An old Kris Versteeg trade rumor is starting to heat up once again. According to The Hockey Press, the Montreal Canadiens are interested in acquiring the Chicago Blackhawks’ winger.
This isn’t the first time Versteeg has been linked to the Habs. A report from Newsday’s Steve Zipay surfaced at the end of June that said Versteeg actually killed a potential trade to Montreal.
This report was quickly refuted by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who claimed he talked to Versteeg personally.
The details of a no-trade clause in Versteeg’s contract are unknown, but he did have to waive the clause in order to be traded from the Florida Panthers back to Chicago in 2013. It’s uncertain whether that clause carried over when he joined the Blackhawks.
Versteeg is coming off a relatively mediocre 2014-15 season with Chicago. He scored 14 goals with 20 assists in just 61 regular-season games. His health has been questionable, as he’s missed time with knee and hand injuries since returning to the ’Hawks. Sure, he’s been a part of two Stanley Cup teams in Chicago, but his production didn’t have much to do with the most recent one.
There is one big connection between Chicago and Montreal that makes this deal possible. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was drafted by Chicago and played with the Blackhawks for his first five seasons of his NHL career. More recently, he served as the assistant coach in 2008 after working in the team’s scouting department for three years and was the Director of Player Personnel in 2009 and 2010. Bergevin was around the franchise for Versteeg’s best professional seasons, and he may believe Versteeg still has plenty in the tank.
The Canadiens could certainly use some additional depth at wing, but the financial side of the equation doesn’t exactly work. Versteeg carries a $2.2 million cap hit and the Canadiens have about $2.3 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.com. That means acquiring Versteeg and his entire salary would put Montreal right at the salary-cap ceiling. The Blackhawks would likely have to retain some of Versteeg’s salary or take a hefty contract back in return, which isn’t ideal given their dismal cap situation.
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Versteeg doesn’t hold quite as much of a monetary burden on the ’Hawks as Patrick Sharp did, but that doesn’t mean teams won’t use Chicago’s messy cap conundrum against it. That’s what the Dallas Stars did in stealing defenseman Stephen Johns in the Sharp trade. The prospect in a potential Versteeg trade may not be as prized as Johns was, but dealing with Montreal may mean GM Stan Bowman would have to part ways with another precious prospect just to shed the salary of a marginal depth winger.
The Blackhawks have been gutted this offseason and still have to make sure Marcus Kruger can be signed to either a short- or long-term contract. Bowman would love to work out a longer deal with Kruger, but that involves getting rid of Versteeg or Bryan Bickell, and both have anemic trade value.
Montreal makes sense in a relational sense and, to an extent, in a hockey sense, but it’s hard to imagine even a GM with a connection to Chicago would be willing to take on a decent salary of an average player without asking for something hefty in return. However, if reports are true that Versteeg did deny a trade to Montreal, then there may not be much else to talk about.
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