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Hickey on hockey: Landing Patrik Laine would open a window for Canadiens


Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has said he doesn’t believe in the window, that sliver of time when all the pieces fall into place and a team is in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup.

As improbable as it seems when you look back at the Canadiens’ dismal performance during the regular season, the team might be looking at a window when the 2020-21 season gets underway.

Bergevin has made a couple of savvy of moves in the early stage of the off-season. He brought in veteran goalie Jake Allen to provide Carey Price with the opportunity to get some rest. And rookie Alexander Romanov and Joel Edmundson shore up the left side of a defence anchored by Shea Weber and Jeff Petry.

There is one additional move that could catapult the Canadiens into the ranks of the elite before the window closes on Price and Weber and that is the acquisition of a high-scoring winger.

Like Patrik Laine.

The word on the street is that the Canadiens are cool to the idea of picking up the 22-year-old Finn, which seems counterintuitive because how often do you get a chance to pick up a young player with a track record of producing 30-plus goals a season?

The Winnipeg Jets are offering Laine in a hockey trade because they have serious holes in their lineup. They need a No. 2 centre and they need help on defence.

The Canadiens are in a position to put together an attractive package.

Start with Max Domi, who has been reduced to the status of a spare part with the emergence of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He wants to play centre, but there’s no room for him if the youngsters are to develop.

Defence? Brett Kulak’s stock is up after a strong performance in the playoffs, but Edmundson and Romanov have jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. Montreal could also throw in a youngster like Cale Fleury or Noah Juulsen.

Not enough?

Let’s make the Jets an offer they can’t refuse and add the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick.

What’s that, you say, Bergy would never give up an asset like that.

Well, Bergevin set a precedent a few years ago when he gave defence prospect Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning in return for Jonathan Drouin, who didn’t have anywhere near Laine’s production.

Are there any Canadiens fans who don’t want a mulligan on that deal?

The Canadiens are scheduled to draft 16th in the first round and you have to ask — do you want an established top-six forward or do you want to take a chance on a draft pick who may or may not pan out?

To help you answer that question, here’s a list of players the Canadiens have drafted recently when they weren’t picking in the top 10 — Ryan Poehling, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Louis Leblanc.

Here’s what the Canadiens would look like with Laine in the lineup:

Suzuki would be on the top line with Drouin at left wing and the imposing — did we mention he’s 6-foot-5 and 206 pounds? — Laine on the right.

Head coach Claude Julien would be able to keep Tomas Tatar, Phil Danault and Brendan Gallagher on one of the NHL’s top two-way lines.

Kotkaniemi will be joined by fellow Finns Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia on a solid third line, while recently re-signed Jake Evans, Paul Byron, Jordan Weal and Poehling are available for fourth-line duty.

Laine is also a perfect fit regarding the salary cap. Bergevin has more than $10 million to spend and Laine has one season remaining on a two-year bridge deal with a cap hit of $6.75 million.

Keeping Laine beyond next season might be challenging because he would join a large group of players who would need new contracts. Gallagher, Tatar and Danault are eligible to become unrestricted free agents, while Kotkaniemi and Lehkonen would be restricted free agents.

With the salary cap frozen for at least the next three years, there might not be enough money to satisfy everyone and Bergevin would have to make decisions on who to keep.

Laine would be a restricted free agent, but he would have some leverage because he has arbitration rights and he might want another bridge deal in hopes that the market rebounds in a few years.

The worst-case scenario is that the Canadiens can’t afford to keep Laine. In that case, he becomes a rental, that one player you acquire to put you over the top. But there’s one major difference because most rentals are short-term, while this one would provide benefits for a full season.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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