Whether the Canadiens continue their push for the playoffs or not, there is good reason for the GM to be active at the trade deadline.
It being the one time of year that the generally conservative group running hockey teams opens their depth chart wallets and takes risks for short-term or long-term gains, it would be silly to stand idly by. opportunity is there for the cunning.
I look at the trade deadline as I look at a game. Yes it is entertaining, but really I want to come out of it feeling that the team I support got the better of it. Thinking about it, I put together a list of what I would consider to make this deadline a success (it need not be all of these things, maybe just a select few):
1) GM in on the conversations
There's no way to know about this, nor is there anyway to predict what will happen if in on conversations. But every year a relatively important piece is moved for little. The mark of a good GM is sniffing those desperate traders out and being ready to offer if not close a deal.
And this isn't just for Nash. I'd keep an eye on Buffalo and what they might do with their players who were coveted talents just a few months ago.
2) Throw out conference trading guidelines
In a year like this, where the Eastern teams in low positions may all play cards to get to the playoff table, it would be silly to discount them for an imaginary reason like "can't trade in your conference".
3) No vet defenders
With all due respect to Sopel and Mara, I think the team would have been OK without them last spring. At least as good. I understand insurance and all that, but a rational GM would have seen a team without Markov and admitted Stanley was out of the cards and instead let others grab some development opportunity. This season, it's even more clear -- this team, playoffs or not probably isn't a winner. Better to let Emelin and Diaz build through these pressure games for future returns than have them stagnate while Jordan Leopold comes in.
No Columbus won't give away their 2012 pick for little. But let's get creative. What about Calgary's 2013 pick? By betting on who might fall this year, and in the next few years, a pick's value might be underestimated by that GM. Pick for pick deals can sometimes dupe an overly optimistic GM into doing something really quite stupid (see Brian Burke).
The Habs could use a high pick, any team could. But in the Canadiens case, it's worth looking at the relative age of the team and when its peak might be. The chance to grab a forward that will peak at the same time as Price and Subban is not a window that will stay open forever.
5) Bolster Hamilton
Few look at the lower echelon trades with much enthusiasm. But really, there is a lot to be said for swooping minor league upgrades on a day of distraction.
The well is dry there. Beyond Frederic St. Denis there aren't many players that look to be replacements for NHL level players any time soon.
Upgrades are there to be had, and it wouldn't be a burden to the organization to saddle an already losing team with some 21 year olds that might help at some point down the road.
Is there an ear for such trades at the deadline? Maybe not too much of one amid all the confusion, but important additional players are often found.
I could have said power forward. i could have said Pavel Datsyuk. But let's be realistic, the Habs will not be dealing from a position of strength. The talent that management sees as cornerstone pieces must be as thin as those we see, and trading quality for anything (even other quality) still presents unknowns.
One thing the Habs have actually achieved this season is to increase the value of their draft picks over the expected. And with a tight league, they could shift one way or the other quite drastically from deadline to dead season. I think they should play on this if they can and believe in their own abilities to elevate their rank. Probably better than to subtract known NHL quantities at this point.
I look forward to the day of moves from everyone and watching the Habs fortunes rise and fall in relation to each. In the game of contender building, the trade deadlines can be like a 2 minute PP for or against and the momentum swings that can be found are significant. Should be fun.