When Evgenii Dadonov was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this summer, most saw him as a cap dump and just a contract to make the money work, but the Canadiens would be best served maximizing the asset prior to the 2023 NHL Trade deadline.
The 33-year-old is far from a finished player, and his $5M cap hit for one year is far from being a problem for the Montreal Canadiens, who are looking for long-term cap flexibility. In fact, the Canadiens could take advantage of the opportunity given to them by the Golden Knights to eventually flip the soon-to-be free agent into extra assets next spring.
Dadonov himself is not a bad player, but was put in an awkward situation in Vegas, as the struggling Golden Knights didn’t have much going for them last season, the first time they missed the playoffs in their history. What is intriguing with Dadonov is that, after the Golden Knights failed to trade him to the Anaheim Ducks in what was a very public oversight on their part, Dadonov’s offensive numbers took off in a very impressive way. In the 15 games he played from the trade deadline on March 21 up until the end of the season, Dadonov put up five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in just 15 games. Ironically, he was one of the main reasons that the Golden Knights were even in the Western Conference playoff race after the NHL Trade Deadline, as he came up clutch for Vegas on multiple occasions with big goals or timely plays.
There is certainly value in a player like Dadonov, and a team could use that kind of scoring prowess and experience in their top-9 going into this season. Dadonov has shown in the past that he can be a perfect complement to an offensive line at the NHL level, and his end-of-season performance last season show’s he’s far from finished in this league. Having had experience playing with burgeoning youngsters like Jonathan Huberdeau or Alexander Barkov in Florida, perhaps playing Dadonov with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki could be a “two birds, one stone” situation for the Canadiens. It wouldn’t be outlandish to see Dadonov return to a 50-point pace playing with the Montreal Canadiens’ top offensive players, which would then position the club to flip the Russian winger at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline with 50% retention for a good asset.
Putting Dadonov in advantageous situations at even strength and on the powerplay presents the Canadiens with a win-win scenario, as the youngsters playing around him could benefit from his experience, all while giving the Canadiens a valuable trade chip down the line. It could result in the Montreal Canadiens adding some extra picks at deadline; thereby turning Weber’s contract, which many thought immovable a year ago, into a positive outcome for the team. Such a strategy would continue Kent Hughes’ trend of buying low and selling high, as he continues to try and maximize his assets en route to turning his team into a perennially competitive club.