Friday, January 13, 2012

Canadiens Send Cammalleri to Flames

The Montreal Canadiens perhaps began planning for next year as they sent forward Michael Cammalleri back to the Calgary Flames tonight. Cammalleri, along with the rights to young goaltender Karri Ramo (playing in Russia, and has stated he's happy to stay there) and a 5th round pick this year, were sent to Calgary in return for forward Rene Bourque, prospect Patrick Holland, and a 2nd round selection in 2013.

I mentioned earlier tonight that, from what I could see, with Brian Gionta's injury, Cammalleri's days in Montreal were numbered. Pierre Gauthier didn't take long to prove me right on that count. In his two and a half years with the Canadiens, Cammalleri will best be remembered for his playoff heroics, but in truth, his regular season statistics were exceptionally underwhelming. He had career numbers with the Flames the season before signing with Montreal, so from his perspective, he is likely hoping a return to Calgary will re-ignite (sorry for the pun!) his career. Gauthier claims this deal has been in the works for over a month, and Cammalleri's recent media comments had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The central piece of the package coming back Montreal's way is winger Rene Bourque. Bourque is a 6'2", 205 lbs LW who, like Cammalleri, is struggling this season, posting just 16 points in 38 games (though he has managed 13 goals). Prior to this season, he had scored 27 in each of the last two years (and is on pace for a similar total), and he plays a far more physical brand of hockey than Cammalleri. Some might say he crosses the line, as he has been suspended on two occasions in the last month, sitting 2 games on December 19th, and with still 1 game left to serve on a recent 5-game sentence for an elbow to the head. Bourque turned 30 last month and is under contract for four more seasons after the current one but at a reasonable cap hit of $3.33M. His size, scoring touch, and oh I suppose his a French name (it works for Nathan Beaulieu)... have the potential of being a good fit with the Canadiens.

Patrick Holland was taken in the 7th round by Calgary in 2010, making him an unusual target for Pierre Gauthier (perhaps that's what he calls "thinking outside the box"). A 6'0", 175 lbs right winger, Holland just turned 20 and is in his final season with the WHL's Tri-City Americans, alma mater of goaltender Carey Price. This year, he has 17 goals and 57 points in 40 games ranking him 9th amongst the league's scoring leaders.

The final piece being a 2nd round selection in 2013, I am at first glance a little underwhelmed with the deal. I expected Cammalleri to be moved, but for greater future assets than what did actually come back. Why couldn't the 2nd rounder have been this year, for example? Though Cammy has underperformed, his playoff resume led me to believe that he could have fetched a higher return from a contender with cap space closer to the trade deadline. Looking at what other struggling players like Dustin Penner and Tomas Kaberle went for in previous years, it has hard to believe that there couldn't have been a better offer to come, though the term remaining on Cammy's deal may have tempered interest.

Still, there is some upside here, starting with the $2.667M in space the Canadiens will save for each of the next two years by shedding Cammalleri's $6M deal and of course getting bigger up front with the addition of Bourque. So long as Bourque remains productive, his contract is very cap-friendly, and it will be necessary given the upcoming raises necessary for the team's younger NHL'ers. Ditching a small player like Cammalleri also creates a spot for 5'8" prospect Brendan Gallagher possibly as soon as next year. There was no way the Canadiens could sustain a forward group including Gallagher (5'8"), Brian Gionta (5'7"), David Desharnais (5'7"), and Cammalleri (5'9") all in the top 9 forwards. Bourque will help to create space for some of these smaller bodies on a scoring line.

I'll reserve final judgment for the time being, but say that I don't hate the move. A little disappointed, and I'll miss you Mike, but at least Gauthier managed to shed a salary without taking any horrendous contracts back. I'll like the move more if it precedes the dealing of Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle as well, but only Mr. Gauthier knows what could be in the cards between now and the trade deadline, just over a month away.

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