Canadiens Watch: No need for veterans

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The NHL’s trade deadline used to spark a day of deals, but the swapping has now spread to more than a month of action.

One of the first trades that resembled the type of exchange we’d typically see at or close to the trade deadline happened just after the holiday roster freeze ended in December and the Montreal Canadiens acquired James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders for a second round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional late-round pick in 2012.

Injuries forced Montreal’s hand into making that deal earlier than it otherwise might have occurred, but increasingly teams have shown a desire to acquire players well in advance of deadline day – provided they have the salary cap space – to maximize the impact they can have on the schedule.

This year’s deadline falls on Feb. 28, exactly one week from today. Even with the bevy of trades we’ve already seen, more action is assured. Since acquiring Wisniewski, the Habs added another blueliner, Paul Mara, via a minor deal with the Anaheim Ducks as the team attempts to plug the holes punched in the roster by even more injuries on the back end. That kind of depth-related move is one thing, but there’s really no reason for Montreal to be involved in the more traditional deadline-day deals that see a team acquire a veteran with an expiring contract in exchange for young players or draft picks.

Quite frankly, the Canadiens aren’t at a point where one or even two decent players are going to tip the scales in terms of them becoming a genuine Stanley Cup contender. Montreal would be much better served hanging on to its young players and picks as it tries to develop from within. There’s no point in eroding the prospect cupboard until the team is much, much closer to being a championship-calibre one.

That is not to say Habs management shouldn’t be on high alert. Teams aren’t just dumping high-priced veterans this year, as a number of quality young players with another year or two remaining on their contracts have been shipped out as NHL clubs try to shake things up. If Montreal can swing a deal that makes sense for the long-term, pull the trigger. But this is not the season for the Canadiens to get short sighted.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.


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