In the grand tarnishing of the Montreal Canadiens that is the 2011-12 NHL season, the Michael Cammalleri Trade could go down as the most grotesque stain.
We've seen assistant coaches fired hours before games. We've seen the team promote a monolinguistic coach, suffer protests for that decision, and then apologize for that hiring. We've seen the status of Scott Gomez as an NHL player go unchanged.
But on Thursday night, the Canadiens and GM Pierre Gauthier created a calamity that will be mentioned alongside Saint Patrick's abrupt farewell for years to come.
One day after his candid comments about a "losing mentality" in the organization and his lack of ice time, Cammalleri was pulled from a game at the Boston Bruins, finishing his last shift at 19:37. He was sent back to the team's hotel; later, he was traded along with goalie Karri Ramo and a 5th pick in 2012 to the Calgary Flames — the team he left to sign a free-agent deal in Montreal — for forwards Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland and a 2nd pick in 2013.
Cammalleri left Calgary to sign a 5-year, $30-million free agent deal with Montreal in 2009.
Gauthier, who said Cammalleri didn't request the trade, claimed the trade adds size and players who score the "hard goals" — claiming Bourque will do the offensive dirty work that Cammalleri wouldn't. He also said the trade was in the works for a month, despite the timing of it to Cammalleri's comments.
Cammalleri is signed through 2014 with a $6 million cap hit. Bourque is signed through 2015 with a $3.33 million cap hit. Holland was a seventh round draft pick in 2010, and like Bourque is known as a player who "goes to the dirty areas of the ice." Evidently the side of Nicklas Backstrom's head was filthy.
At the very least, he's got a sense of humor about this:
Somewhere, Louis Leblanc weeps.
This is an upgrade for Jay Feaster and the Flames. A significant one. During last year's Heritage Classic, you could tell the local fans still had respect and affection for Cammalleri. He's a considerable talent, a clutch player and should thrive away from the carnival that the Canadiens have become. Oh, and for all the "get Jarome Iginla a linemate!" chatter, remember when he had 54 assists? Guess who played in his line?
As for the Habs ... Bourque could be an upgrade on Cammalleri if you believe Cammalleri would never recapture his game in Montreal. We don't. He's a gamer, a winner, and as we said this morning, the kind of player who should be the solution but not the problem.
He wasn't happy in Montreal. Perhaps the trade needed to be made. But for this package?
If there's a silver lining, it's that the Habs might be looking to transform the key slots on their roster into players of considerable size in a bruising division.
The bad news is that Pierre Gauthier could be the man to lead that transition. And he was quicker to trade a marquee player than he was to fire a dead-coach-walking.