A strange trade on the surface as a finesse Habs team gets less gritty, but Montreal does get a veteran defenseman from a reeling Stars team that may have just wanted cap space and a spark plug in return.
There are some hockey trades that just make sense at the time and others that require a little more thinking. When news hit that Montreal had acquired veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar from Dallas in exchange for sandpaper bottom-sixer Travis Moen, the initial motivations were cloudy.
After all, the Canadiens aren’t exactly a physically intimidating team and the Stars didn’t seem to be in a position to lose an experienced blueliner, but here we are. So what’s the context of this deal?
1. Cap Space – Montreal has it, Dallas does not. Even with Dallas retaining eight percent of Gonchar’s $5 million salary (as per Pierre LeBrun), this helps out the Stars, who were tight against the cap. Gonchar’s contract ends this summer too, so if the Habs don’t feel a need for the 40-year-old beyond this season, they can cut ties freely. Moen on the other hand, has one more season left on a deal that averages $1.8 million per year. He’s definitely a good bottom-six player and in an official press release, Dallas GM Jim Nill said the following: “Travis is a proven forward that does all the gritty things needed to win. He brings leadership and experience to our forward group and will be an important part of our penalty kill.”
So the Stars get an asset that won’t be gone by July.
2. Flexibility – The waiving of slump-addled Rene Bourque wasn’t just done to get the Habs winger playing time in the American League – it also opened up a spot for Czech rookie Jiri Sekac. With Moen gone, that logjam up front gets lessened, especially with Charles Hudon off to a great start in AHL Hamilton.
The Stars actually appear a bit thin on defense with Gonchar now gone and Patrik Nemeth already out for the season with a severe arm laceration, though Gonchar has played only three games due to his own injury earlier in the season. But as Nill noted in a conference call, the team has been waiting to give its youngsters down in AHL Texas a shot at the big squad, especially after last year’s Calder Cup title. John Klingberg leads the pack in that category.
3. Special Teams – Montreal’s power play has been comically bad so far, scoring at a micro-clip of 7.7 percent. Likewise, Dallas has been rotten on the penalty kill, ranking 26th in the league. Gonchar can help with the man advantage in Montreal, while Moen can shore up Dallas’ PK unit.
4. Shake Up – Dallas has been in the doldrums lately and in the tough West, things are already looking foreboding. Montreal is winning, but the Habs’ possession numbers are dismal once again. Could the swapping of Moen and Gonchar help both teams with their respective problems?
Updated since GM Jim Nill’s media conference call