The NHL Trade Deadline has produced an early trade. That’s right. Marc Bergevin swings a deal with the Buffalo Sabres for the services of Eric Staal. The 36-year-old center had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 32 games. Overall, he was one of the few Buffalo players with a possession rate of over 50%. Despite that, he was a -20 but then again the Sabres have lost 16 games in a row.
What This Means for the Montreal Canadiens
Here is the trade with graphics thanks to PuckPedia.
The #GoHabsGo acquired 36 y/o C Eric Staal (Yr 2/2 $3.25M Cap Hit – 50% retained) from #LetsGoBuffalo for 3rd & 5th '21 picks. Had 3G 10P in 32 GP#MTL adds $1.625M annual Cap Hit ; $616K actual cap hit for remainder of year.#MTL had 3 2nd's & 3 5th's.https://t.co/l0wRVklsz3
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) March 26, 2021
A nice way to translate this is as follows. Staal provides nice center depth but again expecting him to win clutch faceoffs is a bit much. Is he that three points in every four games type of player? No. Is he better than one point every three games? Likely yes. Marc Bergevin is also left with just over $200,000 in pro-rate cap space which comes out to approximately $884K in annual cap hit.
Basically, he has LTIR options and maybe the waiver wire (though that has been tried already). Yes, Montreal still possesses plenty of draft picks but other avenues need to be opened to increase cap space.
At this stage of his career, Staal is a middle-six player with some offensive upside. He even could spark the power play a little bit. Staal did have 14 or more power-play points in Minnesota during his four-season stay. Also, he has been mostly healthy — missing just a handful of games.
The question becomes what does the center has left in the tank. In an insulated middle-six role on a very good possession team, Staal could improve on his numbers but if anyone is expecting him to cure faceoff woes, they are sadly mistaken. This is not the Staal of 5-6 years ago where he regularly won 52-53% of his draws. He is what he is — a depth pivot and little more.
What This Trade Means for the Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo begins their selling spree with decent picks for a very expendable player. Staal is only the beginning for Kevyn Adams as more moves are on the horizon. Montreal was on Eric Staal’s no-trade list and yet he waived anyway. The third and fifth-round picks for this summer are reflective of the discounts made. And yes, Buffalo had to retain some salary as well.
It is all about stockpiling…
Back to Marc Bergevin
Some final thoughts include the sentiment err idea that Bergevin is under the hot seat from Geoff Molson and that is likely true. Pandemic circumstances seem to matter very little at this point. It’s either win err make a run or we will find someone else. Montreal is a hockey-crazed, win-hungry town after all. Staal appears to be a pre-cursor move. That is the hope anyway. If it is not, then the Canadiens are still on the bubble and in trouble.