fit in the system.

So the team, Marc Bergevin, when he's on the phone or talking with another GM, he's probably always circling around the same names.  We heard that he's been after Sergei Gonchar since at least last summer, and also heard about P.A. Parenteau at least six months before he was acquired.

So my guess is that Eric Tangradi has been on this target list of 12 or 15 forwards who the brain trust has thought might be undervalued, might bloom in Montréal, in the right system, without any other forwards in the lineup already filling his projected role.  It's noteworthy that his size and mobility isn't really something the Jets were short of, they're already a big team that can skate pretty well, what they're looking for are defencemen, and now scoring.  Eric Tangradi may have been ice to the Inuit in the Jets organization, whereas he ticks off a lot of boxes in our organization, whether it's in Hamilton, or on our bottom six, with few NHL-ready big wingers.

Some trades may be a case of taking a mismatched part by necessity, like maybe Christian Thomas for Danny Kristo.  Sometimes a player is included in a trade just to even out the contracts going in either direction, like Florida taking Philippe Lefebvre in the George Parros trade, or Robert Slaney in the Hal Gill trade.  Sometimes a player already in the organization makes a bad list, like maybe when Sebastian Collberg stalled a bit in his progression, and lost his untouchable status, becoming a trade chip instead.

But the Eric Tangradi trade is exactly the kind of trade we've been pining for, swapping our surplus for stuff we've been short of.  We wanted Raphaël Diaz, Yannick Weber, Tomas Kaberle and/or Frédéric St. Denis to be bartered for big wingers, and that never happened, because they never got to the Marc Streit level in terms of value.  We want to trade some of our current defenceman depth in Hamilton, some of our prospects, for other prospects who play forward, who'll add to the organizations mix, add size and scoring.

We traded one of our backup goalies, a guy we habitually bundled with a second-rounder and Travis Moen for a frontline forward when we dreamed up trade scenarios on social media, for a spare piece of equivalent value in absolute terms, but which might fit our puzzle much better, and might have a greater chance to thrive in our system.  So it's a step forward.

And like I said before, maybe Michel Therrien can have his cup of coffee with Eric Tangradi, and run him through the daleweiseaficator, and turn him into a player who the other team kind of feels silly to have let go. He can be another big forward who can’t crack the fourth line of his team, has already bounced from another team before that, but Michel Therrien and his team of black arts practitioners turn him into the second coming of Willi Plett.

As in, maybe he can stand in front of the blessed opposition net during power plays, and get us frigging goal once in a blue moon.  Because that's what we're reduced to, with the doldrums the powerplay has been becalmed in.

We sometimes seem to think that just because a player is big, he's suited to play in front of the net and cash in rebounds.  Which is odd, since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr are big guys too, yet we accept that it's not their job.

Conversely, Brendan doesn't have the size we usually see for a guy who digs in front of the net, but he certainly has the skill set and determination.  And if he doesn't play that way, he can't play in the NHL, he doesn't have any other skills that really stand out beside his tenacity and hockey smarts.

Guys like Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are big forwards, but they're more nifty than big tough bruisers.  I like how all three have started playing more physical this season, in terms of going to the net more, instead of skating on the outside and trying to dangle and pass.  Lars especially has improved in this area.  But that's kind of the upper limit for them, they're not going to be Yvon Lambert.  They'd in fact be wasted in that role.

I don't really know anything about Eric Tangradi, but one thing he can do is at least say "I'll do that!  If that's what it takes to be an NHL'er, I'll crash the net and screen the goalie and deflect goals off my jockstrap.  I'll do it!"

Meanwhile, speaking of roster massaging and lineup tweaks, the Oilers are apparently ready to trade David Perron, in trying to radically transform their roster and arrest the freefall they're in.  They might be ripe for the picking.

Some will dispute that if the Oilers are this putrid, you don't want any of their players.  I agree about this in a general way, in theory. We’re batting this concept around with respect to Tom Gilbert and Mike Weaver: how useful is a bit player on a bottom-feeding team? Can a marginal player on a poor team help a playoff team? The Oilers’ role players probably don’t hold a lot of value right now.  Teams will be going after their first-round picks, or Justin Schultz.

There are exceptions to this general rule, of course. Glaringly, the Canucks last season were hard-pressed to put together a third line, let alone a fourth, yet Dale Weise was often a healthy scratch on that very same team,  And when he got to Montréal, he contributed immediately. So there are players who are miscast on also-rans who’ll benefit from a change of scenery and a role and system more suited to their skillset.

Again though, the big problem any Edmonton GM will have is that any Limited No-Trade Clause contract, one in which a player can specify which teams he can’t be traded to, will list the Oilers as one of those verboten teams. So Craig MacTavish has few options. He needs to bring in a veteran leader who can play centre to steady the ship, plug leaks, but who fits that description out there who’d accept to be dealt to that clown college?

Offhand, I was thinking a Paul Gaustad would fit all these categories, could go in and play the third line for the Oilers and really help out, but sure enough he has a LNTC. Instead, they’ll be reduced to batting around Oli Jokinen when talking trade with the Preds.

Sure, other teams also have as trade-bait young players and prospects who don’t have that protection in their contracts, but these guys are really, really valuable, they cost a lot in trade. And, they’re not really what the Oilers need, they already have enough talented but rudderless young players on their roster, they need the Brian Giontas and Josh Gorges that the Sabres acquired, to shepherd the kids.

I understand that the Oilers’ kids’ value is being frittered away, but there are vultures out there who know that a change of scenery and some coaching will re-animate them. I suspect Gord MacTavish knows this also, but he may be forced to trade from a position of weakness, while their value is depressed.

So as an unrealistic fan, I'd love it if Marc Bergevin could turn some mismatched parts which may not serve us very well any longer, and turned those into a Nail Yakupov lottery ticket.

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