Montreal has come out of the gates better than everyone expected. After starting out 4-2 they added arguably their best player from last season, PK Subban, back to the line up. Since “The Subbanator”, as he has dubbed himself, has returned to the line up the Canadiens have gone 2-0 and outscored their opponents 8-2. The team is clearly better with PK Subban but his return to the line has created a problem; albeit a problem most teams would love to have.
Montreal now has 8 NHL level defensemen under contract. Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle, PK Subban, Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin, Francis Bouillon, and Yannick Weber. This in addition to 2011 1st Round Draft Pick Nathan Beaulieu waiting in the wings playing with Hamilton in the AHL. Now in a shortened season it is smart to keep extra NHL level players under contract in case of injuries; but with 8 strong NHL defensemen under contract they could move one of their defenseman in order to acquire draft picks, prospects, or a forward to help them get back to the playoffs.
The most likely candidate for a trade is Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle was traded mid-season in each of the last two seasons. He has also been a healthy scratch twice already in a season that is only eight games old. Kaberle, a puck moving, point producing, power play presence, is redundant on the team.
Andrei Markov and sophomore Raphael Diaz are both point per game. PK Subban a more effective point producer than Kaberle at this point in his career. And even 24 year old Yannick Weber is capable of moving the puck and producing points. Kaberle’s $4.25 Million cap hit, which has been twice left sitting in the press box this season, makes him all the more likely for a trade. His ability to produce points, putting up 31 points last season and 47 points the year before that, still makes him attractive to other teams looking for a puck moving defenseman and he could yield a high return. Any number of teams, like Minnesota, Philadelphia, Detroit, or Florida, could use a player like Kaberle.
If the Canadiens are looking to move a defenseman I feel like there are only a few players that are untouchable. Assistant captains Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges were both recently given contract extensions and both are top of the line defensemen in their respective discipline’s (Markov being offensive while Gorges in more defensive).
Also, the recent emergence of Raphael Diaz who is putting up points in somewhat limited ice time makes me think that the Habs are unlikely to move their prospect.
What about Subban? I think given the right offer the Canadiens would be willing to move Subban.
“Why would they sign him if they were just going to trade him?” you might say. “He’s one of the best up and coming defensemen in the league. Why would they trade him?”
There a lot of reason why PK could still be on the block even though Montreal recently resigned him.
First, the relationship between the Canadiens front office and PK Subban has soured. Montreal broke Subban and made him take a contract half as long as he wanted and at half the cap hit that PK wanted. Many people believe PK Subban has signed his last contract in Montreal.
Subban is also not particularly well liked in the locker room. Specifically the defensive leaders Markov and Gorges and even some forwards like Tomas Plekanec who got in a scuffle with Subban at practice last season.
Third, I think Montreal might have been willing to trade Subban as an unsigned RFA but the market wasn’t there. As the season creeps closer to the trade deadline and more teams see their playoff chances slipping away or think they have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup teams may be willing to give up more to get this burgeoning premier defenseman.
What about the other defensemen? Francis Bouillon is not a bad little defenseman.
Though he is quite a little defenseman. Standing at 5’8 he is one of the smallest defensemen in the league. He is 37 years old and doesn’t having game changing skill either offensively or defensively to yield a high return. Bouillon has also created a good spot for himself in the Canadiens line up. Is he a game changer? No, but he is the kind of role playing defenseman a team needs if they are going to make a run in the playoffs.
While both in their mid twenties Yannick Weber and Alexei Emelin are both great defensive prospects. Weber who put up impressive numbers in both the AHL and in the Swiss league during the lockout. Emelin is going into his second year in the NHL after spending his early career in Russia and is already one of the most physical defensemen in the league. Both players are useful in different ways and both could grow into being top 4 defensemen.
If one of them was to be traded it would be Weber.
Weber has only played one game this season buried down on this deep roster. And as a puck mover, like Kaberle, Weber is redundant on the team. He is also in the last year of his $850,000 contract. While Weber could easily be moved he probably wouldn’t bring much back to Canadiens way through a trade.
The Canadiens are looking to make a push for the playoffs and having expendable assets like their overabundance of quality defensemen could really help them down the road.
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