No team was busier than the Canadiens at the deadline when it came to the quantity of trades – what disappointed most fans was the quality of the return as there was always a hope that GM Marc Bergevin could somehow land a top-two center to solve all of the team’s scoring woes. Alas, with so many teams still in the playoff race and so few top-two centers heading to free-agency status there was little opportunity to obtain such a player. Here is a look at the trades Montreal made during the annual swap meet:
Montreal trades David Desharnais to Edmonton for Brandon Davidson:
I’m trying to think back to an old deal where Peter Chiarelli owed Marc Bergevin a favour, but none popped to mind, so I’m still trying to figure out why Edmonton would make this deal. Desharnais was productive a few years ago…but those days are over. The diminutive forward has seen plenty of time on the power play the past three seasons with little or no production. He would be trotted out time and again, and it was hard to comprehend, as in his past 75 games he failed to score a power-play goal and collected just three assists despite regular shifts on the first and second units.
What was even more concerning was his constant basket hanging. A player who gets very few points should be working hard on the backcheck, especially playing center when you are supposed to protect your own slot and the opposing center, but he was regularly the last forward back, having a disconcerting habit of standing at the opponent’s goal line hoping a teammate gets a turnover until the puck was on its way back the other way and him a line or two behind the play. When an opponent was bringing the puck out of its own zone, the majority of the time Desharnais was nowhere to be seen, and more often than not would head to the bench for a change instead of trying to backcheck, leaving the next center hopelessly out of the play and often on the hook for a goal against.
The rare times that he was in front of his own net defensively he was constantly overwhelmed.by size, not being able to handle players physically. It took him 20-plus games to record his first hit this season. so unless he is producing, and he hasn’t been, Desharnais is not bringing much value to a lineup. If Edmonton hopes he is the answer to their third-line center void I have a feeling that hope will not last for long. At this point in his career, I don’t see Desharnais being any better than Anton Lander, who at least contributes defensively when he’s not scoring at the NHL level. Desharnais is smart…but so is Lander, who is five inches taller and every bit as “fast”.
Davidson looked like an up-and-coming young defenceman last season in his first full-time duty with the Oilers after three years of seasoning in the AHL. Davidson showed flashes of the offensive upside he first unveiled to the scouting world as a 19-year-old on the Regina Pats blueline, scoring four goals and 11 points in 51 games and providing good mobility and a solid first pass to a blueline that had been struggling with defensive-zone turnovers for many years. At the start of the season, however, Davidson suffered a concussion after Calgary rookie Matthew Tkachuk slew-footed him, and upon his return has never quite looked as sharp as last season.
The Habs are banking on him eventually returning to his form of last season, and providing the Habs with another blueliner to work into the top six when called upon. Every club likes to have at least eight NHL-calibre defencemen heading into the playoff as injuries to defenceman are almost inevitable.
Trade winner – A decided edge to Montreal unless Desharnais beats the odds and can play like he did three or four seasons ago when he was an offensive sparkplug. He will be given another opportunity in Edmonton to show he still belongs in the NHL…but it’s not like wasn’t given chance after chance to produce under former Habs coach Michel Therrien the past three seasons. Davidson has the upside to be a solid bottom-pairing NHL defenceman, and youth/time is on his side.
Los Angeles trades Dwight King to Montreal for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2018 NHL draft:
As anyone who followed the 2011 Stanley Cup winning Bruins knows, Claude Julien has no qualms about having large and/or tough players in his lineup, so I’m sure he’s not losing any sleep about Sven Andrighetto, Brian Flynn and David Desharnais being replaced by Dwight King, Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen.
King, 27, a pending UFA in the final season of a three-year contract with an average annual value of $1.95 million, was an integral part of two Stanley Cup champions in Los Angeles, so obviously Bergevin and Julien are hoping some of that playoff success will rub off on other members of the Habs, who in the past eight months have added two players in their mid 20’s with four Cup rings and 136 playoff games between them.
