Sunday, October 23, 2011
Habs Acquire Nokelainen, Stafford from Coyotes
The Montreal Canadiens today announced the acquisition of forward Petteri Nokelainen and defenseman Garrett Stafford from the Phoenix Coyotes in return for Brock Trotter and a 7th round pick.
Nokelainen, 25, is a 6'1", 202 lbs center with 194 games of NHL experience split between the New York Islander, Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, and Phoenix Coyotes. He is a versatile, speedy two-way player who is adept in the face-off circle - likely the main reason he was targeted by Pierre Gauthier. He brings some physicality, but little in the way of hockey sense, and has a history of knee injuries / surgeries (great! fits right in!). He joins the team on a one year, one-way, $550,000 deal.
Certainly, Nokelainen will be an upgrade on Andreas Engqvist, but this is hardly a move that will turn the team's current funk around.
Stafford, 31, has played only 7 games in the NHL and will report to the Hamilton Bulldogs to add more depth to the blueline there. The 'Dogs are missing Joe Stejskal for about a month, so Stafford can step right into the line-up. He's a solid AHL vet. If the name sounds familiar, when former Canadien Alexander Perezhogin was suspended for a full season of AHL action while playing for Hamilton, it was as the result of him hitting this same Garrett Stafford in the head with his stick. Stafford is one the last season of a two-year, two-way deal, but one that pays him $250,000 in the AHL, making him the highest paid Bulldog. His deal puts the Canadiens at 49 on the 50 contracts-per-team limit.
Anti-climactic, sure, but a small step in the right direction that at least improves a weak fourth line. The trade is best news, perhaps, for Brock Trotter himself as he may finally get a shot at a full-time NHL job. Here in Montreal, it's unclear whether Nokelainen would bring more to the team than Trotter would have, given a shot, but at least he's a little bigger!
Aaron Palushaj was returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs to create roster space for the move. Given that Nokelainen is a center, Andreas Engqvist was also sent down, while Michael Blunden was called up to Montreal to provide additional size and strength to the 4th line. The real question is why it took this move for the brass to realize that Blunden would be a better fit on a small and soft team's fourth line than the offensively oriented Palushaj.
This means the Habs line-up should look something like the following (at least for a few shifts, knowing Jacques Martin):
Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Michael Blunden