When you run an NHL team, optimism has a way of being expensive, and hubris can be ruinously so.
The pertinent question for the Montreal Canadiens on the annual frenzy of irrational spending that is trade deadline day is: how good do you think your team really is?
From that, flows another: if the answer to the first question is ‘pretty good,’ at what cost do you tinker with a scrupulously crafted team dynamic?
There’s no feeling of urgency surrounding the Bell Centre’s executive level, so it would be surprising if the Habs were to make a splash on Wednesday.
The players feel similarly.
“You never really know what’s going to happen, but I think our team’s pretty comfortable with where we’re at right now. We’ve been playing really solid hockey all year … we’re making it really hard to make changes around here,” goaltender Carey Price said after Monday’s 4-1 win over Carolina.
The reasonable position for the Habs to take is to look for a complementary piece or two to address the needs of the moment and of the immediate playoff future – chiefly, blueline depth and a burly winger who can score – but not at any price.
To wit: on Tuesday the Canadiens picked up Davis Drewiske from the Los Angeles Kings – a sixth or seventh defenceman at the expense of a fifth-round pick.
Drewiske, a 28-year-old University of Wisconsin product, makes $650,000 (U.S.), is an impending free agent, and a journeyman who has played parts of five seasons for the defending champion Kings (he has also been a scratch for 15 of their last 16 games and was surplus to requirements).
He can help, but it’s not a game-changing acquisition.
And yet, for all their evident shortcomings – small up front, ponderous at the back, don’t have an elite goal scorer – the Habs bestride their division and sat just five points back of Eastern conference-leading Pittsburgh going into Tuesday night’s action, with a game in hand.
Still, general manager Marc Bergevin has to think, in his heart of hearts, this isn’t the year to go all-in with an impulse buying binge at the deadline.
Not when you consider where promising young players like Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are in their career arcs (and where veterans like Andrei Markov are in theirs).
Not when he has already conceded the deal-making arms race to the Pens and Boston Bruins, and when the asking price for middling defencemen and aging forwards is steep.
That’s not to say Bergevin, whose stock line is he will consider any deal that doesn’t mortgage the future, won’t make a final move on Wednesday if he senses a bargain. It’s just hard to see where a value deal might take shape.
There’s a sense in Montreal that Bergevin has already done the bulk of his shopping with the addition of point-a-game winger Michael Ryder a month ago, and last week’s waiver pickup of veteran centre Jeff Halpern, who has been a tonic for the penalty kill.
Besides, the no-name, little-team-that-could identity of this year’s Habs suits the players just fine, and that no one will be heartbroken at the failure to add a Jarome Iginla-sized piece to the lineup.
As defenceman Josh Gorges said this week: “I like our group, I like the way we play, I like the way we get along. I’ll gladly go to war with the guys we have.”