Major and Minor Transactions in Habsland, where do we go from here?

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Only hours after the NHL approved the sale of the Montreal Canadiens to the Molson family, Bob Gainey made his first move under this new regime, Sending Kyle Chipchura to the Anaheim Ducks in return for a 4th round pick in 2011.

The former 1st round pick (18th overall, later than most expected him to go in the 2004 draft) gave this team high expectations early in his career, twice being named to Team Canada's World Junior team, including the 2006 campaign, where he captained the team to a gold medal. Being named captain to any international team is an honour, but when Brent Sutter is the coach who thinks you're captain material, it's duly an honor for a player like Chipchura.

Like any 1st round draft choice, the Canadiens had high hopes for Chipchura, and that only amplified after his success in 2005-2006. Unfortunately, a matter that often slips under the radar in discussion for Habs fans and the like when it comes to Chipchura is his struggle with constant injury. Chipchura played most of the season before he was drafted with a major groin injury, which is never a good sign for a 17-18 year old. If that wasn't enough, the next season, Chipchura was on the receiving end of a devastating injury, when a teammate accidentaly cut him on the achilles tendon with his skate. (link)

Chipchura had emergency surgery, and spent two months wearing a cast, but he recovered fully and proceeded to get named to the Team Canada junior team mentioned above, and signed a 3 year entry level deal with the Canadiens soon thereafter. But there were always questions about Chipchura's health. In fact, to this day, most people who have seen Kyle will tell you he still walks with a limp off the ice.

It's clear as day that this early history of injuries really slowed down a player who could have been a great leader and a great shutdown center in the NHL, to the point where many in Montreal questioned whether he was even fit to play in the NHL. His stats certainly didn't help. While his 4 goals and 10 assists in 68 career games isn't horrible for a 4th line player with limited offensive expectations, his career -17 is. And his stats this year year are even worse. No points in 19 games, -10 on the year.

All this being said, despite his potential, this was a good deal for the Habs. I don't think anyone who knew Chipchura's past expected to get anything for him. He was reduced to being a minor leaguer who the Habs were holding on to so they wouldn't lose a 1st round pick for nothing. I think I speak for most Habs fans when I say that I wish him the best of luck on Anaheim.

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JAY LEACH ALMOST TRADED

The other deal that slipped through the cracks yesterday was Jay Leach's waiver claim by the San Jose Sharks. Leach's only stats were a fighting major and a few shots in 7 games with the Habs. He was silent on the blueline, but made few mistakes and played will in his time here as relief to injured defensemen Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill.

This item of news was so minor that it didn't even get a mention on Habs Inside/Out, but it turns out there was a little more to the story than what met the eye. According to RDS, Bob Gainey had a deal in place for Leach, but he had to submit him to waivers before the deal could go through. According to the CBA, if you attempt to trade a player claimed off waivers, you must first make the player available to any teams that attempted to pick the player up the first time around. Since the Habs picked up Leach off waivers from the Devils, Gainey had to do this, and the Sharks picked him up.

No word on what the deal was for, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was for something similar to Chipchura, considering Leach's salary and play.

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THE MAJOR DEAL OF THE DAY

Yes, there was another deal in Habsland yesterday. This one wasn't a hockey trade, but a much bigger transaction, one that cost close to $600 million dollars. As of yesterday, the Montreal Canadiens have new owners. The NHL board of governors approved the sale of the Habs from George Gillett to a consortium led by Geoff Molson and two of his brothers. The Molsons are the family that run the Molson Brewery, one of Canada's biggest and oldest breweries. If you're a Habs fan and have never had a cold Molson Ex while watching a game, well, then you're just weird.

The Molsons have a long history with the Habs, as four groups of Molson family members have been owners of the Canadiens since the 1950s.

This is an exciting day for fans of hockey in Quebec. You can bet that Geoff Molson and his team will work hard to brand the Canadiens in this province and elsewhere, and really build a link between the organization and the community they care so deeply about. It's tough to say what the effects of this sale will mean for the Canadiens and their fans, but you can bet that they will be felt in the long run.

For the moment, Molson has said that things will remain status quo in terms of management, but you can bet that Geoff will be fairly hands on in dealing with the team. If things continue to slide, he will do something about it. But from every indication, he and his brothers will be good owners, that care about their team and its success.

I would also like to thank George Gillett and his family for everything they've done for this team. Naturally, he probably won't read this, but still, it should be said that he was also a good owner, and while he was a little more removed than the Molsons will presumably be, the simple fact that he took a team he bought for $200 million, a team that no one in this country wanted 9 years ago, and nearly tripled his investment, says a lot for the way this organization has turned itself around in this decade (despite the record of the team on the ice).

People today are more obsessed with the Canadiens than they ever were, and there's still a lot more room left for market saturation. You can expect the Molsons to take the foundation that Gillett allowed this team to build and build much more on top of it.

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AS FOR THE HOCKEY GAME...

Not much to say about last night's embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Leafs. I'm sure both Ron Guillet and Patrick Storto will want to brag about it, so I'll leave them to the taunting that their team earned last night. Tomorrow, the Habs visit the Sabres, and I'll have more in-depth game analysis then.

However, it is important to note that three injured habs will be making tomorrow's trip to Buffalo. Corus Sports is reporting that Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot and Hal Gill will be with the team tomorrow. No confirmation on which ones will dress for tomorrow's game, but Andrei and Gill participated in practice. Hamrlik is on a therapy day but he will also be in Buffalo.

Practice lines:

Cammalleri - Plekanec - Kostitsyn
Pyatt - Gomez - White
Moen - Metropolit - Pacioretty
D'Agostini - Lapierre - Kostitsyn

Laraque

Spacek - O'Byrne
Mara - Gorges
Gill - Bergeron

Price - Halak

No word on the goalie for tomorrow's game, but if I had to bet, Jaroslav Halak will get his first start since November 10th, and Price will play Friday.

Finally, don't forget that Friday's game against the Bruins is the Habs centennial game, and the team will likely have a few surprises in store for the fans. But again, more on that in the coming days. For now, check out the following links.

- TCL blogger Fred Poulin on the Chipchura trade at www.hockeyindependent.com

- Another freak injury posted on TCL. Ryan Miller injured photographer through that little hole in the boards.

- Mike Cammalleri for captain on the Bleacher Report.

- Four Habs Fans aren't taking the loss too lightly

More links to come later today.

Back tomorrow,

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
www.twitter.com/thecheckingline

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