Our friends at Habs Eyes on the Prize were talking recently about how rare it would be of late, for center Tomas Plekanec to make it to 1,000 games played, all with the Montreal Canadiens. However, the caveat is if he doesn’t get traded first. This part was eye-catching:
The trade deadline this season is February 26 and if the season continues as it has gone so far, General Manager Marc Bergevin may consider being a seller and trade players on expiring contracts for future assets. A category in which Plekanec would fall. If Bergevin has no plans to renew Plekanec’s contract for next season, then trading him might be a viable options to receive value in return rather than losing him for nothing to free agency like we saw happen with Alex Radulov and Markov.
Plekanec remains an elite shut-down centre and would certainly be sought after by teams that are hoping to make a deep Cup run. The public outcry to focus on building for the future has grown in volume and intensity in recent weeks as the team continues to flounder, rarely showing any signs of a team capable of producing a late-season miraculous run. Bergevin knows that he doesn’t have too many trade chips for high draft picks and promising prospects. He’s also been meeting with his lieutenants to, at the very least, discuss the possibility of moving some players prior to the deadline with Plekanec being at the forefront of that group.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are just one such team that would love to add an “elite shutdown center” to play on the 3rd line and help boost their club for (hopefully) another long playoff run.
Plekanec carries at $6.0 million cap hit, and right now capfriendly says the Pens only will have a projected amount of $2.3 million at the deadline. This, however, would be an easy fix- the Canadiens have $16 million in current space and have 0 salary retention trades, they could afford to hold 50% of Plekanec’s remaining salary. (That of course means extra considerations from Pittsburgh in a trade). But the salary alone won’t be a big deal, especially since the Pens currently have 14 forwards and 8 defensemen on the roster (some on IR), drawing against the cap. They can make a demotion, or even include an excess piece to Montreal (Ian Cole, perhaps?) and the salary issues are no issue at all.
The bigger question would be- what futures (high draft picks and prospects) would Montreal want for Plekanec? Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton to offer in that department, though they do have their 1st and 2nd round picks in 2018. One would think Daniel Sprong is off the table now for a trade being as he is on Sidney Crosby’s line, but would a player like 25-year old Conor Sheary interest Montreal? He’s had a disappointing season in Pittsburgh but still has some term left.
If the Pens and Canadiens could figure out the salary considerations and an acceptable trade price, that would be the hurdle to overcome since there’s no doubt Plekanec is about the ideal “missing piece” for Pittsburgh.
His advanced stats check out too, he’s got a positive Corsi For % (50.7%) and checks out well in Scoring Chances for (52.7%) and High Danger Chances for (57.2%). This is perhaps even more impressive since like EOTP mentioned - he’s in the shutdown role. Plekanec’s 244 defensive zone faceoffs are by far highest on the team, he’s spent most of the season with Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron/ Charles Hudon on a 3rd line.
But, as Pens general manager Jim Rutherford said to the Post-Gazette, not all of what ails the Pens would be solved by the players.
“Some of the things that I see, I don’t believe changing player personnel is going to do it. As a group, we have to be more consistent and do what we do best.”
The trade market is also tight. If Montreal wants more than the Pens would want to give (Sprong, 1st, etc) this trade might not make sense anyways. However, the more Montreal loses, the more sense it makes sense for them to build for the future and trade a veteran FA-to-be like Plekanec away. Something to think about and consider, for sure.