Sports trades can get awkward, especially when they fall through. In that situation, a player already knows his team tried to get rid of him and subsequently, he feels unwanted, etc.
But how about this gem, care of the Montreal Canadiens, as one of the NHL’s Original Six teams traded its forward Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames during their game against the rival Bruins in Boston on Thursday night.
We’ll get to the details of the trade itself in a moment, but first, we must discuss the horrendous timing of the trade, why it looks like Cammalleri was sent packing and why he was actually shipped to Calgary (20-19-5, 12th in the West).
The trade was finalized during a conference call between both teams and the league while the Habs (16-20-7, 12th in the East) and Bruins (28-11-1, 2nd in the East) were playing. After the second period ended, the Habs informed Cammalleri he had been traded, put him in a taxi cab and sent him back to the team hotel to await further instructions. Very 007, right? Anyway, once play resumed in the third period (the Habs went on to lose the game 2-1), the forward was noticeably missing from the Habs bench which started a firestorm of trade rumors on twitter.
Many assumed Cammalleri in essence packed his own bags after controversial comments he made about his own team. The nine-year NHL veteran managed to piss off all of Montreal when he pulled a Reggie Bush after a practice session on Wednesday, expressing some harsh opinions about his squad.
“I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year,” Cammalleri told NHL.com reporter Arpon Basu and François Gagnon of La Presse. “We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.”
Some have claimed that Cammalleri’s words got lost in translation when they were converted from English to French for print. Regardless of whether Cammalleri was quoted accurately or not, Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier said the incident had nothing to do with the trade. Surprisingly, I actually believe the guy!
When asked if the left winger’s insult of the team was a factor in the trade, Gauthier said, “Not not at all and I didn’t make a big deal about that. There’s emotion around the team somebody says something, I’d rather see emotion than people that don’t care. I just spoke with Mr. Cammalleri, I mean, he understands what was happening and I explained what we were trying to do with the team… He’s part of the team and he cares a lot, that’s why he made those comments.”
I watched those words come out of Gauthier’s mouth and he seemed genuine, so I’ll buy it. In that case, why did he trade Cammalleri, goaltender Karri Ramo and a 5th-round pick of the 2012 draft to Calgary in exchange for left winger Rene Bourque, center prospect Patrick Holland and a 2nd-round draft pick in 2013?
“We’ve been trying all those weeks [since December 1] to get bigger up front, we felt as the season started, that was one of the things, one of the reasons it would improve the club is we need to score harder goals,” Gauthier told the media. “We need to score the goals that are not the fancy ones and not the outside shots [the kind that Bourque is capable of scoring].”
As far as timing is concerned, Gauthier made some valid points. He said Cammalleri had to be pulled from the ice immediately upon finalization of the trade to reduce the likelihood of the other team involved changing its mind, or risking the possibility of Cammalleri getting injured, which would void the deal. Gauthier further explained the timing of the trade in terms of Bourque’s availability. The forward is now down to the last game of a five-game suspension he is serving for an elbow shot to the head of the Capital’s Nicklas Backstrom. Better to have your new player miss one game instead of five.
After learning of the trade, Bourque said with humorous honesty, “I might be in trouble… I don’t speak French, even if I have the most French name on that team.” Good luck buddy! A few of my close friends from Toronto went to college in Montreal and were unable to work because they weren’t fluent in French. Apparently, it is nearly impossible to find employment in the city if you don’t speak French. I guess Bourque should consider himself lucky.
As for Cammalleri, we’ll hear from him soon enough, but for now all we have to go on is that he understood why he was being traded, which is what Gauthier surmised after their conversation about the move.
With nine goals and 13 assists this season, Cammalleri will re-join his former team (he wore the Flames sweater for the 2008-2009 season) and reunite with old line mate Jarome Iginla. The two had great chemistry back in the 08-09 season, which was also the last time the Flames reached the playoffs.