Entering this week sporting a 1-6-1 record, the Montreal Canadiens are off to their worst start since 1941. Key players, such as goaltender Carey Price and forwards Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, are struggling. The Habs can't score or keep the puck out of their own net.
The Canadiens' woeful performance isn't sitting well with the Montreal faithful. Fans and pundits are calling upon general manager Marc Bergevin to swing a season-saving trade. At this time of the year, however, such deals are difficult to come by.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Canadiens are getting plenty of calls from other clubs interested in dealing with them. However, the front office is determined not to make any panic moves. He doesn't think Habs owner Geoff Molson is in a hurry to fire Bergevin.
If Bergevin seeks immediate help, he's not dealing from a position of strength. Rival GMs will try to exploit the Canadiens poor start for their own advantage. His only leverage is his club's $7.6 million in salary-cap space. According to the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, Bergevin would rather invest in long-term solutions than a quick fix. Garrioch reports league executives feel Bergevin's best course of action is to pursue Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene. Given the Avs' high asking price (reportedly a young, established top-four defenseman, a first-round draft pick and a top prospect), that's easier said than done. Unless that price is lowered, the Habs lack the assets to swing that deal.
In June, there was talk Galchenyuk might be offered up in a trade package for Duchene. Those rumors died out after the Habs re-signed the 23-year-old in early-July to a three-year contract, but his poor start to this season saw him resurface as a trade candidate.
Last Thursday, TSN's Darren Dreger wondered if Galchenyuk might be a fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins in their search for a third-line center. However, that possibility ended with the Penguins' subsequent acquisition of Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings. Because of Galchenyuk's offensive difficulties, his trade value has plummeted. On his own, it's unlikely he'll fetch a return that provides immediate help for the Habs.
Meanwhile, Pacioretty's poor start is generating questions about his future in Montreal. On Friday, Dreger told Buffalo's WGR 550 a couple of teams asked him if the Canadiens could reach the stage where they'd consider trading their captain. While he felt the Habs could at some point consider moving anyone other than Price, he doubted they're at that stage with Pacioretty.
A five-time 30-goal scorer, the 28-year-old Pacioretty has only one goal this season. He carries a reasonable $4.5-million salary-cap hit through 2018-19 and lacks no-trade protection. If he hit the trade block there would be considerable interest in his services. But given the Habs offensive woes, trading their best goal scorer won't resolve that issue.
Bergevin could target struggling teams with limited salary-cap space. However, the pickings are slim right now.
Despite the Detroit Red Wings' recent cost-cutting moves to make room for winger Andreas Athanasiou's new contract, they're still pressed against the $75-million cap ceiling. Puck-moving defenseman Mike Green ($6-million cap hit) is a free agent next July. Winger Gustav Nyquist ($4.75-million annually through 2018-19) has occasionally surfaced as a trade candidate. Both carry no-trade clauses and could be unwilling to waive them right now.
Like the Canadiens, the Rangers are off to a poor start. They need help at center and carry only $1.7 million in cap space. But as the New York Post's Larry Brooks observes, if the Blueshirts felt Galchenyuk could be a good second-line center, the asking price would be a winger such as Chris Kreider or Mats Zuccarello. Brooks adds there's no evidence the Rangers are interested in Galchenyuk.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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