I would like to introduce everyone to 'Are you rebuilding or not?'. This will be an ongoing series of articles that evaluates what teams are trying to accomplish through: trades, signings, draft selections, personnel changes, and other aspects of a NHL team. Presently, the Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to win a Stanley Cup and the New York Rangers are clearly starting a rebuild. Those are both teams with a clear mandate for the future, unlike the teams I will be covering in this series. I will be writing about franchises that do not have a clear direction for the future of their hockey club. This will be accomplished by outlining the team's current situation, and presenting the evidence that demonstrates a rebuild or an attempt to immediately win the Stanley Cup. Then, I will conclude what I believe the team's direction should be.
If I was taking over as the GM of the Montreal Canadiens, I would start a rebuild. This team as it looks today, is not capable of winning a Stanley Cup. Their defensemen are slow and old, with the exceptions of Mete and Juulsen, and they are missing true #1 and #2 centres (I do not consider Domi or Drouin true centres). No matter how well Price plays, this roster is not a Stanley Cup contender in my opinion.
Most people would agree with me on that assessment, but my plan would deviate from most Canadiens fans idea of what a rebuild would entail. There is the option of keeping this young roster intact while the Canadiens have a few bad seasons and collect many draft picks. In as few as two years from now, Kotkaniemi and their 2017 first round pick Poehling may solve the Canadiens #1 and #2 centre issue. Additionally, with the development of any young prospects on defence, including the aforementioned Mete and Juulsen in the NHL, they may have a promising young group of defensemen. With the added bonus of a 33 year old Price still in net, who will be very good still, Canadiens fan may think this rebuilding strategy should be what Montreal looks to pursue.
I would take a different approach. The best rebuilding option would be to immediately trade the core players while they are still valuable assets. The reasoning for this decision is very simple for me, teams need to have proper asset management. Teams can either trade their top players for valuable assets before a rebuild like the Rangers did with Ryan Mcdonagh, or they can squeeze all the talent out of their own assets and be left with little to no trade value like Detroit has done with Kronwall and Datsyuk. I would start by trading Weber, Price, and Pacioretty for young NHL ready prospects and draft picks. Montreal could get valuable assets if they traded all three players, and that could jump start Montreal's rebuild.
The current Canadiens roster in two years will be good and maybe even great, but I want my team to be the best. Only the best win Stanley Cups, and no one cares if you do not win that coveted trophy. Through trading your top older players, you can recoup those elite assets that could potentially make you the best team in 3+ years. If Montreal handled their assets how I believe they should, they could initiate a rebuild and be a Stanley Cup contender in the next 3-5 years.
- The Scout