The Montreal Canadiens made a depth move on Thursday night, making an interdivisional trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning to acquire former 5th round pick Nikita Nesterov. The team parted ways with defensive prospect Jonathan Racine and a 6th round pick in the upcoming draft.
Canadiens acquire defenseman Nikita Nesterov from Tampa, in return for defenseman Jonathan Racine and a 6th round pick in 2017.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 27, 2017
Nesterov is set to become a restricted free agent this summer with a $725,000 cap hit. He has scored three goals and 12 points in 35 contests this season, just two goals and five points away from setting new career highs. He departs the Lightning as the team’s best possession driver from the back end with a 54.75% Corsi-for percentage, allowing the least amount of shot attempts per 60 minutes on the brigade with 28.7 against. He will likely slot in with either Mark Barberio or Zach Redmond on the bottom pair, pending another move the Canadiens make with their blueline with Andrei Markov still having no timetable for his return and Greg Pateryn expected to return by the middle of next month. Nesterov will be 24 in March with 119 NHL games under his belt.
Racine is a former third round pick by the Florida Panthers in the same draft class as Nesterov. He’s played one game in the NHL and has a reputation as a fighter in the minor leagues with little to no offensive tools in his arsenal. In 245 QMJHL contests, he racked up 374 penalty minutes, and in the AHL, where he’s been for the past four seasons, he’s scored one goal and served 391 sin bin minutes. He will also turn 24 in May.
If and when Markov and Pateryn return, the Canadiens will have ten defensemen on their roster, opening up the possibility for more movement. General Manager Marc Bergevin has made Nathan Beaulieu available in the past, and the Canadiens do need some power down the middle.
For now, however, Nesterov is a move to bolster the defense depth of Montreal for the time being.