Friday, December 9, 2011

Habs trade for Kaberle: The stench of desperation

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
For those who thought the Montreal Canadiens wouldn’t try to save their season and at least one round of playoff revenue with at least one significant trade, meet Tomas Kaberle. It also makes it pretty clear that GM Pierre Gauthier still has more rope to hang himself with than Jacques Martin. If he didn’t, Geoff Molson would’ve or should’ve stepped in to stop it.

With the Habs in a position where they can’t afford to wait any longer on Andrei Markov who may not be back until February at the earliest, if at all, the Canadiens took on an additional 420k this season and two more years of $4.25 Million in the hope that Tomas Kaberle, who hasn’t scored a power play goal in 160 NHL games, including playoffs, can help save it. Now, I don’t remember what I was doing on February 5, 2010 of the 2009-10 season but you can bet Kaberle certainly does.

Short term, I like the deal ONLY because Pierre Gauthier didn’t bundle any draft picks, prospects or young players to make it happen. It was a straight one for one deal that swapped Jaroslav Spacek’s seemingly unmovable $3.83 Million 35+ UFA contract. Yes, Spacek would come off the books this summer and yes, there was a remote chance Spacek could’ve been moved at the trade deadline but as I said, this is all about short term S.O.S crisis management by the Habs GM and Coach.

With Campoli set to return on Saturday, he’ll likely step in to join Subban on the first PP unit with Kaberle quarterbacking the second unit with Diaz. Will that be enough to generate the power play offense needed to off-set the team’s mediocre even strength scoring? Possibly at home where the Habs are 2nd in surplus (PP-PK) power play minutes, mainly because of Campoli’s anticipated return but not bloody likely on the road where the Habs power play minutes are underwater, ranked 26th (-25:25) this season and 30th for two straight seasons before that.

Overall, I don’t expect the addition of Kaberle to change much of anything, seeing that he has 2 points and 3 fewer goals on the power play than Yannick Weber this season, while getting more time to produce; 3:58 vs. 3:40. And for the sadists out there, if you average out Kaberle’s power play contribution since he last scored a power play goal and covert it to an 82 game season, your left with 0 goals and 19 assists on the power play. Pretty sure Weber could surpass those numbers while offering up similar, shaky defense. All for $3.4 Million less.

The real issue here is the long term. One saving grace is that Kaberle’s deal isn’t a 35+ contract which makes it somewhat moveable down the line. Looking at power play alternatives to Kaberle, even dumpster diving specials cost about 2.5 Million. Somewhat capable defensemen who can play the power play start at about $3.5 Million and even they would cost the Canadiens assets beyond cash on the barrel.

The problem with Kaberle going forward is his contract’s potential to wreak havoc on the Habs Cap space. Beyond the usual suspects that aren’t expected to return, the need to move Gomez or even a Cammalleri has just taken a big jump while the cash to re-sign Kostitsyn and/or Gorges, assuming they even want to remain in Montreal, has shrunk.

As for the current season, the Titanic’s deck chairs just got rearranged but it'll take a broad change in Jacques Martin's system to avoid that iceberg. Your move Mr. Molson.