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Worst trades in Canadiens history: McDonagh and Sergachev slip away


As the Tampa Bay Lightning rolled to the Stanley Cup this past summer, Canadiens fans couldn’t help wonder: What if?

What if the Canadiens hadn’t traded top-four defence partners Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev?

As we take a subjective look back this week at the five worst trades in Canadiens history, we’re going to lump together the two deals that resulted in their departures from Montreal because they have similarities beyond their current pairing.

Both players were first-round draft picks and both were deemed expendable after turning in lacklustre performances. McDonagh was drafted 12th overall in 2007, the same draft that produced Max Pacioretty (No. 22 overall), P.K. Subban (No. 43) and Yannick Weber (No. 73).

During the 2009-10 season, Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey took in a University of Wisconsin game and wasn’t impressed with McDonagh’s play. When he decided to remake the Canadiens on the eve of free agency in 2010, McDonagh was an afterthought in a multi-player deal with the New York Rangers.

The Canadiens sent Chris Higgins to New York for Scott Gomez in what should have been a straight-up swap of players in need of a change of scenery. But the inclusion of McDonagh swung the deal in favour of the Rangers. He quickly established himself as a top-four defenceman and served as the team captain before he was traded to Tampa Bay as part of New York’s 2018 rebuild.

Gomez was part of what was a disastrous rebuild for the Canadiens as they moved on from longtime captain and fan favourite Saku Koivu. There were concerns about the Canadiens’ lack of size, but Gainey defied logic by dipping into the free agent market the day after acquiring the 5-foot-11 Gomez and signed 5-foot-9 Michael Cammalleri and 5-foot-7 Brian Gionta.

Gomez was a popular player with his teammates who appreciated his habit of picking up the tab for dinner, but his on-ice performance was a disappointment. He once went more than a calendar year without scoring a goal and the team used a compliance buyout to send him packing after the 2012-13 lockout ended.

The Canadiens used a rare top-10 draft pick to select Sergachev ninth overall in 2016. He was a day shy of his 18th birthday but the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder — he’s up to 216 today — impressed scouts with his physical maturity.

“He’s a man,” said head scout Trevor Timmins.

Sergachev earned a spot on the Canadiens’ opening day roster in 2016 but he was sent back to the Windsor Spitfires after he played only three games. The Canadiens felt he needed more ice time and Windsor was an ideal spot because the Spitfires were guaranteed a berth in the Memorial Cup as the host team.

The Russian would get one more chance to play for the Canadiens. Montreal finished the regular season in Detroit on April 8 and Sergachev became an emergency recall when the team decided to rest Andrei Markov. He received a call at noon and it was late afternoon before he could collect his gear and make his way across the Detroit River.

Windsor had been upset in the first round of the OHL playoffs and coach Rocky Thompson gave his team a week off before beginning a gruelling six-week training regimen, which paid off when Windsor won the Memorial Cup. He hadn’t been on the ice for four days prior to a sluggish performance in Detroit. That game might have been a factor in the decision to trade him to the Lightning in return for what the Canadian saw as a much-needed offensive upgrade in Jonathan Drouin.

A bad trade? It appears to be with Sergachev starring at both ends of the ice while Drouin is struggling to find consistency. The 25-year-old Quebecer has shown signs of life — most recently alongside Nick Suzuki in the playoffs — but, unless he can do it night after night, this deal looks like a loss for the Canadiens.

Five worst trades in Canadiens history

Thursday: No. 4
Friday: No. 3:
Saturday: No. 2
Sunday: No. 1

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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