It's time for a new era in Montreal.
The notion of unloading Alexei Kovalev from the Habs' line-up may seem absurd to some fans of the team, but I believe this is a crucial step towards their path to the Stanley Cup.
Whether you're a fan of Kovalev or not, it's undeniable that he's a tremendous talent. The problem with him is that he only plays when he wants to, and this is a huge problem. To put it simply, his inconsistency affects the immediate, and future success of the Habs. He neglects his role as a veteran, and doesn't insert any sort of leadership to the Canadiens' young roster. And forget about leading by example, Kovalev drifts in and out of consistency, and his production is largely determined by his occasional hot streaks.
With recent news of Bob Gainey deciding to leave Kovalev at home because of "lack of emotion and production," I would say his time as Canadien is all but done. While he may come back to the Canadiens line-up with a spark in his engine, how long will it be before it runs dry?
The Canadiens are a young team whose core compromises of Carey Price, Sergei Kostitsyn (assigned to AHL, it'll do him so good to get his game back in order), Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Andrei Markov, and Mike Komisarek (among others). Kovalev's inconsistency and unwillingness to commit to the Canadiens has a much larger affect compared to the goals and points he contributes to the team.
If Kovalev is traded from the Habs, not only would they acquire a decent return for the 35 year old (Gainey would be wiser to unload him at the Trade Deadline; GM's are more desperate for rentals), but it would leave a top 6 roster spot available. Stop dreaming about Vincent Lecavalier for a second, and consider not only the talent that resides within the Habs' young players (Pacioretty, Maxwell, etc.), but the variety of UFA’s that can benefit the Habs Stanley Cup aspirations.
UFA's (Forwards) that I think could benefit the Habs:
Enjoying a nice comeback season with the Flames. He's not the offensive force he once was, but his grit and ability to crash the net would benefit the Habs, especially a young player like Pacioretty, who plays a similar game.
He may re-sign with the Red Wings, but if not, Gainey should be willing to dish out some cash for a player of his caliber. His two-way play would fit in well with Carbonneau's system, and he'd stand as the Habs’ top offensive weapon.
It's likely Shannahan may opt to retire after this season, but if he doesn't, I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of Shanny in a Habs uniform. His leadership would go a long way for the Habs' young core. It's possible, if Gainey wants him.
There are a few others on the list, but I believe these players would be the most effective for the Habs. And while there are UFA's such as Mike Comrie, Mike Cammarelli, and Brian Gionta available, the Habs are better off targeting sizable forwards who can play an effective two-way game, rather than small players who are limited in the physical department.
It all starts with Kovalev. His departure will allow the Habs to take an important next step towards the Stanley Cup, rather than float in inconsistency and false hope - sounds alot like Kovalev's game, doesn't it?
The Canadiens have the tools to win a 25th Stanley Cup, but there is still work to be done, even if it is the centennial year. Despite what the Canadiens' current slump may suggest, they only require more experience from their young players, and a few minor moves before they're worthy of grasping the Silver Mug once more.