Habs Acquire Dawes, Sopel from Thrashers

Pierre Gauthier did what he does best on Thursday afternoon, when he completed a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers.

In what has seemingly become the norm since Gauthier took over Bob Gainey's 7-year reign as general manager, the Canadiens boss acquired two depth players for virtually nothing in order to plug the holes and place the bandaids on the Canadiens problems.

The Habs would acquire 34-year-old defenseman Brent Sopel and 26-year-old forward Nigel Dawes in the trade, in exchange for Hamilton Bulldogs forward Ben Maxwell and a 4th round pick in this year's draft.

Sopel was clearly the centerpiece of the trade, as the Calgary native has plenty of NHL experience in his 11 year career, playing for six different teams since 2000 before eventually winning the cup last year with the Chicago Blackhawks. The defenseman once put up 42 points with the Vancouver Canucks, but those days are long over, as Sopel hasn't put up more than 8 points since he scored 20 in 2007-08 with the Hawks.

Sopel, 6'1" 200lbs, is a depth defenseman who will temporarily mend the wounds the Canadiens are suffering on the blueline. It's an added plus that he has Stanley Cup winning experience, but to put it in terms that Habs fans may understand, it's the equivalent of Mathieu Dandenault winning three cups with the Detroit Red Wings before the Canadiens signed him to a deal that people made way too big a deal about. Sopel is good, and I'm certain the bloggers on TCL who follow teams he played for can attest to that, but it's nothing the Canadiens didn't already have, nor is it anything that they needed. They already traded a 5th round pick to acquire Paul Mara to do virtually the same thing. The only difference is Sopel makes more money and he wasn't a healthy scratch for 20 games before being traded.

Sopel has 2 goals and 5 assists in 59 games with the Thrashers this year, with a +7 rating, while averaging 16 minutes of ice time. He will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

The other player coming the Canadiens way is Nigel Dawes.

The Winnipeg native has only played 9 games this season, registering a single assist and averaging 11 games of ice time. He has played the balance of the season with Chicago in the American Hockey League, putting up a relatively impressive 27 goals for 44 points in 47 games. He makes only $650,000 and likely won't see any NHL action unless there are more injuries. If you think his statssound familiar, you're not the only one.

Dawes has played with the Thrashers, Flames, Coyotes and Rangers since 2006.

Forgive me for not sounding too enthused about this deal, but there really isn't anything to get excited about here. As far as I'm concerned, the Canadiens already had these players: an aging defenseman who's been all around the league, once had great potential but has since faded out into a depth role (AKA Paul Mara or even Hal Gill or Jaro Spacek to a lesser extend) and a utility forward who can't break the NHL full time and would be nothing more than a 3rd or 4th line player anyway (the Canadiens have plenty of those, but Dawes's stats are peculiarly similar to Dustin Boyd's).

As a Habs fan, you have to think that there's something else to come. The Habs now have 8 healthy defensemen and still have some cap space left, with a major need for depth on the scoring lines. What Gauthier does is anyone's guess, but my fear is that this was his major pre-deadline move. Sopel will have a minor, hopefully positive impact on the blueline, and Dawes is pretty much just useless, but I'm afraid that this deal does little to nothing to help the Canadiens in the immediate future.

At the very least, they didn't give up very much to get it done.



Jason Pietroniro's picture

It's definitely not boner popping material. Finger crossed that this is the first of two moves for PG. Someone called PG frugal today. I liked it. This coming from a Leafs/Burke fan. You can do the math on this one, and see where "BOLD" moves gets ya.

George Prax's picture

The more I hear about Brent Sopel the more it seems like I might like him. He's a shot blocking machine. Wish they kept more easily accessible stats about that.

130 blocked shots in 59 games this year.
120 in 73 games last year (to be fair he has Keith and Seabrook and Hjalmarsson to compete with in that department). He held the lead on the team in the playoffs with Hjalmarsson with 54.

Not bad for an old guy. But Speed is an issue and I understand that without Gorges we need a defensive guy who can play PK and block shots but going 10 years older to replace him is something I'm not 100% comfortable with. Still, I think he'll be decent.

I just hope that Gauthier isn't done...

George Prax's picture

Also really like his attitude. He seems to be embracing the team pretty well on twitter:


Can't wait to see what he's got tomorrow night.