Just a day after Marc Bergevin holding a press conference and stating he didn’t expect to make any moves due to cap restraints, he does the complete opposite by acquiring Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres. Let’s be real. Did anyone really believe what Bergevin was selling? The Canadiens general manager went on a spending spree in the off-season. With the team sitting in fourth place in the North Division, he couldn’t very well sit back and have his team possibly miss the playoffs again. Especially after firing Claude Julien, Kirk Muller and Stephane Waite. Bergevin knows it could be his job next.
However, that does not scare the Habs GM. Bergevin is in Montreal to do one job and one job only. Make the Montreal Canadiens a Stanley Cup contender. Despite years of mediocrity, Bergevin has done just that. In the down years, he solidified his prospect pool by acquiring picks. He waited for his time to strike and chose to do so in the off-season. Now, he’s putting the finishing touches on the roster. And that started with the acquisition of Staal.
Eric Staal Brings Needed Centre Depth for the Canadiens
When you look down the middle of the Canadiens lineup, the first thing you see is youth. Three of the Canadiens four centres are 24 or younger, with the 24-year-old Jake Evans being a rookie. Phillip Danault is the only veteran centre on the Canadiens roster, and that’s something that needed to be addressed. Enter Eric Staal.
Low Risk, High Reward
The Eric Staal trade is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Canadiens. The Habs traded a third and fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft for the veteran forward. The Sabres also retained 50 percent of Staal’s salary, so Staal’s salary cap hit for the Habs is just $1.625 million. This is an outstanding grab by the Canadiens all things considered.
The Habs held three third and fifth-round selections in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and managed to give up their own rather than the earlier picks they owned which belonged to the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators. So that alone is a win. Not to mention, having the Sabres retain half the salary, will allow the Canadiens to make another move to help solidify the roster even further. If Stall doesn’t perform, no big deal. The Habs gave up peanuts to acquire him. However, at his best, Staal provides a big body to the middle of the ice, who is capable of providing depth scoring for the Canadiens as well as help on the powerplay. It’s a win/win for the Canadiens.
Staal is a Proven Winner
The Canadiens also get yet another player with a Stanley Cup ring in their lineup. Staal won the Stanley Cup in 2006 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. So he knows what it takes to get to the final dance. The following season, Staal played for Team Canada in the 2007 World Championships in Moscow, where he won a gold medal. To top it all off, Staal was selected to be a part of the 2010 Team Canada Olympic men’s hockey team in Vancouver, where he skated alongside Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla on the team’s top line. Staal recorded one goal and five assists helping Canada win a gold medal and becoming the 23rd player in the Triple Gold Club.
Last season, the Canadiens never had a single player who had won a Stanley Cup in their lineup. However, this season, they’ve added Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen, Corey Perry and now Staal to the list of players who have already won a Stanley Cup. Bringing this winning culture to the Canadiens lineup is huge for the success of the team and for the young players on the Canadiens roster.
Still Gas Left in the Tank
Despite his struggles offensively this season, Staal still has plenty of gas left in the tank. This season with the Sabres, Staal has only three goals and 10 points in 32 games so far this season. It’s the worst statistical performance of his career. However, he’s just a season out from scoring 19 goals and 47 points in just 66 games with the Minnesota Wild. A lot of Staal’s struggles can be pinned on being part of a poor Sabres squad. His play during his time with the Wild where he scored 111 goals and 240 points in 311 games in the four seasons prior to this season should bring optimism to the Canadiens and their fans.
More to Come?
Despite Bergevin stating he most likely wouldn’t be active, the Staal move proves otherwise. And given the team’s lack of cap space, there are certainly more moves to come for the Canadiens. Whether they chase a high-profile player or go for some more under the radar moves remain to be seen. According to capfriendly.com, the Canadiens currently have $2.335 million in cap space available at this year’s trade deadline. With Bergevin adding so much in the offseason and acquiring more help in the pending unrestricted free agent, the GM is showing he is all in on this season. The Staal move helps solidify the forward group for the Canadiens, and while the addition is a big help, the Canadiens will most likely need more to be a true Stanley Cup contender. Expect Bergevin to have another move or two up his sleeve before the trade deadline on April 12th.