Jack Todd: Canadiens saddled with bad contracts left over by Bergevin

If general manager Kent Hughes can finesse a trade for any of his four expensive, unproductive veteran forwards, he truly is a magician.

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Read ‘em and weep:

Josh Anderson, age 29, three years to go on a seven-year, $38.5-million deal with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million and an actual base salary of $8 million this season, $7 million next.

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Stats to date: Seven goals, eight assists, minus-21 in 51 games.

Brendan Gallagher, age 31, three years to go on a six-year, $39-million contract with a cap hit of $6.5 million and a real salary of $8 million this season and $9 million next.

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Stats to date: Eight goals, eight assists, minus-23 in 50 games.

Joel Armia, age 30, one year to go on a four-year, $13.6 million deal with a cap hit of $3.4 million and a base salary of $4.8 million this year.

Stats to date: Nine goals, three assists, plus-1 in 39 games.

Christian Dvorak, age 28, one year to go on a six-year, $26.7-million deal with a cap hit of $4.45 million and a base salary of $5.725 million this season.

Stats to date: Three goals, four assists, minus-5 in 25 games.

Total cap hit: $19.85 million this season and next. Even with the salary cap expected to rise to $87.7 million next season, 22.6 per cent of the cap will be tied up in four mostly unproductive veteran forwards.

It amounts to a poison pill left behind by former GM Marc Bergevin and with the trade deadline fast approaching, it’s the thorniest portfolio remaining on the desk of Canadiens GM Kent Hughes. Armia has been playing much better since he returned form a stint in Laval and Dvorak is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, so he doesn’t factor in any immediate discussions.

It’s no secret that for the past 25 games, the Canadiens have gotten most of their production from the very young top line of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky. It’s no secret either that they’re not getting nearly enough offence from the second, third and fourth lines.

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And it’s no secret that some underproductive veterans are part of the problem. Most of the heat has been on Gallagher, the warrior who has left it all on the ice through a dozen brutal campaigns. Somehow, Anderson has escaped most of the wrath of the fans. That’s puzzling, because Anderson began the season by putting up a single point in October and another point in November before a brief hot streak saw him score six goals and pick up three assists in December. He has one goal and three assists since.

Anderson has always had speed and size, but even Bill Buckner had better hands. Where he was once good for two or three mad rushes a game that turned into missed chances, even that is missing from his game of late. Against the Capitals Saturday night, he was drifting aimlessly in his own zone on Washington’s first and fourth goals.

Trade him? How do you trade three years with a $5.5-million cap hit for a player who isn’t producing? We’ve already seen Hughes pull rabbits from a few hats, but if he can finesse a trade for any of those four veterans or goaltender Jake Allen (who himself carries a $3.85-million cap hit for next season) then he really is a magician.

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Telling it like it isn’t: In the wake of the slap-on-the-wrist five-game suspension handed to Morgan Rielly for his assault on Ridly Greig for the egregious crime of taking a slapshot into an open net, it’s worth nothing the sheer level of hypocrisy that attends any hit to the head in the NHL.

First there was the NHLPA, protecting Greig by filing an appeal. Then there was the astonishing Carlo Colaiacovo, declaring that he thought Rielly should get two games at most and claiming that the Leafs defenceman hadn’t broken any rules by cross-checking a guy on the back of the head.

Hockey Night in Canada panellist Jen Botterill went after the victim: “That’s a classless move by Greig,” Botterill said. “I feel that was completely unnecessary. I didn’t like that at all. I do like Rielly going over there, whether it’s for a hit, and unfortunately he didn’t control his stick more because it ends up going right to the head, which is then dangerous.”

Scrambled syntax and all, Botterill was taking a position opposite from the one she took Jan. 3, when she laced into her fellow panellists for trying to justify a deliberate high stick by the Wild’s Ryan Hartman, applied to the head of Winnipeg’s Cole Perfetti for something he didn’t do.

The difference? One incident involved the Leafs, the other did not. Botterill sold out to her bosses at Rogers and lost a whole lot of respect in the process.

Heroes: Nick Suzuki, Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield, Mike Matheson, Sarah Lefort, Elaine Chuli, Claire Dalton, Stephen Curry, Sabrina Ionescu, Ted-Jan Bloemen, Ivanie Blondin, Irene Schouten, Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka, Caitlin Clark &&&& last but not least, Alexei Navalny.

Zeros: Alexander Ovechkin, Ted Leonsis, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, the NHLPA, Jen Botterill, Carlo Colaiacovo, the NBA All-Star Game, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and forever.

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