After The Whistle: Habs, Flames may be dealers

Each week, senior hockey writers Scott Morrison and Tim Wharnsby conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the latest hot-button issues in the NHL.
Calgary Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, right, battles Colorado Avalanche centre Paul Stastny for the puck during an NHL game in Denver earlier this season. Regehr and fellow Calgary blue-liner Dion Phaneuf have been among the names mentioned in NHL trade circles recently. ((David Zalubowski/Associated Press))

Each week, senior hockey writers Scott Morrison and Tim Wharnsby conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the latest hot-button issues in the NHL.

1. Should Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey trade Jaroslav Halak or hang on to him?   

MORRISON: I think Gainey should trade Halak. It is clear the Canadiens need help in other areas and Halak is a good asset who can get him that help. I also think that Carey Price might be more comfortable as the uncontested number one goaltender.  

WHARNSBY: I agree that Price would benefit from being the undisputed No. 1. But I would hang on to Halak — scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer — and ride his success this season. When Gainey jettisoned Cristobal Huet at the 2008 NHL trade deadline, the Habs were a shoo-in to make the playoffs at that time. But Price didn't perform up to snuff in the playoffs and as a result, the Canadiens were upended in the second round by the Flyers in five games.

I'm not sure there is a strong market to get rid of the goalie anyway. Montreal is nip and tuck to hang onto a playoff spot in the East and they need Halak to get into the playoffs. He has 14 wins to Price's 11, but Halak has started nine fewer matches.  

2. Did the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League make the right call on suspending Rouyn-Noranda forward Patrice Cormier for the balance of the regular season and the playoffs?  

WHARNSBY: The QMJHL really didn't have a choice to levy a stiffer suspension. In essence, this is a lifetime ban from junior. Cormier is 19-years-old. Next season, he will be playing either with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted Cormier in the second round (54th overall) in 2008, or with their farm club in Lowell, Mass.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement on Monday that they will not ask the American Hockey League to reduce Cormier's suspension so he could toil with Lowell. But whether Lamoriello summons Cormier to practice with the Devils for the remainder of the season remains to be seen.  

MORRISON:  Let's answer a question with a question. What else could the QMJHL have possibly done? Would anything less have possibly sent a loud enough message? OK, that's two questions. But the kid is a repeat offender, it comes on the heels of other hits and suspensions, and there was no choice but to send a very clear message. It's tough for the kid, but it's also tough for the kid who was laid out. Kudos to Lou and the Devils if they don't allow him to play anywhere else. How else does the message get delivered? OK, that's three questions.  

3. Do you believe Calgary Flames general manager Darryl Sutter when he stated over the weekend that he has no plans to do anything radical, like trading Dion Phaneuf or Robyn Regehr before the deadline?

MORRISON: I do believe Darryl Sutter, but he is a straight shooter. I'm not sure I agree with the strategy, but his belief was the Flames had to be better defensively this season to win. When he took them to the Stanley Cup Final, they were a top defensive team and he believes if they can be a top defensive team again they will go deep into the spring. He may be right, but it won't happen unless they can find a way to generate some offence. Perhaps he believes he has other assets he can parlay into that offence. It seemed to me moving a defenceman was an easy solution.  

WHARNSBY: Darryl Sutter is one of my favourite people in the business, but how can we believe him after last season? Didn't he state in an interview prior to the trade deadline that he liked his team and was going to stand pat, only to acquire Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold a few days later?

Sutter shouldn't completely close the door because you never know what he may get in return for one of his prized defencemen, and I don't think he will.