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Canadiens Playing Familiar Game Leading Up To Trade Deadline

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens have propped up the value of their pending free agents quite well in the past, and they seem to be setting up for more of the same this season.

Last season, the Montreal Canadiens had a handful of free agents available for trade, given their career trajectory, salary demands and the direction the Habs had chosen to take.

Nonetheless, outside of Ben Chiarot, whom General Manager Kent Hughes openly admitted to being on the trade block, the Canadiens remained coy with their remaining free agents.

It seems we’re seeing more of the same already this season, as the Canadiens are setting the field up for what will be an eventful NHL Trade Deadline this season, especially as it pertains to Sean Monahan.

On a recent segment of TSN Insider Trading, NHL insider Pierre Lebrun mentioned that the plan was still to move Monahan at the deadline, but that his recent play has clouded the road ahead.

“It sort of felt like a forgone conclusion that the Montreal Canadiens were going to turn around and flip Sean Monahan before the Trade Deadline and get another asset in all of this,” said Lebrun on where things stood in August. “But here’s the interesting thing: He’s fit in well and he’s played well. The Habs have been impressed with him. What’s happening right now is that Habs management is asking themselves if they should keep him. I still think it’s more likely they move him.”

This kind of stance from General Manager Kent Hughes is nothing new, as his positioning on Monahan’s future with the club mirrors exactly what he said about Brett Kulak and Artturi Lehkonen last season heading into Trade Deadline.

On the most recent episode of 32 Thoughts, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman continued to stress that nothing has changed in regards to Monahan’s status and that the Canadiens haven’t had any discussions with the centre as of yet on a trade or extension.

“Monahan is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. There were some rumours earlier in the year. They told him to relax and that they’d let him know later on in the year,” said Friedman on where things stood between Sean Monahan and the Canadiens. “They haven’t made any decisions. They’ll speak to him later in the season about where everybody stands.”

Thus, it seems the Canadiens are already setting the stage for making their rivals guess as to whether they intend to keep or trade Monahan.

By making it less obvious that they would want to move him, teams will find themselves in a bidding war against themselves, but also against the Canadiens’ own potential interest in retain Monahan long-term.

It’s a similar logic to what eventually led to Lehkonen being moved to the Avalanche, as GM Joe Sakic was aggressive in attempting to pursue the two-way winger, but, ultimately, a last-minute uptick in the Avalanche’s offer with an hour left before the Trade Deadline is what sealed the deal.

While the Canadiens continue to weigh Monahan’s value to the club as a player and asset against each other, they can only benefit from drumming up the value of their most attractive assets, as they get set for the harder stretch of their season.

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