The Montreal Canadiens made a move Monday that they likely hope will bolster their forward depth as they continue to surprise fans in the 2018/19 NHL season.
The Canadiens acquired 34-year-old center Nate Thompson and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 11 in exchange for a fourth-round selection in this year’s draft.
The move comes as the Canadiens fight for a playoff spot in their quest to return to the postseason this year, while the Kings remain near the bottom of the Western Conference despite going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.
For several years, a consistent offense has been the Canadiens’ Achilles heel. Some critics say trading for Thompson doesn’t address Montreal’s need for a true No. 1 center or add much to a scoring prowess that’s mediocre at best.
Thompson is a serviceable bottom-six option who’s strong on the faceoff dot and can provide depth on a team that’s lacked it at times. Squads pushing for playoff spots could always use extra support up front, especially when goals are harder to come by as games get tougher and your bench can help you win a best-of-seven series.
In 53 games with the Kings this campaign, Thompson has posted six points (four goals, two assists) and won 53.3 percent of faceoffs.
In 672 contests with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, and the Kings, the 6’1”, 207lb forward has recorded 134 points (57, 77).
The Bruins’ 2003 sixth-round pick has also appeared in 62 playoff games, putting up 18 points (seven, 11).
Thompson’s $1.65-million salary cap hit means he’s a cheap rental for Montreal, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent if he’s not re-signed by the Canadiens by July 1.
Acquiring Thompson could be risky because he has struggled to stay healthy. It goes without saying elite athletes could always end up injured, and sometimes for long periods, but Thompson hasn’t played a full 82-game season in his whole career.
The Anchorage, Alaska native skated in a career-high 80 games in 2014/15 and played 69 games last year. He sat out two contests earlier this month due to the flu.
Thompson also missed several games last year due to a lower-body injury.
The Canadiens (31-18-7) could use as much help as they can get. If they really want to surprise fans and pundits who second-guessed their chances at contending for a Stanley Cup this year, especially given the importance of centers and faceoff abilities for puck possession. Montreal is currently fourth in the Atlantic Division and three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Picking up Thompson is general manager Marc Bergevin’s latest effort to overhaul a fourth line that includes recently acquired veteran Dale Weise, a former Canadien, and Nicolas Deslauriers. That line was on the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first two goals in their 4-3 overtime victory over Montreal on Feb. 9.
More adjustments for LA
Adding a fourth-round pick from Montreal that the Canadiens previously got from the Calgary Flames bodes well for a Kings' squad that’s past its glory days from earlier this decade.
It’s been a constant decline for Los Angeles since the 2014 championship win and it looks like their front office is realizing that. Parting ways with Thompson follows a trade that sent defenceman Jake Muzzin to Toronto for a 2019 first-rounder and two prospects.
The Kings’ management may also recognize that the team isn’t likely making the playoffs this year. Anything is possible, and a nice hot streak could change this conversation completely, but the Kings (23-27-5) are currently eight points removed from the final Western Conference wild-card seed and second-last in the Pacific Division.
Stockpiling on picks and potential future players is important if the Kings want to be competitive again soon. They arguably did well to get a fourth-round pick for Thompson given his limited production.
Expecting the Kings to sell off even more assets at the trade deadline on Feb. 25 isn’t unreasonable.
What do you think? Was trading for Nate Thompson a solid move for the Canadiens? Could the Kings have gotten more for him? Have your say in the comments section below!