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Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe took a broad look at potential impacts from the first round of the 2017 NHL playoffs.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a deeper dive in the Montreal Canadiens situation in search of players who might be available and help Ron Francis make upgrades for the 2017-18 season.
I wrote awhile back about the need to opportunistically be ready to pounce when teams are down on their luck and looking to shake things up. Good young top of the roster players are rarely available, and when they are it is even more rare that they come from teams that are doing well.
What are the odds that the eventual 2017 Stanley Cup Champion decides that it wants to part with a young core player who was part of the team’s success? It is pretty darn close to zero. When teams are winning, they do everything possible to keep the core together. But when teams built to win and win now fail miserably, the opposite occurs. The general manager does some arbitrary evaluation/sorting process and figures out how must go to shake things up.
We saw some combination of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and more recently maybe even Nathan MacKinnon possibly become available when the Avalanche plummeted to the bottom of the NHL. We saw once untouchable franchise first line centerman Ryan Johansen abruptly ushered out of Columbus at nearly the same time as a coaching change. And we saw an Edmonton Oilers team that was tired of having too few answers on the blue line part ways with elite left wing Taylor Hall to try to revamp the roster. And we even saw an elite defenseman in his prime in P.K. Subban shipped out of town for a defenseman five years older in Shea Weber in the name of trying to find the right components to win now.
And that last one is a good starting point for what follows. Before you say “No way would he be available” or “management could not be crazy enough to let ____ go” remember that this is in fact the team that traded P.K. Subban last summer. With that, here is the list of players of interest who could theoretically become available as Montreal tries to shake things up this summer.
An important disclaimer is that the Canadiens’ management have yet to offer much in terms of specifics or a plan for this summer, so pretty much everything is speculation that falls loosely under the umbrella of “They’re going to do something, and it will not be swapping a couple minor depth players.”
The fact that his name is being bandied around at all shows just how wild the speculation is at this early juncture. I would be shocked to see Price traded (but again…Subban). He is an elite netminder, and trading Price would seemingly be an aggressive step toward just rebuilding. I think the short-term path forward for the Canadiens is the opposite actually which is to try to rally around price before his time is up. And even if Price was available, I do not think he fits Francis’ general approach. Price would require a king’s ransom in trade value, and he is an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season. So to make such a trade worthwhile would require re-signing Price which raises the question of if he would want to stay and maybe more significantly if Francis would be willing to commit to an expensive long-term deal for a great but also 31-year old goalie.
Probability of relevance to the Hurricanes: I would be absolutely shocked. Forget about it.
Plekanec is in the last year of his contract in 2017-18, and the 34-year old will earn $5 million. Plekanec is in the twilight of his career and coming off a very modest 28-point campaign in 78 games in 2016-17. He is still serviceable top 9 depth in the form of a veteran, but he is significantly overpriced at $5 million (and even more so for $6 million cap hit). And he would NOT be a candidate for the top six scoring difference-maker for which I have clamored.
Probability of relevance to the Hurricanes: He would certainly be available, but Plekanec does not address any of the top priorities. In addition, he is far too expensive to be desired for the depth role he could fill. But as a serviceable top nine forward, he could fill a role and possibly be part of a bigger deal that sees the Hurricanes take a contract as partial payment for obtaining another player (reference the Teravainen/Bickell combination last summer).
Pacioretty is the captain of the Canadiens, and I guess because of that a possible scapegoat. He had 35 goals and 67 points in 81 games stretching his run of 60-points seasons to 6 if you prorate the shortened 2012-13 season. But he had only a single assist in no goals in the playoff series loss that is the cause for shaking things up. To me, it makes no sense to part with Pacioretty but again Subban and also desperation and frustration.
His contract is friendly in terms of price at only $4.5 million per season but risky in that it extends only two seasons. He is similar to Matt Duchene in that Francis could pay a bunch in terms of trade assets to acquire him only to see him sign elsewhere after two seasons. I am in the minority in thinking that a two-year contract term for an impact forward is a decent middle-ground number. It provides two chances to make the playoffs, and could be enough time for the next wave of young Canes forwards (Gauthier, Roy, Kuokkanen and whoever they draft early in 2017) to be NHL-ready. I also figure that if the Hurricanes cannot win in the two years such a player is here, it might be best to part ways anyway. If instead, the Hurricanes are successful, the probability of both parties wanting to negotiate a new contract increases.
