Monday was Leap Day. It was also the 2016 NHL trade deadline and Habs fans were left wondering whether they would upgrade their scoring lines or if the GM would make his typical low-key but successful deals.
Turned out to be the latter, as Marc Bergevin made one pickup on waivers and made a small deal with the New Jersey Devils, the two teams swapping oft-maligned 4th liners who couldn’t get a regular spot in their respective former teams. The day was a good one from a transaction perspective.
Early on in the day, the Canadiens claimed Mike Brown from the San Jose Sharks. Brown is a depth player who skates fast, plays hard but it perhaps best known for punching opponents in the face. This pickup was confusing unless you consider the Habs were playing in San Jose, and if a roster player were to be dealt, Brown, who lives three minutes away from the Sharks’ home rink, could dress and be in the lineup later that day.
This proved to be the case, as one of the last deals to clear through the 3pm deadline was a minor trade sending Devante Smith-Pelly to the Devils for Stefan Matteau. Matteau has played only 44 games in parts of 3 seasons, where he collected a mere 5 points.
Smith-Pelly was acquired for Jiri Sekac, a player who was a bust and is currently on his 4th team in 2 years. In his time with Montreal, DSP failed to be an impact player. He didn’t put up many points and he didn’t play a hard-nosed physical game. He couldn’t score and he couldn’t grind and the pending RFA was traded for a former first rounder with more potential upside than him.
Stefan Matteau has perhaps been poorly utilized by the Devils. In fact many comments I read about his development reminded me of what the Canadiens did to Jarred Tinordi. He sits in the press box most nights and hasn’t been given a fair chance to reach his own potential. The French-speaking forward, whose father once played alongside Marc Bergevin with the St. Louis Blues, will look to get his shot with the Habs. He’s bigger than Smith-Pelly and hasn’t seen nearly as much NHL game time. It’s a roll of the dice, though it’s fair to say Smith-Pelly wouldn’t have been part of the Canadiens plans next year and beyond.
A few days prior to the deadline, the Habs traded 2 pending unrestricted free agents to the Stanley Cup contending Chicago Blackhawks. Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann, 3rd line mates in Montreal, were sent to the ‘Hawks for Victoriaville native Phillip Danault. In his first two games with the Canadiens, Danault has shown he can win faceoffs and skate, but he also suffered from being on the ice when early goals against were allowed against the Leafs and last night against the Sharks. It remains to be seen how he lines up in the depth chart, but it appears he would be somewhere between a Torrey Mitchell and a Lars Eller.
Regardless how you feel about the players who were acquired by the Canadiens, or how soft of a spot you have in your heart for the outgoing former Habs, the transactions completed by Marc Bergevin should be considered wins. Put it this way: the bearded one has replaced 3 pending free agents unlikely to return with two former first round draft picks and a future 2nd round pick from Chicago.