Another trade is in the books on this very busy Thursday, just three full days before the NHL Trade Deadline.
The Atlanta Thrashers, fading from the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, have traded defenseman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for AHL forward Ben Maxwell and a fourth round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Atlanta gets a promising young forward that could immediately slide onto their active roster. At 22, Maxwell has 39 points in 47 games for AHL Hamilton. They also get a fourth round selection in the upcoming draft. As one of the young surprises earlier this season, Atlanta has high hopes for next season. This trade should give them a couple more assets to complete their path towards contention.
Montreal acquires defenseman Brent Sopel for the playoff stretch run. The 34 year old veteran defenseman is +7 for the season and should add some defensive stability behind the fast Canadiens forwards. His $2.33 million contract expires at the end of the season, making him a reasonably priced rental for Montreal. They also acquired 26 year old forward Nigel Dawes, who is currently playing for AHL Chicago. Dawes will also become a free agent at the end of the season. He gives them good forward depth for a playoff run, in case of injury to one of their active forwards.
These two acquisitions essentially use up most of Montreal's remaining cap space. With Dawes in the minors, the Canadiens should have $1.835 million cap hit remaining, giving them some room to add another mid-level piece. They may not be done trading before the deadline.