ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The NHL resumes it’s regular season schedule on Monday following a brief pause for the All Star game festivities. Shea Weber represented the Canadiens in St.Louis and won the hardest shot competition on Friday night with a bullet that travelled 106.5 miles-per-hour. On Saturday, Weber scored one goal and two assists in the two three-on-three games that he played for the Atlantic Division team.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) January 25, 2020
The bye week wasn’t kind to the Habs slim playoff hopes. Headed into their bye week, they were seven points out of a playoff spot, and it has since increased to 10 points. The Flyers, Leafs, and Sabres also separate them from a post season spot.
The Canadiens returned to practice on Sunday afternoon in preparation for the home game against the Capitals on Monday night. Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, and Brendan Gallagher didn’t practice and won’t be play against Washington. Claude Julien mentioned that Gallagher and Drouin may return later in the week, while Byron will miss more action.
Montreal heads to Buffalo on Thursday to face the Sabres, before returning home for a pair of afternoon games against the Panthers and the Blue Jackets as part of their Super Bowl weekend tradition.
Trade Bait Board
On Tuesday, TSN posted it’s trade bait board, a list that seeks to blend a player’s prominence with his likelihood of a trade before the deadline on February 24th. With the team having an outside chance of making into the post season, there’s no surprise that three Canadiens players appear in their top 50.
It’s important to keep in mind that the list is put together from the TSN insiders, arguably the most credible in the business. If someone appears on the list, it’s because they have received information that the player is available or that teams will be calling the GM for the identified player.
It’s kind of ironic that a player that wasn’t in the league four weeks ago is third on the list. Ilya Kovalchuk has exceeded expectations since his debut with Montreal, collecting four goals and four assists in eight games. He seems motivated to play in a hockey market and has given a dose of energy to his teammates.
I’m not on board that Kovalchuk should be signed to a new contract. Eight games is too small of a sample size to make an accurate decision whether it can be reproduced over an 82 game season. If anyone believes that Kovalchuk’s new contract can be two-way at the league minimum, you will be disappointed.
The question for Marc Bergevin now is whether he moves him now or wait for trade deadline. If Kovalchuk continues to produce at this pace, his value will increase as deadline approaches. The risk is that his production gradually dips, which would decrease the return on the trade market.
Another recent addition to the organization was also on TSN’s list as Marco Scandella was ranked 18th. Scandella was acquired on January 2nd from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in this year’s draft and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Sabres were working towards a younger defence core and had the 29-year old veteran on the market for awhile. Scandella didn’t have a good 2018-19 season in Buffalo, however his play improved this season.
Claude Julien has played him on average 19:22 ice time primarily with Jeff Petry on the second defensive pairing and on the second penalty kill unit. I haven’t seen anything from Scandella’s play that would lead me to believe that the Bergevin would be able to fetch more for him that the price he paid to add him to the roster.
Scandella was born in Montreal and playing for the Habs has been a dream come true for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see pictures in his Canadiens pyjamas from his childhood if he signs a new contract with the team for next season.
Scandella’s defensive partner, Jeff Petry is number 20 on TSN’s trade bait board. The Canadiens acquired Petry at the 2015 trade deadline day for a second and fourth round draft picks. The 32-year old becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2020-21 season.
I can certainly understand why a team would be interested in the veteran defenseman that has played 659 games in the NHL, however I don’t think that the Canadiens trade him at this point. Petry has been solid as the team’s number two defenseman since his arrival. He also did a respectable job replacing Weber on the top pairing while the captain missed action due to injury over the last couple of seasons.
The coach has put him on the ice for an average 23:25 per game including significant time on special teams. If Petry would to get traded, this would create a hole on right defence in the vacated spot, as there’s no one within the organization right now that I feel that can fill the hole for the balance of the season or next.
The only way that Bergevin should trade Petry is if he gets a player capable to replace the traded asset. At trade deadline, the teams that would be interested in acquiring Petry would be to add a piece for their playoff run, and less likely to give up on a worthy replacement for the Canadiens. With Montreal struggling to attract quality free agents, I would suggest caution in trading someone who wants to play for the organization.
Athletic Player Poll
The Athletic posted it’s second player poll on Monday and two Habs players were recognized by their peers. A credible sample size as a total of 392 players participated, which represents over 50% of the league.
Carey Price finished first for the second year when players were asked on their selection to be their Stanley Cup game seven starting goalie ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Price obtained 33 percent of the votes, a five percent increase compared to last year.
Shea Weber finished second place in the category of best defensive defenseman behind Victor Hedman. Weber obtained 10 percent of the votes, seven percent behind Hedman. Former member of the Canadiens, Ryan McDonaugh was in third place.
TSN also unveiled their midseason top 50 players ranking and Weber was the only Hab on the list, ranking 44th overall.
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