Should the Habs make a play for Flyers’ Hartnell?

Scottie Hartnell has long been a name tossed out there whenever someone says the Habs need some NAG (North American Grit). Hartnell embodies the Flyers very well– tough, physical, and can score some goals, too. That’s something that many will tell you the Habs have been missing for the last couple of years.

And it appears there may be no time better than the present to take a run at him. From The Fourth Period:

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell has admitted his disappointment over losing playing time this season, but still enjoys being a member of the club.

“It bothers me that I’m not getting the minutes that I used to have,” Hartnell told the Daily News. “It’s frustrating. But I’m still having fun. We’re winning, we’re all playing well and everyone is contributing.”

The 29-year-old has lost playing time to rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier, while his struggle during training camp was also a factor noticed by coach Peter Laviolette.

Trade rumors about Hartnell have been circulating since he struggled mightily in training camp. Hartnell recorded 24/25/49 and 142 PIM last year. So, the question is: Should Montreal trade for Scottie Hartnell?

Hartnell certainly does have value and is a good bet to score 20+ goals this year. He had 162 hits last year. However, our top 6 (or, as JM would prefer us say, our top 9) is quite full at the moment. Top 9 forwards currently consist of: Erik Cole, Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, David Desharnais, and Andrei Kostitsyn.

Obviously one of those, hypothetically, would be moved for Hartnell. I don’t think Gauthier would deal a draft pick (or anything but a player) because it would simply create too much chaos among the top 9 forwards. It would be overflowing. So which player would be dealt for Hartnell? My dream scenario: Andrei Kostitsyn for Hartnell, straight up.

First of all, Kostitsyn’s stats most closely resemble Hartnell’s. For all his inconsistency, AK46 is a good bet to give you at least 20 goals. Last year, he posted 20/25/45 in 81 GP. I think his ceiling is also higher than Hartnell’s–he could easily, given the right circumstances, add at least another 5 goals to that total, giving him nearly identical stats, scoring-wise, to Hartnell.

In addition, their number of hits–a good indication of their physical play–are close. AK registered 140 last year, compared to Hartnell’s 162. But, again, I think Kostitsyn’s slightly higher ceiling would win out over 20 hits.

From the Habs’ perspective, I think this is a no brainer. It’s well known that Jacques Martin loves him some established veterans–so much so that it has him on the hot seat now. Hartnell fits this mold. Also, when Kostitsyn was re-signed to a 1-year deal, everyone immediately went, “Trade deadline bait!” Martin and Kostitsyn have had a long-standing disagreement, if not a feud. I don’t think the Habs would balk at shipping AK out. We all know, he can impress you for a game, but then will disappear for the next 5. That’s exactly the sort of play JM and PG have been trying to eradicate the last 3 years.

Now, would the Flyers want to do this? Obviously, Hartnell has disappointed them this year. If he’s on the trading block, it means that he has really underperformed and the team thinks that he is not going to meet his personal requirements to stay on the team and be a part of the organization. Kostitsyn provides similar value with a higher ceiling, although he does have bad traits like taking lazy hooking calls and forgetting to backcheck once in a while. Now, if I’m the Flyers, what it comes down to is am I willing to sacrifice Hartnell’s grit for Kostitsyn’s skill. Or, in other words, does Kostitsyn’s skill and untapped potential (which, admittedly, may not be too much at this point), while also factoring in his stupid/lazy hooking/tripping penalties, outweigh Hartnell’s toughness? For the Broad Street Bullies, I’m not sure it does. But I think, if they don’t think Hartnell is going to be able to meet his 22-25 goal quota, they may trade him for someone who will get that same amount, if not more. The big knock against the Flyers was that they weren’t going to have enough goal scoring, right? Well, they have a chance to get some more here.

Look, for the Habs, I think this would be a great trade, and one that would get the front office some positive feedback at a time that it is most certainly needed–the fans have had it with JM and the team’s overall philosophy right now more than ever. But, I’ll admit, it’s not a sure thing for the Flyers. However, Laviolette had them skating suicides at practice this morning and they’re coming off a bad loss to the Caps. It might be time for the Flyers to take a flyer on Kostitsyn, a trade that I think in the end would end up benefitting both organizations, and sure as hell the Habs.

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