Montreal Acquires Fourth Generation Hab Geoffrion; Trades Gill to Nashville
On Friday afternoon, as the Montreal Canadiens were preparing to face the Buffalo Sabres (when else other than game day), news broke on twitter via RDS reporter Renaud Lavoie that Hal Gill has been traded to the Nashville Predators. The trade comes mere hours after the Flyers traded for their own defenseman, Nicklas Grossman on Thursday evening.
Moments later, the trade was made extra official by the Canadiens' official twitter feed, reporting that the Habs have acquired Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and a 2nd round pick in this year's draft in exchange for the American defenseman (the Preds will get a conditional 5th rounder next year if Geoffrion plays 40 games with the Habs).
The center piece of this trade has to be Geoffrion. If you recognize the name, you probably should, because he is the grandson of Habs legend and six-time Stanley Cup champion Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, the great-grandson of another legend in Howie Morenz, and son of another former Hab, Dan Geoffrion. While Blake will have some big shoes to fill, playing under the retired jerseys of two of his family members, and coming to Montreal as the first ever 4th generation Montreal Canadien, it should be noted that he is technically American, born in Plantation, Florida and having grown up in Tennessee. He is the product of the US Nation program, playing for both the US Development team as well as the University of Wisconsin, and two World Junior tournaments in 2007 and 2008.
After four years in Wisconsin, Geoffrion made his AHL debut with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2010, putting up 11 goals and 26 assists in 45 games that season, and 6 goals and 2 assists with the Preds in 20 games. This year, he has once again split time between the two teams, with 3 assists in 22 games with the Preds, and 2 goals and 7 assists in 20 games with the Admirals. Ironically, Geoffrion only played a handful of those games under Kirk Muller before the former Habs assistant was picked up by the Carolina Hurricanes.
In any case, Geoffrion will likely start his tenure with the Habs in Hamilton, playing for the Bulldogs, but he'll get a proper shot at making the team at next year's training camp, and could be a call-up before the season is over. He is a natural center, but has been playing wing this season. At 6'2" and 200lbs, and with noted two-way skills (he is, after all, the product of the Predators system), Geoffrion strikes me as very similar to another Montreal native Habs prospect in Louis Leblanc.
The big question for Geoffrion (other than whether or not he can speak French) will be whether he can stand the heat in the kitchen. There's no doubt that this is a high profile acquisition for the Canadiens, and it has the potential to blow up in their face if the decide to make Geoffrion something he isn't. But if they handle it right, this could be huge for a team that has seemingly lost touch with a lot of their history in recent years.
Along with the expected second-round pick, the Habs also acquired prospect Robert Slaney in the transaction. Slaney is a big, undrafted winger at 6'2" and 200lbs. Signed by the Leafs in 2009 and traded as part of the the Matthew Lombardi / Cody Franson deal in 2011, Slaney has split time between the ECHL and AHL in his pro career. With the likes of Leblanc, Aaron Palushaj, Ryan White, Mike Blunden, and others travelling back and forth between Montreal and Hamilton this season, Slaney will be some much needed relief to the Habs' depth ranks on either of their farm teams.
Going the other way, of course, is Hal Gill. Gill has been a big member of the Montreal Canadiens over the last couple of seasons, mentoring young players like P.K. Subban and bringing Josh Gorges to another level of beast, especially in the playoffs. He's not always the fastest or most elegant defenseman, but he's reliable as all Hell, and will fit perfectly with Nashville, who now has 3 big-name defensemen entering free agency once the season.
The deal may seem a little uneven towards the Habs, but I actually find it to be very fair. Gill was likely going to command a second round pick on his own, but an already dry market for defensemen with the pending trade deadline had been licked completely dry these last few days, with the likes of Nicklas Grossman and Andy Sutton either traded or extended by their teams. Gill was looking like the most valuable defenseman on the market, so it's no surprise to see him command a high pick and a decent prospect, and as we discussed last week, no surprise that he now finds himself to be a member of a different team. In any case, the deal is surprisingly good, at least on paper, considering Pierre Gauthier is the one making it.
The only thing that was holding this deal back was the Habs' recent surge, with a 4-game winning streak, but with two losses already this week, it seems as if the Canadiens and Gauthier are finally ready to become sellers. With Gill gone, the attention now shifts to Travis Moen, Andrei Kostitsyn, and potentially Mathieu Darche.