Plekanec could be an option for teams looking for a center at the trade deadline. Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 26th.

The Canadiens went into the season hoping that center Tomas Plekanec would be in line for some sort of resurgence and that he would be able to pick some of the slack to cover their offseason departures. While that hasn’t happened, Plekanec has still been quite effective at the defensive end which should have several teams inquiring about him between now and deadline day.

Contract

Plekanec is in the final year of a two-year, $12M deal – $6M cap hit, $5M salary. He will be a UFA in July and does not have any trade protection.

2017-18

To put it nicely, this season hasn’t gone as well or Plekanec or the Canadiens had hoped. His goal-per-game average (0.08) is the lowest of his career and while his assist average is up slightly from last year, it’s still not at the level that is expected from someone with that type of contract. In other words, although he is being paid like a top-six forward, the performance hasn’t been close to that level.

However, the 35-year-old has been deployed as Montreal’s shutdown center all season long and has fared relatively well in that role. He is still one of their top penalty killers while he has improved considerably at the faceoff dot, posting his best percentage on the draw of his career (53.4%). At this stage, he is best served as a third line checker and it’s that role that interested teams will be envisioning for him.

Season Stats

48 GP, 4 goals, 14 assists, 18 points, +1 rating, 29 PIMS, 98 shots, 16:26 ATOI, 50.8 CF%

Potential Suitors

Pittsburgh has been looking for center help all season long, even after they acquired Riley Sheahan early in the year. Adding Plekanec – something our Zach Leach recently suggested – would give them a dependable veteran down the middle while allowing Jake Guentzel to move back to the wing on a full-time basis. Tampa Bay should also have some interest to use Plekanec as a checker and since he’s a rental player, there shouldn’t be any concern about in-division trading. Columbus has been looking for center help all season long and while Plekanec isn’t the top-six option they’d prefer, he would still give them improved depth and defensive play.

Out West, Winnipeg’s depth down the middle is being tested with injuries to Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry and as a result, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pursue center help over the next month. San Jose could have a vacancy to fill depending on the severity of Joe Thornton’s injury and their California counterparts in Los Angeles have a void although the eventual return of Jeff Carter could make them look to fill other holes first. Calgary also makes some sense for upgrading Matt Stajan although it may not be justifiable to pay what could be a fairly high asking price (given the lack of centers available) to upgrade a fourth liner.

Likelihood Of A Trade

While Plekanec has publicly stated that he would like to remain with Montreal, a trade makes the most sense for the Canadiens. They have the cap room to retain the maximum 50% of his contract which should allow more teams to get into trade discussions for him and as one of the better centers that will be available, there should be quite a few teams with interest. Unless he agrees to a relatively cheap extension to make it worth foregoing the return a trade would yield, he should be a pretty safe bet to be on the move.

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This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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