Monday, February 25, 2008

Win, Lose or Draw

As we get down to the short strokes on trade deadline watch, the more I'm convinced I don't want Gainey to make a big deal. I like Chris Higgins, even if he hasn't been producing much lately. I like Michael Ryder, even though he might leave as an UFA in July. I like Mikhail Grabovski, even though he's not very big. And I LOVE Jaroslav Halak, who I think has vast untapped potential. I don't want to see any of these guys go for a player who either has a bloated salary that exceeds his worth, like Brad Richards, or a player who might stay in Montreal through a playoff appearance then vanish, like Marian Hossa.

There are some players who *might* be worth giving up a piece of the future. Olli Jokinen is one. As a big centre who's tough and consistent with the points, he'd fill a long-term need. He's signed for two more seasons at a reasonable salary too. And the Panthers might not ask for Halak as part of the deal, which is one thing I'm dreading about any trade that Gainey pulls off. But even for the likes of Jokinen, the price can be too high. A package of Chris Higgins, a first round pick and prospects like O'Byrne or Valentenko could be doable. If Jacques Martin wants more than that, Gainey should back off and let the team he has determine its own fate.

In saying this, I'm not opposed to smaller deals for smaller parts. Maybe the aquisition of that third-line defensive specialist for Jonathan Ferland and a second-round pick. But beyond that, the thought of sending big pieces of the current team away for one guy, no matter how good, makes me queasy.

I think the Habs have some of the solutions to their problems in the system already. I think Halak might help shore up the goaltending. Defensive prospects are thick on the ground throughout the organization. Even scoring up front looks to be shaping up with Ben Maxwell, JT Wyman and Max Pacioretty developing.

So, if Gainey can land Jokinen for a fair price, I'm all for it. If he can't, I don't want him to gamble on plan B's like Hossa or Richards. The risk to the team's future is just too high, and the return far from guaranteed.


E said...

great post- i like all your trade deadline stuff, it's nice to have a calmer voice amidst the cacophony. however, i wanted to ask one question here. virtually all of the current roster is either ufa or rfa in the summer of 2009. regardless of what one thinks of keeping the veterans around, if our much-touted youth corps is even close to as good as we think they're going to be, we will not be able to afford to keep all of them. to do so would involve praying for a lot of guys to take a hometown (home system?) discount, and that'd be nice but i'm not counting on it. there'll be some ugly choices to be made.

i guess what i'm saying is that i'm not sure the sort of long term team-building that you're envisioning is feasible under the nhl's current rules and culture. what if this year and next year are the payoff before another short-cycle rebuild? does that change your assessment? or do you believe on general principle that it's never a good idea to rent players, even in the context of a do-or-die season? (which i'm not saying this season is, but next likely will be)

J.T. said...

I believe next season will be the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in regards to the youth. There *will* be space to keep four to five key elements. With another year of observation, it will become more clear who are the keepers and who are the tradeable assets. Chris Higgins, for example. Next year will be his prove-it-or-shut-up year. If he continues his frustrating hot and cold play, maybe we have to say we use him to bring in a temporary, but valuable, part. I think once a core is determined, they will be the keepers and the other young players the satellites that will offset the nucleus. As time passes, some of the youth will become core as they outstrip the main guys, who'll then be traded in their turn. As long as the development pipeline continues to flow with talent, I don't see the team disintegrating under cap restrictions. It's just really, really important to make the right decisions about who are the most important players to keep.

J.T. said...

Oh...and as for the "rent or not to rent" question...I think if a team has a clear picture of its assets and their value AND it's ready for a serious Cup run, there's nothing wrong with bringing in outside help for the playoffs. I don't like it for the Habs right now because they'd be trading assets which have NOT been completely developed, and I believe they're not ready for a serious Cup run this year.

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