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Thrashers trade Brent Sopel, Nigel Dawes to Canadiens for Ben Maxwell, 4th rounder

Eric Boulton, Brent Sopel

Atlanta Thrashers left wing Eric Boulton, left, is congratulated by teammate defenseman Brent Sopel after scoring a goal for a hat trick during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 7-1. (AP Photo/David Goldman)


The Montreal Canadiens are doing their best to beef up their blueline before the trade deadline is up. Their most recent acquisition is former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel, whom the Habs acquired along with Nigel Dawes in a trade that sent Ben Maxwell and their fourth round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers. Sopel joins Paul Mara as the team’s recent defensive acquisitions, costing them a fourth and five round pick separate trades.

Sopel is in the last season of a deal that registers a $2.33 million salary cap hit. He is a rugged defenseman who had some shaky years in Chicago (only 23 games played in 2008-09, less than 15 minutes per game last season) only to become a difference maker in their playoff run, with his time on ice jumping more than three minutes (18:30) in that Cup chase.

Dawes has been passed around the league quite a bit lately, going from Phoenix to the Rangers to Calgary and Atlanta since March 2009. He only played nine games with Atlanta this season, spending most of his season with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.

Ben Maxwell hasn’t registered a point in his 20 career games with Montreal, so Dawes and Maxwell probably more or less negate each other as marginal-at-best NHL players. Both will likely spend most of their time in the AHL for the rest of the season, although Maxwell might have more potential in the long term.

Is this move a sign that the Thrashers are at least in moderate sell mode? Ultimately Atlanta sacrificed some depth for a fourth round pick, which is basically a shoulder shrug move.