The Montreal Canadiens' activity leading up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline was very similar to their place in the standings: stuck in the middle.
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he considered his moves to be buying and selling, bringing in two former first-round draft picks in trades, adding some muscle off waivers, and sending out two pending unrestricted free agents and one restricted free agent.
There were no impact players arriving or leaving, at least not in a trade.
About 2,500 miles east of where the Canadiens were stationed Monday preparing to play the San Jose Sharks, injured goaltender Carey Price practiced in his goaltending equipment for a third time. The difference Monday was that Price did so at the Canadiens training facility, and the entirety of his 45-minute session on the ice was broadcast live on two sports networks.
It was the first time in three months any of those fans have seen last season's Hart and Vezina trophy winner in his goalie gear on the ice, following weeks of seeing Price skating in a track suit.
No single player traded Monday would have been able to get the Canadiens out of the middle of the standings and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But if Price can return, perhaps he can.
"I'd like that, but I can't answer that today," Bergevin said of a Price return this season. "It's possible and I'd like that, yes."
Bergevin said the nature of Price's injury is the reason the original timeline of a minimum six-week absence has turned into three months and counting. Price, believed to have a right-knee injury, was getting down on his knees and working on his lateral movement in the crease Monday.
"It's a demanding position for his injury," Bergevin said. "Carey's a big man (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) and his movements are different than other players. I'm convinced if he played a position other than goalie he would be playing hockey right now."
While the Canadiens wait to see if Price can get back on the ice, Bergevin made a few moves he considered to be neutral overall. He traded forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann on Friday to the Chicago Blackhawks for center Phillip Danault and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
On Monday, Bergevin traded forward Devante Smith-Pelly to the New Jersey Devils for forward Stefan Matteau, and claimed forward Mike Brown off waivers from the Sharks.
Bergevin said he didn't feel the trades necessarily hurt the Canadiens, as is the case for most sellers at the deadline, and he is holding out hope of making the playoffs. Montreal entered play Monday five points out of the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.
"We want to win, and the players have the attitude that they want to win," Bergevin said. "That's clear for the next 20 games, and when I say the next 20 games I'm not saying the last 20 games because I still hope we can make the playoffs. But it's going to be difficult."
Bergevin was asked in an interview on TSN 690 radio Monday what he has learned about his team this season; he said he's learned how it's impossible to replace his best player. To pin the entirety of the Canadiens' collapse from 19-4-3 to 30-27-5 on the injury to Price seemed a bit extreme, even if it is easily the biggest reason for it.
Now, Bergevin and the Canadiens have to hope Price's possible return can have as big an impact in the opposite direction.