Admitting defeat can be tough for any general manager to do, but the following three teams need to swallow their pride, trade away some of their best assets, and enter a full-on rebuild if they hope to eventually contend one day.
Canadiens GM Mark Bergevin seems so invested in all the terrible moves he’s made that it’s hard to imagine him blowing things things up. With that in mind, Montreal would be better off bringing in a new GM who can create a clear plan to bring one of the NHL’s most historic franchises back to respectability.
The task will be difficult, however, given all of the long-term contracts the Habs are locked into. Carey Price and Shea Weber will be tough to move unless the team is willing to eat a small chunk of their salaries, which it may as well do, since a rebuilding club shouldn’t have any immediate plans to be up against the cap.
Max Pacioretty and Paul Byron should both be traded at the deadline. They each have one more year on their contracts following this season with modest cap hits. Teams will pay the price for goal-scoring, and both players can put the puck in the net.
There’s always a need for defensemen around the league, so the Habs should entertain trading Jeff Petry and Karl Alzner, even though they’re both locked up. A no-movement clause kicks into Petry’s contract next season, so now would be the time to trade him. Neither rearguard will be around once a rebuild is complete, so both should be shipped out even if the returns are minimal.
Meanwhile, Alex Galchenyuk‘s name has swirled in trade rumors, but as a rebuilding team, the Canadiens would have nothing to lose by giving him a full season playing top minutes as a first-line center and seeing what they have before making a rash decision. After all, he’s still just 23 years old.
Assuming most of these players are moved to acquire prospects and picks, Montreal’s roster will be left quite bare, but picking in the top five for at least the next three seasons is the best way to rebuild its horrific farm system.
The Sens’ best bet is to trade Karlsson, either before the deadline or this offseason. Either way, they’ll receive a mammoth return that should help speed up a rebuild.
Ottawa could also trade forwards Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, and possibly even Matt Duchene. The sooner the better, as losing these players would weaken the club further and increase its chances of winning the lottery … and the right to select Rasmus Dahlin in June’s draft.
There are two issues facing a Sens rebuild, however:
- Ottawa dealt this year’s first-round pick in the Duchene deal. It’s top-10 protected, though, meaning if the Senators choose in the top 10 (which they likely will), they’ll have the option to keep this year’s pick. If that happens, Colorado would then get Ottawa’s 2019 first-round selection instead.
- The contracts of Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf will be next to impossible to move.
Nonetheless, the Senators have never really undergone a full-on rebuild in their existence. Despite rarely having high draft picks, they’ve been one of the best organizations in terms of drafting and developing players, suggesting a rebuild could run smoothly.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings aren’t completely out of the playoff picture, but their chances of getting in are slim to none. Even if they were to miraculously make it, their stay in the postseason would be short-lived. With that being said – and with their playoff streak behind them – the Wings have a perfect opportunity to enter a rebuild.
Detroit has plenty of trade chips. Mike Green is on the last year of his deal and is essentially a lock to be moved. Jimmy Howard could help a team with goaltending issues, such as the Islanders. Gustav Nyquist could even be a nice addition for a club looking to add scoring depth.
It’s unlikely, however, that Henrik Zetterberg would be dealt.
Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou give Detroit a solid, young core, but the team still lacks a marquee franchise player; it will need a high draft pick to obtain that star. With that in mind, the Wings need to tear down their roster to give themselves the best chance at improving their lottery slot.
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