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Play Of Young D-men Gives Canadiens Leverage On Trade Market

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens will soon be with eight healthy NHL calibre defencemen when Mike Matheson returns, and the surprising play of their youth may provide them with the best leverage to make a deal.

Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic have been surprisingly good to start the season; outplaying some of the more seasoned veterans on the team on a nightly basis.

Having a strong nucleus of youngsters growing together at the same time is a positive sign for the future, but, with Mike Matheson returning, there will be a shuffle down the pecking order.

Simply put, the Canadiens have too many left-handed defencemen on their roster at the moment, and, rather than merely assigning Arber Xhekaj to Laval, they may look to take advantage of the growing antsiness on the trade market.

NHL sources across the league have confirmed to Montreal Hockey Now that there is a more pressing atmosphere to get things moving on the trade front than in previous years; likely due to large amounts of inactivity during the summer.

The Canadiens have had a plethora of high-ranking NHL executives take in their games as of late; seemingly building a market for their players; but the assumption was always that it was their forwards, not defencemen, that were being showcased.

With Guhle leading the charge and Harris being a stabilizing force with Kovacevic, Hughes’ timeline for advancing the plan on his back end may have just been sped up.

Even waiver-wire pickup Jonathan Kovacevic was told to find an apartment in Montreal, a sign that the 25-year-old has impressed head coach Martin St-Louis enough to warrant consistent usage.

The Canadiens could be under a lot of pressure to maximize their return for the future and potentially move a veteran defenceman in this case.

 

But Who?

The easiest and most valuable candidate to move at this junction would be Joel Edmundson, who has been at the centre of many conversations between general manager Kent Hughes and his peers.

The last remaining member of the defensive core that took the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, Edmundson’s wealth of experience and steady game would be a boon for many teams right now looking to shore up their backend.

Given the flux of players on the left side, and the fact that the Canadiens have Mattias Norlinder and William Trudeau in Laval (not to mention Lane Hutson coming soon as well), it may be the perfect timing to cash in, again, on a position of strength.

It may be a shocking outcome, but the Canadiens used their organizational strength to their advantage at the 2022 NHL Draft to acquire Kirby Dach, and a similar move could be made here to further the long-term success of the club.

However, Edmundson isn’t the only name that could be of interest, as David Savard’s name has begun to be suggested across the league.

Most recently, Jean-Charles Lajoie of TVA Sports suggested David Savard as a potential target for some teams shopping for long-term help on the blue line.

He pointed out the Ottawa Senators as being potential suitors, given their young blueline and their strength on the left side.

It could be a valuable move to make for the Canadiens to save the cap space and allow Matheson to move to the right, thereby allowing the young defencemen to stay in the lineup.

Talks are ongoing, but the strong play of the Canadiens’ youth will continue to help Hughes maintain a high position of leverage when it comes to this chaotic trade market.

 

Chaotic Trade Market

Speaking of the trade market, things are said to be in disarray at the moment.

The absolute chaos in the standings right now is offering the least amount of visibility we’ve seen in recent years, and it has teams like Ottawa, Anaheim, Vancouver and Washington have all been confirmed to be in extensive talks with their rivals as of late.

Coincidentally, all four of those clubs have had significant representation at the Bell Centre during the Canadiens’ last home games this month, with general managers and assistant general managers making the trip to watch the game, on top of regular regional scouts.

With half the NHL currently utilizing LTIR, the Canadiens aren’t the only team inhibited from making big moves, but, the Canadiens do have $2.5M in LTIR wiggle room to play around with, should a team need to send a short-term contract the other way to make the money work.

The Montreal Canadiens are hot on the trail of adding a third 1st round pick for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, and this could be the way it gets done.

 

Kent Hughes Open For Business, Looking To Add 1st Round Pick

 

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Billy739

Waive Kovacevich.
We paid nothing , Lost nothing.
Sending Xhekaj down just to keep Kovacevich when Matheson returns is nuts!

I mean sure the big guys decent enough.
But he’s a 25 year old LD not even potentially Kulak level but more of a Joe Morrow style 7th D without the offensive consistency.

If they arent part of the long term solution then Bye Bye.
You dont sacrifice what Xhekaj brings for what Kovacevich doesnt.

Hab in exile

Kovacevic is not going anywhere. He has the best analytics numbers on our defense and that is what the the current management uses to determine a players worth. They told him to get an appartment this week, because he is part of at least the medium term plans if not long term. If we can get a first from a desperate team in exchange of Savard or Edmundson then that is a no brainer.

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