I’m not here to make a judgment, but I do have a lot of questions. The Montreal Canadiens traded defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo over the weekend in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2017. This came on the heels of the big-time deal that saw Jonathan Drouin return to his home province in exchange for Montreal’s top prospect, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
So a team that already had a very old blueline corps just parted with two of its youngest assets. Should Vegas choose Brandon Davidson in the expansion draft, that’s another blueliner on the south side of 30 who's gone. Also, the Habs reportedly will not qualify defenseman Nikita Nesterov, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Something else big must be cooking, no?
I don’t begrudge the Drouin trade, as Montreal got the best player in the deal – for now. Perhaps Sergachev becomes a top-pairing blueliner in a couple years, but we don’t know that yet. We know Drouin is an electric NHLer already. The big question for Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin is, can Drouin be a No. 1 center for the franchise? Because that’s one crucial position the Canadiens have been lacking for years and it has held them back from meaningful success. So far, Bergevin has said that Drouin’s position (he mostly played left wing in Tampa Bay, but did finish ninth in faceoff wins on the Bolts this season) will be determined by coach Claude Julien.
The Canadiens have been quite vocal about their position on Alex Galchenyuk – whom many folks, including myself, believe can be a No. 1 center – believing he is not that pivot yet. And based on how gale the trade winds are right now, it really feels like Galchenyuk is going to be dealt out of town soon, perhaps at the draft in Chicago.
Is this where the bomb drops? Because the Habs cannot be done.
I’m not saying Beaulieu was P.K. Subban, but he was a serviceable defenseman still on the ascent and he could move the puck up the ice. With Sergachev gone, the Habs’ pipeline took a deep cut and I don’t see anyone in their system who could step in next season the way we all assumed Sergachev would have.
So here’s my pet theory: Galchenyuk gets traded for a very good young blueliner. Now, because the Habs have been so vocal about Galchenyuk’s perceived inadequacies, the well has been a bit poisoned in terms of his trade value. But I look at Carolina as the perfect trade partner.
The Hurricanes have an excellent young defense corps and just grabbed a potential No. 1 goalie in Scott Darling. They have a nice array of forwards, but no legit top pivot (Jordan Staal being your shutdown guy instead). Galchenyuk would get a fresh start in Carolina and GM Ron Francis would get the center his team needs.
If I’m Francis, I offer Brett Pesce and a late second-rounder in this year's draft (Carolina owns Pittsburgh’s second as well as the Rangers’ selection in that round). If I’m Bergevin, I ask for Justin Faulk and I toss in Washington’s second-rounder in 2017. If neither party can agree, I go a third route and propose Ryan Murphy and top prospect Jake Bean (both defensemen).
To me, the Faulk scenario is the least likely and Montreal’s second-guessing of Galchenyuk is the reason. You can’t get full value for a potential No. 1 center if you spend all your time claiming he’s not a No. 1 center.
But something has to happen, because Montreal cannot go into the 2017-18 season as currently comprised. Carey Price can cover up a lot of mistakes with his netminding and Drouin will bring a nice dose of excitement up front, but if the defense can’t get the puck up the ice, or slow down the likes of Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Erik Karlsson, then it really won’t matter, will it?
Let it never be said that Marc Bergevin is boring.