While he’s 6-4, close to 230 pounds and plays a bottom-line role, Habs fans expecting King to bring a rough-and-tumble presence to the Canadiens will be extremely disappointed as King’s highest penalty minute total in a season is 24. He’s not afraid to go in the corners and use his large frame to win puck battles, but he won’t be dropping the gloves or being kicked out of games for being the third-man in with any regularity – he’s been in four fights in his career. Surrendering a fourth-round conditional pick next season for an impending UFA will be quite worthwhile if King can help the Habs secure a playoff berth and make some noise in the postseason. If on top of that he impresses and ends up re-signing with the Canadiens, it will be a clear Habs trade win unless the Kings can unearth a third-round gem in the draft.
Los Angeles dealt King when it became apparent they would be picking up Jerome Iginla from Colorado, a more-than-apt replacement for the soon-to-be UFA as the Kings try to lock down a playoff spot in a competitive race. The pick will be higher than a fourth if the Habs prosper and/or King re-signs with the club.
Trade Winner: A slight edge to Montreal as mid-round picks rarely play in the NHL, and King will upgrade their size and goal-scoring potential in the bottom six.
Colorado trades Andreas Martinsen to Montreal for Sven Andrighetto:
Montreal was clearly looking to get bigger up front at the trade deadline, so when Steve Ott and Dwight King were added earlier in the day it was pretty clear that Andrighetto was either on his way back to St. John’s or going to be shopped for some type of return.
Martinsen brings yet another big body to Montreal’s forward corps as Bergevin, evidently as Julien’s behest, attempts to duplicate the old Bruins’ model of size and, yes, a bit of truculence, in the team’s bottom six. You wouldn’t normally think of mining Norway for such a player but Martinsen is not the next Espen “Shampoo” Knutsen – he weighs in at a hefty 220 pounds and will make life more difficult for opposing defenceman in the corners and along the boards.
Martinsen’s career high in an NHL season is four, so he’s not going to solve the Habs’ offensive issues…what he will do is add some depth to a team hoping to make a playoff run of at least three rounds, and such an accomplishment will take 15-plus forwards and some big bodies to withstand the grind in what presumably will be a lot of low-scoring playoff matches.
Andrighetto is a player first linked to Colorado back when former assistant coach Andre Tourigny was with the club under Patrick Roy. Tourigny coached Andrighetto in the QMJHL with Rouyn-Noranda and always held his former sniper in high regard – there’s no question that he filled in Colorado GM Joe Sakic on the kind of character and potential the Swiss winger possessed before leaving the Avalanche to coach in Ottawa.
Andrighetto was in some respects a victim of the “size numbers” game in Montreal as he wasn’t about to beat out Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron or Artturi Lehkonen for a winger spot in Montreal’s top nine, and on a Julien-coached team you’re not going to have more than three wingers under 6-0 in the lineup most nights, and especially not three under 5-10. He will get a fair opportunity in Colorado, and has the skill and competitiveness to carve out a decent NHL career if given that opportunity.
Trade Winner: I see this trade as a win for Colorado as Andrighetto has far more offensive upside and may one day play in Colorado’s top six. Martinsen may only be a part-time player for the Habs.
Detroit trades Steve Ott to Montreal for a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft:
Given that the Habs already picked up a notable shift disturber in Andrew Shaw this season and his propensity to pick up costly and unnecessary minor penalties that have proven costly, it was somewhat puzzling that Bergevin, in addition to the other bottom-liners with size he added on March 1, decided that the team also needed to add another bottom-six forward who also happens to be one of the league’s biggest agitators.
One would think that Gallagher and Shaw are capable of throwing opposing teams off their games by themselves, but add Ott to the mix and the Habs have the potential to have the most annoying forward group in the NHL. What will be interesting to gauge is how often the Habs now give up power ply goals that ultimately cost the team important games as Shaw has proven to be capable of doing that all by himself.
Detroit was not about to re-sign the 34-year-old, who is clearly on the decline in terms of both offensive production and overall value to a team, so to fetch a draft pick for him in a year when they are in rebuild-mode for the first time in decades was a wise decision.
Trade winner: Unless Ott can be rejuvenated by having the opportunity to play with a team likely heading to the playoffs, the edge has to go to Detroit for ridding themselves of a declining player who was not going to return.