Friday, January 13, 2012

Michael “Untradeable?” Cammalleri… Traded

Okay, so I know I said yesterday that I thought a bunch of players on the Montreal Canadiens were immovable, and that near the top of that list was Michael Cammalleri.  I looked at his contract, his play over the last year or so, and really couldn’t see another GM trading for him.  It would take a miracle.  It would take a GM maybe more desperate than ours to make it happen. 

Well it happened.  Jay Feaster, GM of the Calgary Flames needed to shake things up nearly as badly as we did, enough so that he traded for a 6m$ player that has scored 9 goals in 38 games year.  The only good news about Cammalleri is that he’s scored near 40 goals playing for the Flames and his partner in crime, Jarome Iginla.  To me, though, the good news ends there.  It seems strange that most pundits believe it’s more a shoe-in for Cammalleri to succeed post-trade than it is for Rene Bourque. What exactly are they basing this on? Scoring totals from three years ago? Playoff performances two years ago?  Is anyone looking at the current versions of these players?

All I’m hearing is the bad things about Bourque, how he doesn’t care, he’s a headcase, etc,. Well just because Kelly Hrudey had nothing bad to say about Cammalleri, doesn’t mean his “care meter” wasn’t also severly broken.  Will he do better in Calgary? Probably.  But the more important question for Habs fans should be: was he ever going to get better here? I seriously doubt it.

You can say all you want about how badly Gauthier handled the optics of this trade, as well as the dual firings earlier in the year, but as far as this trade is concerned, I like it.

If you read my last blog, I made it pretty clear that Cammalleri was not part of the solution in Montreal.  What’s worse, his gigantic contract was going to inhibit management from potentially bringing back, or bringing in certain players.  Cammalleri is, and always has been, a player that’s needed the perfect storm to be at his best. 

Sure, you can say the same about a lot of players, but maybe no more so than this player.  His game is a lot like Brett Hull’s, a player that made a name for himself with his rocket of a shot, and being in the right place at the right time to unleash it.  The problem is that Hull scored the bulk of his goals in an era where goalies weren’t as good, nor were their defenses (or more specifically, defensive systems).  Like Cammalleri, he scored the bulk of his goals from outside the hashmarks with one-timers.

 I don’t have statistical analysis on this, but it seems to me that goalies aren’t giving up nearly as many goals from those spots.  And if Cammalleri isn’t scoring from those spots, he’s simply not scoring at all.  That is unless he decides to suddenly work harder to get to the dirtier areas (a.k.a. near the net) to score goals.  If he does, it will simply be another example of a player who gave up trying in Montreal (see Ryder, Kostitsyn, Ribeiro), and turned it around with another team.  Can’t really blame the GM for that, can you?

So out goes Cammalleri and his 6M/a year contract through the 2013/2014 season, a 2012 5th round pick, and the rights to KHL goalie Karri Ramo.  In comes Bourque, paid 3.33M a year through 2014-15, a 2nd rounder in 2013 and center Patrick Holland, a 7th rounder in 2010, and currently 9th in WHL scoring with 57 points in 40 games.  If someone told me that we traded Cammalleri for Patrick Holland and a 2nd round pick, I probably wouldn’t be thrilled, but at least I would take solace in the fact that we shed salary, and that would be a victory in itself.  The fact that we got Bourque as well was just icing on the cake.  You can say what you want about the guy, but the facts are these: He can score goals, and score them in places where a lot of our players are scared to go. 

Is he inconsistent: yes. 

Does he do stupid things once in a while: yes. 

But is he better player for the current Montreal Canadiens than Michael Cammalleri? 

I believe so.  The Canadiens are a team that needs to get bigger, but more importantly, without clear superstar-type players, they need to shed guys that are one-dimensional.  Rene Bourque might not be the hardest worker, but he adds more than one dimension to the team, something that is already a step up from Cammalleri.  He has size, strength and goal-scoring ability.  Both players have been accused of disappearing at times, but at least Bourque can lean on the defence a bit, can be asked to just forecheck if nothing else is working, and he’ll be more effective than Cammalleri.  The worst kind of player to have on your team is a one-trick pony, and that’s exactly what Cammalleri is.

The best part about this trade though is the monetary implications.  We just lost a player that was out-scored 67-54 by his trade counterpart.  The only thing he beats Bourque on is his pay rate, which is 2.7m$ more a year.  Before this trade was completed, I had serious doubts about whether or not Andrei Kostitsyn could be re-signed for next year.  With the money saved on the Cammalleri deal, they're now well on their way to bringing him back.  Like him or not, Kostitsyn is one of the few Hab players that has improved this year.  He has obvious chemistry with Eller, and it would be a shame to ship out a player who’s finally starting to really come in to his own.  As Eller improves so too will Kostitsyn, and both their point totals will go up subsequently.  Kostitsyn will not cost a king’s ransom to keep (between 3.5-4m a year), simply because he’s not having a great year point-wise.  To add to that, I seriously doubt we’ll find a player on the free agent market who’s as good as Kostitsyn at that price.  So if it means we traded Cammalleri to keep Kostitsyn, it’s a win for us.

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