It’s pretty funny. Just last night, coach Jacques ‘Mr. Personality’ Martin said he wasn’t ready to press the panic after that embarrassing loss to the Vancouver Canucks. But apparently Martin’s boss feels differently.

General manager Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier slammed on that very panic button Friday, making what at first glance looks like what just might be the worst trade of the Gauthier era. Gauthier picked up veteran D-man Tomas Kaberle from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for another seasoned defenceman, Jaroslav Spacek.

First impression? WTF! OMG! XDS! (Okay that last acronym doesn’t mean anything, but you get the idea.)

Let’s start with the really bad stuff. This is a guy, Kaberle, who’s joining his fourth team in less than a year. That is never a good thing. Yes he won the Cup with Boston, after being traded to Beantown by his longtime employer, the Maple Leafs, but he was hardly much of a factor in the Bs playoff run. Pierre McGuire – how come this guy has every stat on the tip of his tongue? – said that he averaged 21:15 of ice-time during the regular season and was the only Bruins D-man to see his ice-time reduced in the playoffs, to 16:01.

Then he was promptly given the heave-ho by the Bruins before the Cup celebrations were even over and signed a rich deal with the Canes – three years for $12.75 (U.S.). Now why is it that Habs management just so love picking up pricey long-term contracts for aging, fading players? But i digress….

Then after just 29 games with the Hurricanes, GM Jim Rutherford decided he’d seen enough of Kaberle’s face. And who can blame him with stats like these – no goals, nine assists and a +/- of -12. Yikes! Rutherford recently publicly blasted Kaberle for not being prepared for the season and suggested he might send him packing. Well apparently the Canes GM wasn’t kidding.

So two teams dumped him in a matter of months. Not great. Then there’s the contract. Kaberle is 33 and clearly on the downside of his career. You don’t really want to think what he’ll be like in a couple of years. And we’re stuck with him and his hefty salary for three years. That’s a lot of dough and just remember we also have to pay $7.3 million this year (and the next two) to scoring champ – not! – Scotty Gomez, not to mention some hefty bucks for high-priced under-achievers (at least right now) Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. Two young Habs stars, P.K. Subban and Carey Price, are going to be restricted free agents next summer and Gauthier is going to have to pay both enormous bucks over a few years to keep them – and I think we can agree he does indeed have to keep those two (even if P.K. looks like anything but a superstar these days).

So what’s the upside? Well one-for-one, Kaberle is probably no better nor no worse than Spacek and maybe he will be able to bring some life to the Canadiens’ nightmarish power-play. But don’t count on it. (In fact, that power play is positively flatlining and I’m thinking electro-shock therapy may be the only solution. As in – Gimme gimme shock treatment/All I want is shock treatment – The Ramones.)

He didn’t really help either the Bruins or the Hurricanes in that department.

And does this mean Andrei Markov’s return is going to be even later than expected? The desperate trade certainly underlines yet again what a terrible idea it was to sign the injured Markov for three years and to build your entire season’s strategy around a defenceman with a wonky knee.

The whole thing just reeks of panic. But why should we surprised? It was panic-button management that had Bob Gainey blowing up the whole team a couple of years back to bring in Gomez, Gionta and Cammy, and tie up a huge chunk of the team’s cash for several years. In fact, the trade seems eerily Gainey-esque. Wait a minute? Isn’t Bob still lurking in the halls of the Bell Centre. Hmmmm. Did Major Major call Bob once again to bail him out of a mess?

  1. André says:

    What in the world was he thinking? Does anyone learn anything in this team management? Does that mean that maybe, MAYBE next year there won’t be any of Markov, Gorges and Gill (I can’t believe I’m writing this) left to lead the young Tinordi, Beaulieu, Emelin and the likes? That they will be led by Kaberle and [insert overpriced and aging defenceman signed long-term by Genius Gauthier (GG) next summer].

    Not firing Gauthier this morning costs Geoff Molson 10M$ over the next two and a half years, spent on a used, declining, aging and soft defenceman who scored like 2 goals in the last 50 games. Add it up to Gomez contract, it’s almost 12M bucks you can’t spend on a top 6 forward or top 2 defenceman.

    Don’t you think that every GMs in this league are laughing their a** off? If you’re a UFA, will you sign for a team that is managed like it is run by idiots? How dumb does this organization look today, after trading a good prospect for Gomez and a UFA for locked in Kaberle?

    What’s worst is that it means Molson is not about to fire Gauthier. If he does, he doesn’t look too good. We will more likely see Martin being fired by GG. And knowing him, it will surely be more of the same with the new coach he’ll hire. That means we’re stuck for at least another year of bad management. When and if Molson ever moves, I hope he won’t seek advices from Bob.

    I’m sick.

    • topshelfbk says:

      I think you’re right on all counts Andre – though it doesn’t make me happy to say that. I think it’s true that we can take two things from this disastrous trade – Mr. Markov is not coming back any time soon, maybe never, and Geoff Molson still has faith in Pierre Gauthier. Neither of these are good things. The real issue here is the money and the three-year contract. We’re picking up another bad deal. In fact, it’s such a bad deal that Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford himself realized it was a crap deal very, very quickly.
      – Brendan

  2. Mike Chamberlain says:

    Absolutely a horribly stupid trade, tying up all that money on a guy who is clearly finished. I’m so pissed off. Gauthier has further hamstrung the Habs financially.

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