The past couple of weeks included a big stretch of games for the Montreal Canadiens.
They played a back-to-back against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, then went to Carolina to play the Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve, and back home for another game against Tampa on Thursday night.
They needed to win at least two of those games to remain comfortably in the playoff chase. Well, they went 0/4. That is what we, in the sports world, call “not good.”
With a multitude of players out of the lineup due to injuries and fans calling for change, the Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, went out and made two notable acquisitions.
First, he traded a fourth-round pick for NDG-native Marco Scandella, a left-handed defenceman — something the Canadiens lack. Bergevin also signed an aging Ilya Kovalchuk to a one year, US $700,000 contract.
Will these moves save the Canadiens’ season and catapult them into the playoffs? Probably not. But what Bergevin is doing is flexing his asset management skills — something a lot of Canadiens fans fail to see.
Scandella is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, meaning come the trade deadline, teams will be lining up to give up an asset for him for their playoff chase. This is what, in the business, is called a “rental player.”
Kovalchuk, who turns 37 in April, is an interesting one. He signed a contract two summers ago with the LA Kings, figuring he wanted to play with a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Well, the Kings are anything but that, so in December they mutually decided to part ways.
According to many hockey analysts, Kovalchuk is still very motivated and wants to play. Bergevin said himself in a press conference that this move may work, or it may not, but it’s totally up to the player.
If the move works, Kovalchuk will likely get dealt again at the trade deadline should the Canadiens still be out of the playoff picture at that point. If not, they terminate his contract and everyone goes on with their lives.
Trading Kovalchuk at the deadline, should he pick up his play, would literally be Bergevin creating something out of nothing, when it comes to assets.
A lot of people are calling for Bergevin’s head saying that this was a desperate move. I think it was an incredibly savvy move on his part.