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Which assets could Plekanec net from the Sharks?

SB Nation logoSB Nation 6 days ago Scott Matla
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The veteran centre could be used to add more than just a draft pick at the deadline.

One of the most commonly mentioned names on the trade market for the Montreal Canadiens this season has been the stalwart centre Tomas Plekanec. On the most recent Hockey Night in Canada’s intermission panel, Nick Kypreos revealed that in addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the San Jose Sharks may have legitimate interest in the defensive centreman. Pittsburgh has long been rumoured to have their eye on Plekanec, and while the Sharks are a new name in the fold, they present an intriguing opportunity for Montreal to gain more than just a draft pick in a deal.

The Sharks’ interest in Plekanec isn’t overly surprising given that they lost Joe Thornton to a fairly serious knee injury; his second in two years. Adding Plekanec is a smart move for a team that’s battling for a playoff spot in a highly competitive Pacific Division. It could be a simple swap for Montreal to send Plekanec and San Jose to send a draft pick in return, but an unique situation might allow the Canadiens to grab a bit more than a potential draft pick.

The Sharks spent an early portion of this season attempting to trade veteran defenceman Paul Martin, who has one year left on his contract. They were unable to find a buyer and rather than clog up the NHL roster, Martin was assigned to the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda. What this means for Montreal is that they finally have a chance to utilize their absurd cap space to take on a sizable contract and also grab a decent prospect out of it.

According to CapFriendly, Montreal currently has $6,971,257 in cap space, and that amount is only going to increase with a number of contracts coming off the books next season. Martin has the remainder of this year and next year left at $4.85 million per year, with this season’s salary being prorated.

The current defensive depth on the left side in Montreal isn’t pretty either. With Victor Mete still cementing himself, Claude Julien has had to lean heavily on the disappointing David Schlemko, and the wildly inconsistent Karl Alzner and Joe Morrow in his top six. While Martin isn’t quit the player he once was, he’s likely a better option than the ones who have struggled with the Habs this year.

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If he isn’t a fit, there’s always the option to stash him in the AHL, much like the Sharks did. Since he’s currently there anyway, acquiring him means he can be assigned directly to the Laval Rocket after a trade this year.

Taking on a player that a team is clearly desperate to try and move means that Marc Bergevin should be looking for the pot to be sweetened. The Sharks have a number of options in their prospect pool that the Habs could ask for. Chief among them are Julius Bergman and Jayden Halbgewachs, with Noah Rod also being a name worth checking out.

Halbgewachs is currently lighting up the WHL for the Moose Jaw Warriors after going undrafted after a 101-point campaign last year. He signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks in December, and has continued to light up the scoresheet since. With 94 points on the year he’s on pace to shatter his previous scoring totals, and perhaps the most impressive part is that 80 of those 94 points are considered primary. That means, 85% of Halbgewachs points are either goals (51) or first assists (29) on plays, making him the focal point of a dominant Warriors team. He does fit a need that the Canadiens have going forward as they lack any sort of left-wing prospect, let alone a prospect that posts gaudy stats like Halbgewachs.

The Athletic’s Mitch Brown had this to say about Halbgewachs:

High skill buzzsaw. Makes plays all over the ice. Great balance between shooting and playmaking. Great in the blue paint, fast release. He’s a strong playmaker, with patience and stickhandling to create lanes. Good defensively, and quite strong in puck battles. His age is a concern, as is his feet + size combination.

Despite the fact he only just signed an ELC with the Sharks, it’s hard to see them willingly part with a high-end scoring prospect of Halbgewachs’ calibre right now, but again, if you’re Bergevin you have to at least aim high to try and land some future pieces.

Another option could be to inquire about the availability of one Julius Bergman, a 22-year-old defender who currently plays for the Barracuda. Like many young defenders he isn’t piling up the points, but he is showing steady improvements with his play. He has, however, been passed over for NHL call-ups by both Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed this year. This isn’t a total cause for concern for a young defenceman since both Ryan and Heed are older, more experienced players, but it does mean that Bergman’s value in the Sharks organization might not be as high as the other two defencemen.

For years, the biggest issue facing Montreal has been the lack of young defenders in the pipeline that can make an NHL impact. Mikhail Sergachev was traded and Mete has impressed this season, but adding another piece like Bergman to a team whose only current viable call up option is Noah Juulsen would be shrewd business by Bergevin.

Finally there’s Noah Rod, a Swiss-born centre/right-winger currently playing for Genève-Servette in the NLA. Rod recently signed an extension with the club that keeps him under contract until 2022 but contains an NHL out clause. He’s spent some time in North America playing a few games for the Barracuda last year during the playoffs, but for the majority of his career he’s been in the NLA.

His point totals don’t jump off the page, but considering the difficulty of the Swiss league and the role he plays, it’s not overly surprising. His style of play would likely make him a favourite of Julien should he cross over from Europe. Last February, the Director of Hockey Operations, Doug Wilson Jr., described him as “an agitator who can score.” Julien has shown that he loves that kind of player with Nicolas Deslauriers and Andrew Shaw playing the best hockey of their careers under Julien’s tutelage.

Things can get a little messy in that his entry-level contract will continue to tick down regardless of whether he’s in the NHL or NLA. This hampers his overall value and could make him an easy throw-in for a trade involving Plekanec. While his ceiling doesn’t read like that of a top-six scoring star, he has the potential to be an effective NHL player. Add to it his ability to play any of the forward positions and Rod could be an extremely versatile asset for the Habs.

Of course, these are just suggestions. Like any trade deadline, if you have multiple teams asking about a single asset, a general manager should be doing everything in his power to get the best package available for said asset. The Sharks have a number of appealing options, while Pittsburgh can likely offer up a package based around future draft picks.

The Canadiens should be looking for a tangible asset right now unless a team is offering up more than a mid-round pick for Tomas Plekanec.

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