Despite confidence in their Dispersal Draft pick of Evgeni Malkin, the Canadiens shockingly dealt their now former captain to Columbus.
As the former GM of the Habs Matt Jackson picked Evgeni Malkin in the fifth round of the BEARD Hockey Dispersal Draft, he was called a genius by experts, having found such a valuable player that late in the draft.
Despite that, the present management on Friday made the shocking decision to trade Malkin to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Adam Henrique and a third round pick. A move that certainly demands an explanation.
"As my predecessor picked Malkin in the Dispersal Draft that was indeed a good choice," said Westman. "But the structure of the team has changed dramatically since then, and with new additions like Jack Eichel, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog for instance, Malkin’s role changed. That has turned out to be a problem to us and something that needed to be addressed."
Even though some may think your captain, a great role model and leader on and off the ice as well as the person leading your team in points, hardly could be a problem, Westman maintains his standpoint.
”We have been struggling with faceoffs. And even though our defence and netminders have been great in blocking/stopping shots, allowing us to win games, we still give up way too many opportunities to score against us.
"Consequently, our offense five on five as well as in power play has suffered. With Malkin on the team and with Jason Spezza being great at faceoffs, we found ourselves in a dead end with no reason/ability to find a third center with better FO. Hence we needed to move one of our top centers, and it wasn’t going to be Eichel..."
But for a pending UFA? With a skill level offensively way lower than Malkin?
"First of all, our ambition of course will be to resign Henrique," added the Habs GM. "We believe he still has many years of elite performance ahead of him. Secondly, this might just be what the rest of team needs in stimulation to step up and improve their offensive game even more. With more faceoffs won, the opportunity should rise.
"And to be honest, it was now or never. The ability to next year find a replacement for a 35 year old Malkin, pending UFA with that salary, would not be easy."
Westman admits that finances was a factor in the decision to trade Malkin.
"Once again, in the preseason we were fine, with plenty of cap space. Acquiring Andrei Vasilevskiy, Eichel, Rantanen, Landeskog and others has changed that. Having a second line center at the cost of $7.25 million became a luxury we eventually thought we couldn’t afford any longer.
"This way we have freed up space to renegotiate the contracts of our free agents and even keep looking for further upgrades of the team."
Even though not confirmed by Westman or coach Peter Laviolette yet, Spezza is now likely to be assigned the captaincy with Landeskog taking on the role as second assistant.
The first game for the Malkin replacement, Henrique, will be on Saturday as the Canadiens host the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre.