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Trade Coverage

NHL Trade Buzz: Canadiens seek top-line center

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin says he doesn't want to part with best prospects; Stars should be sellers at deadline

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 15 days remaining until the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET., March 1) and the Montreal Canadiens dominate the news with their coaching change… Also, the Dallas Stars struggles continue as they look more and more like deadline sellers with each passing loss.

Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings: 

 

Montreal Canadiens

General manager Marc Bergevin stunned the hockey world Tuesday when he fired Michel Therrien, coach of his first-place team, and replaced him with Claude Julien, who was fired by the Boston Bruins, Montreal's biggest rival, on Feb. 7.

Bergevin's next big move should be to acquire a center, preferably one that can anchor a top line.

The problem, at least as Bergevin sees it, is there isn't a center available in the trade market that could fill that role and he said Wednesday that he won't participate in a conversation that would involve a top prospect such as 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev in a potential trade.

"Elite centermen are not available so it's not going to happen," Bergevin said during his press conference to discuss the coaching change.

Video: MTL@ARI: Radulov buries a go-ahead tally

Bergevin is possibly being coy because all indications point to Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene being available. He could be considered elite, or at least a notch below, but Bergevin wouldn't say that because it could take some of his bargaining power in a potential deal. The Avalanche are likely looking for top young defenseman in return for Duchene and if Bergevin isn't willing to trade Sergachev the Canadiens might not be the trade partner for them.

Bergevin wouldn't rule out the potential for trades, but not at the cost of a player who could impact their roster for the next decade. He also said he believes the Canadiens are good enough to contend as is and that their mindset hasn't changed despite the coaching change.

"Make the playoffs and anything can happen," he said.

However, for Julien to make an immediate difference and get the Canadiens into Stanley Cup contender status Bergevin should do what he can to bolster Montreal's center depth.

At this stage, Tomas Plekanec looks more like a third- or fourth-line center. Phillip Danault is ideally that as well if slotted perfectly. Alex Galchenyuk is a top-six center. Montreal needs another one.

Judging by Bergevin's comments its unlikely Duchene would be that guy unless the price for him comes down, but if Bergevin wants to go the rental route, perhaps he could go after Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal, who would also help address the need for size in Montreal (Hanzal is 6-foot-6, 226 pounds).

 

Dallas Stars

With their loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Stars have six regulation losses in seven games this month. They are six points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with 24 games remaining.

General manager Jim Nill told Sirius XM NHL Radio on Monday that he would wait 7-10 days before determining the Stars' chances of making a run and deciding what moves need to be made.

It's becoming clearer each day that Nill has to make the Stars a deadline seller. His phone should be ringing because he has potential rental players contending teams should want.

Forwards Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, Patrick Eaves and Lauri Korpikoski, and defenseman Johnny Oduya can each become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

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Eaves has 21 goals and 35 points this season, and 76 games of playoff experience. Sharp has had a tough season with 13 points in 32 games, but he is healthy and is a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks. Oduya is a two-time Cup winner with Chicago.

Nill has to address the Stars goaltending because Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi aren't getting it done for a second straight season. They have combined for a .901 save percentage after combining for a .905 save percentage last season. Dallas is 29th in goals against per game at 3.21 in 58 games. The Stars are last in penalty kill percentage at 74.1.

Ideally, Nill would address his goaltending situation prior to the deadline to get a jump on some other teams who also might want to address their goaltending before next season. If Nill does so, he would likely try to trade Niemi or Lehtonen. Each goalie is signed through next season.

But that's a hard sell because Lehtonen ($5.9 million salary cap charge) and Niemi ($4.5 million cap charge) aren't cheap. If Nill can't trade one of them, the Stars might have to do a buyout with one so they can shore up the goaltending for next season.

 

Washington Capitals

The Capitals acquired veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert on Wednesday in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations. Gilbert will report directly to Hershey of the American Hockey League.

This is a small move that makes sense for the Capitals, who didn't have a defenseman in Hershey they felt comfortable recalling if necessary. Now they do and it cost them basically nothing.

The Capitals are set on defense with seven healthy players, but Gilbert gives them the insurance they need should one of those players get injured. He had five points (one goal, four assists) in 18 games with the Kings this season, and has 223 points in 655 career NHL regular-season games. He has also played in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Adding depth on the blue line for minimal cost is smart roster managing from general manager Brian MacLellan, who no doubt remembers how the Capitals got burned in their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last season because of Brooks Orpik's three-game suspension, and the fact that Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt struggled.

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