February 8, 2018 | 10:14am ET



Tomas Plekanec, centre


Tomas Plekanec continues to be a name popping up in trade speculation surrounding the Montreal Canadiens. 

Yes, captain Max Pacioretty is the hot pick, and no doubt at the forefront of Habs trade rumours, but dealing Plekanec has turned into a necessity rather than a desire. 

Plekanec, who has a $6 million salary cap hit, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Playoff hopes have come and gone, or are diminishing fast, in Montreal and every move made from this point on needs to be preparing for the future.

The 35-year-old veteran centre has played 974 games with the Canadiens and no doubt he wants to retire with the Habs. He has spent his entire NHL career in Montreal, but right now what’s best for the team is for Plekanec to get traded away as a rental to a Stanley Cup contending team in exchange for a high draft pick and/or prospect(s). 

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin could always revisit signing him to a more cost effective contract this summer – according to Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette, Plekanec hasn’t spoken to Habs management about the future, but has been in discussions with his agent.

“We’ll see what happens,” he told the Gazette.

Plekanec would be a great rental for a number of contending teams; a strong two-way centre is always a sought after commodity for any roster. It has been known for quite some time that the Habs need a legitimate No.1 centre. If they can get a high return from dealing a player like Pacioretty, great, but the off-season will play a bigger factor in trying to fill that void. The here, the now, the pressing matter is stockpiling those picks and prospects, and the Canadiens will likely need to eat a portion of Plekanec’s salary to finalize a trade. 

Plekanec’s role in Montreal has turned into that of a work horse, due to the fact that Montreal is so weak down the middle. While he hasn’t put up a whole lot of points this season, he has most definitely proved he is a valuable asset to a team both in the faceoff and on the penalty kill. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been linked to Plekanec for some time, while the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights might also have interest.

Plekanec currently ranks No.23 on TFP's Top 30 Available Players List.