Why the Canadiens and Predators would be perfect trading partners
It's no secret that Marc Bergevin pulled a couple of rabbits out of his magic hat this past summer. Landing a solid, experienced backup: check. A legit power forward: check. Power play scoring winger, some depth on D? No question, even the most skeptical Habs fans would agree that he's addressed several lingering issues.
But in a similar way to that of building a house, the foundation has to be the most critical element. You can splurge on beautiful high quality windows, flooring and landscaping, the grounds on which you are building your dwelling, its underpinnings must be rock-solid.
Successful hockey teams are built on goaltending, solid defense and a strong center line. Its become evident however that this team is (still) heavily flawed when it comes to the center position and lacks an effective transition game (aka the need for solid and mobile puck-moving d-men). The question Marc Bergevin and his management team have to be asking now is : do we go all-in and mortgage future assets on a center (or two?) and a good left-shooting defenseman?
Given the sky high expectations set by the general manager for his team this season, and the alarming rate at which some veterans' play has been eroding (notably Price and Weber, feel free to throw Tatar's name in there), one would have to think Bergevin will have to put down all his (remaining) chips on the table to avoid a catastrophic end to this season.
Considering that Bergevin has always insisted on the fact he would prefer to trade prospects or picks in return for players with term, which option would, at least temporarily, patch some of these flaws? Given the restricted cap space the Canadiens have to deal with, the team that seems to offer the best opportunity to "tango with" appears to be the Nashville Predators.
The Preds have to be thinking about rebuilding. Their crop of veterans (outside of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis) have clearly been underachieving the last couple of seasons. Their farm system is one of the weaker ones in the NHL. They particularly need to infuse some talent and scoring up front (mind you so do les Habitants). The Canadiens, on the other hand, boast one of the better pools of prospects in the league, with many being a year or two away. And the Predators happen to have on their roster two players who would perfectly fit the bill here in Montreal.
Calle Jarnrkok is one. He's a solid centerman, nothing flashy, but capable of producting 30-40 points a season. Although he's only been average at best in the faceoff circle these past 2 seasons (around the 48% mark) his experience, ability to generate offense, and reliable two-way play would give the Canadiens a legitimate fourth line that would be far more of a threat than is the case currently. He could even spell for the disappointing Nick Suzuki (injury or poor conditioning? I'd be on the latter) from time to time. Better yet, Jarnkrok comes with a 2m$ cap hit and is signed through the 2021/2022 season. Talk about great bang for your buck.
The second is a player who needs no introduction. Mattias Ekholm is still today a top 15 d-man in the NHL. Good, fluid skater, boasting one of the more active and efficient sticks in the league, able to play on both the PP and PK, he is exactly what the doctor should order when it comes to curing what has been ailing the Canadiens back-end. And like Jarnkrok, Ekholm comes with an extra year on his contract and a very digestible 3.75M$ cap hit (hey that's only 250k more than Ben Chiarot!). To boot, Ekholm has already played with Shea Weber, and the (struggling) Canadiens captain would finally have a legitimate LHD to play with.
So what would it take to get both players in a trade? Hey, I'm just a casual blogger here and not paid to make such evaluations (heck I'm not paid at all). But we do know both these players are available (as per various media sources). So I will venture a guess as to the most reasonable, expected price. You would think that a package of Cole Caufield, a 1st, and perhaps a second or a mid-level prospect would at the very least have David Poile listening. Let's not forget two things here however 1) the Canadiens will have to shed cap space (perhaps in a simultaneous trade) to make room for these contracts and 2) the Canadiens are already deep at the wing position, particularly on the right side and also have a boatload of picks in the upcoming draft. While Caufield could turn into the next DeBrincat, nothing is definite and the time is now for les Canadiens.
So, what do you think, Habs fans? Should they go all-in? Would you mortgage a little of the future to address two of this team's crying needs? Or is it best to just stand pat, and perhaps envision a full rebuild this summer? Perhaps even fully excavate and put up a new, more solid foundation.