BUFFALO – In what has become an annual event, the Chicago Blackhawks have done a summer dismantling of their team in an effort to fit their roster under the salary cap. Along with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens are the beneficiaries. And it may have come one year late, but Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin got a Blackhawk he coveted.
It was widely believed Bergevin was prepared to give Brandon Saad an offer sheet last summer, which was what prompted the Blackhawks to trade him to the Columbus Blue Jackets. But at the draft this year, Bergevin got Andrew Shaw, a player he scouted for the Hawks when he was their director of player personnel in 2011.
Shaw was a pending restricted free agent who will almost certainly sign a long-term deal with the Canadiens for in excess of $4.5 million a season. That’s what he was seeking with the Blackhawks. “We will work on a contract pretty quick,” Shaw’s agent Pat Brisson texted to THN.com after the trade.
In order to create the cap space he needed to sign Shaw, the Canadiens traded Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for second-round picks in 2017 and 2018. They gave up two second-rounders in 2016 for Shaw, which means it’s basically an Eller-for-Shaw transaction.
The Canadiens, who have one of the NHL’s smaller rosters, don’t get bigger in this deal. In fact, they’re losing three inches and 28 pounds in the deal. But they did get a whole lot grittier and more difficult to play against. The Canadiens probably would have rather not had to give up Eller, who carries a cap hit of $3.5 million for each of the next two seasons. Eller does provide a modicum of offense, albeit sporadically, and seems to save his best play for the playoffs. The Capitals, who are already loaded with behemoth forwards, just got a little bigger and more and more skilled on their bottom six. Eller will be able to move up and down the depth chart and represents an upgrade on Jay Beagle on the third line.
But so does Shaw, and he has two Stanley Cup rings to prove it. Facing a forward corps that features both Shaw and Brendan Gallagher is going to make opponents want to punch the Canadiens in the throat. They’re two players who play far bigger and more courageously than their heights and weights suggest and they have an uncanny ability to drive the opponents to distraction.
Bergevin was asked on Friday whether he needed to come out of the draft with a top-six forward and he replied that it was his desire to do just that. Well, it’s pretty clear he was able to succeed on that count. He gets a player with an excellent pedigree and one with whom he has a history and a level of trust. Coach Michel Therrien is going to love Shaw and the Canadiens fans probably will, too. A definite upgrade for the Canadiens.