Probability of relevance to the Hurricanes: Price would be a factor, but he is incredibly interesting. He is proven, veteran offense with leadership qualities and an inexpensive contract to boot. My preference is for a younger, playmaking center, but Francis will need to balance what he needs with what is available and what the prices are. Pacioretty is at least worth considering if (like Price), Montreal’s brass really goes bonkers and makes him available.
For whatever reason, his name comes up as trade bait less often than the better players which is fine. No way does Francis want to trade for five years of depth forward scoring for $3.9 million per season.
Probability of relevance to the Hurricanes: Incredibly doubtful. Francis will be looking for top half of the roster scoring help, and if he does look to add a depth forward, it will be at a significantly lower price.
And here I think is the potential prize. He has been up and down, in the dog house and out of the dog house, in the top half of the lineup and then in the bottom and is a name that cropped up regularly around the trade deadline. He is also due a raise upon the $2.8 million that he made in 2016-17 when he is re-signed this summer. (He is a restricted free agent.).
There is some risk, but Galchenyuk is exactly the kind of player that the Canes covet. He is only 23 years old but is a proven NHLer with five years of experience. I would not call him a pure power forward, but he does bring a bit more size at 6-1 and 210 pounds. And despite his up and down season, he scored at almost a 60-point pace in 2016-17 prorated over 82 games.
Probability of relevance to the Hurricanes: If Galchenyuk becomes available, Francis will at least have the conversation. As we saw with Matt Duchene during the season, availability is one thing; availability for a reasonable price is another. But with options to add a young, scoring top six forward so rare, I have to imagine Francis would pounce on this if the price is even close to reasonable.
Some might have figured that I would stop after the forwards and skip the higher-end defensemen altogether. But I actually think Alexei Emelin could be a critical part of a deal between the Hurricanes and Canadiens.
As things stand right now, the Canadiens have a couple issues with regard to revamping their roster. One is cap space. Montreal will certainly be able to get under the cap ceiling, but if the team wants to re-sign Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov, it will not have too much left to shop the free agent market. If Montreal wants to play that game, it could use more financial flexibility.
Emelin is a serviceable top four defenseman,, with a couple young defensemen in tow, his $4.1 million salary cap hit might be expendable in the name of flexibilty. Emelin would not be a complete salary cap dump because he is still a capable player, but if Montreal wants to free up cap space for another deal or to shop the free agent market, the Hurricanes could help by taking Emelin’s contract.
On the Hurricanes side of the transaction, I think Emelin is actually a very good fit for what the Hurricanes need in terms of another veteran defenseman. In my April 20 article entitled, “5 Carolina Hurricanes predictions for the offseason,” I said that the Hurricanes would add a defenseman of significance. As a capable #4/#5 who brings a physical and rugged edge that the Hurricanes lineup could use, Emelin would fit the bill. He could fit right into Hainsey’s slot on the penalty kill and if Hanifin does not seize the slot next to Faulk, Emelin would be a great plan B. If Hanifin takes the slot next to Faulk, Emelin could provide a veteran presence on a third pairing likely to include a rookie. As noted before, his price is a little high (actual salary is $4.4 million), but he has only the 2017-18 season remaining on his contract which helps build the 2017-18 roster but at the same time enables Francis to reassess if/how much veteran help he still needs on the blue line at the end of the season.
Probability of relevance: Medium. He actually fits a need and has the short-term commitment that Francis would prefer, but his salary is higher than Francis’ budget would want to allocate to this slot. Because of that, he would need to be part of a bigger deal.
If Montreal wants to unload Emelin’s contract, the Hurricanes become one of not too many teams who can easily fit it in their salary structure. Less desirable but in the same vein, the Hurricanes could find a place for Plekanec if it helped get a bigger deal done.
What say you Caniacs?
Do you see a deal with Montreal in the Hurricanes’ future?
Is there anyone other than Galchenyuk who interests you?
What do you think of the prospect of taking Alexei Emelin’s pricey one-year deal as part of a broader deal?