The universal calls for the Habs to grab a legitimate number four defenceman have started to heat up, with La Presse's Marc-Antoine Godin being the latest to chime in Tuesday.
He lists Vancouver's Mathias Ohlund, Anaheim's François Beauchemin, Dallas' Philippe Boucher and Florida's Jay Bouwmeester as the top four impending free agents out there, but it's one of the guys he lists in his "other candidates" section that remains the most intriguing to me.
As I stated back on Oct. 15, I remain convinced that the most realistic guy out there that wouldn't cost Bob Gainey a ton of assets right now is the Colorado Avalanche's Jordan Leopold.
All the guys in Godin's piece probably won't be available until at least Feburary as we approach the March 4 trade deadline. Leopold, on the other hand, could be used to fill a need that is getting desperate in the Rocky Mountains right now: a legitimate starting goaltender.
Peter Budaj is trudging along with a 3-6-0 record, 3.43 GAA and an .876 save percentage, and his backup Andrew Raycroft is...well, I don't think I need to tell you how he's doing (if you insist on knowing, it's a 2-1-0 record, 3.75 GAA and .839 SP).
Meanwhile, Leopold has three goals and three assists in 12 games, and that's without significant power play time (1:08 per game, fourth among the team's defencemen). His overall ice time of 16:30 per game is last among the team's six regulars on the blue line, yet he's still managed to put 16 pucks on net this season, second-highest on the d-corps.
I really think this is a guy who could help the Canadiens out, not only as a regular partner for Roman Hamrlik but also as a point man on the power play. He only makes $1.5 million this season, which means Gainey wouldn't have to clear too much space to make room for him right away.
The question becomes who goes to Colorado from Montreal? It's obvious Avalanche GM François Giguère would want Jaroslav Halak, which was my original suggestion as well, but with the outstanding numbers being put up by Marc Denis in Hamilton right now perhaps that would be an intriguing proposal for Giguère to mull over as well, especially considering Denis was originally drafted by the Avalanche back in 1995.
The problem with Denis, as I understand it, is that he would have to clear waivers to be called back up to the Canadiens, seeing as he had to clear them on his way to the minors. Not only that, but if I'm not wrong (you can tell how comprehensive my grasp of the CBA is with all the qualifiers I throw in everywhere) Denis would be on re-entry waivers, meaning the Habs would be on the hook for half his NHL salary should he be claimed.
I'm not really sure how that works if he's traded, but I don't believe it's a hindrance to either Montreal or the team he is traded to.
Leopold is headed to unrestricted free agency next year, and Giguère has a pretty big problem to take care of as Paul Stastny will be a restricted free agent next year as well. Considering the contract extension that was recently handed to L.A. Kings phenom Anze Kopitar (seven years, $47.6 million), who was also slated to be an RFA, the Avs will likely have to empty the bank to sign their rising young star.
That might make Leopold the odd man out, and if Giguère can grab a needed asset for him at this stage of the season, would he not at least consider it?