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NHL Trade Talk

Habs & Capitals Could Rekindle Talks With Backstrom Return

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Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

The Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals had discussions earlier on this season, and the return of Nicklas Backstrom may prompt them up again.

Earlier this fall, news came out that general manager Kent Hughes had been working the phones and Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan was one of his more substantial callers.

The Capitals and Canadiens find themselves in a very similar Cap situation, but, in the Capitals’ case, theirs isn’t permanent and will require some moves. Unlike the Canadiens, who know Carey Price is to miss the entirety of the season, the Capitals should have Nicklas Backstrom, and his $9.2M cap hit returning to the lineup within the next few weeks.

The Capitals have used up $12.225M of their $15.555M Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) relief space, but, when Backstrom returns, they’ll have to shed that $6.3M in salary right away. The way the Capitals’ cap structure looks right now, they would have to run a 21-man roster just to stay under the salary cap and risk waiving some players and losing them for nothing.

That’s where Montreal is well-positioned to swoop in. Montreal Hockey Now has learned that the Canadiens are still keeping tabs on the Washington Capitals.

Montreal Canadiens Have Flexibility

The Canadiens have run into a rash of injuries as of late and could be convinced to take on a contract, given they’ll have nearly $4.5M in LTIR space once their injured players return.

The other point here is, for teams like the Capitals or the Canadiens, who are using LTIR, making a trade now or later in the season changes nothing to their cap space, because they don’t accrue extra space while on LTIR like you normally would if you were cap compliant.

Without a trade the Washington Capitals will likely have to waive some interesting pieces, including Stanley Cup champion Nicolas Aubé-Kubel.

Such a move would kill most of the Capital’s forward depth and force them to play with the minimum amount of players.

Being stuck on LTIR for the season, there is no benefit to trying to wait it out for the Capitals, and, with 15 other teams in the NHL currently using LTIR, very few have the flexibility to make moves.

The Montreal Canadiens, who have openly spoken about making moves for the future, could try and make a move to help the Capitals wiggle out of their incoming cap issues.

Be it by way of trade by involving themselves in a three-way trade where they could be the cap broker and retain 50% on an outgoing, expiring contract or by targetting slumping forward Anthony Mantha in exchange for one of their veteran forwards at 50% retained.

The Canadiens have the flexibility to make some moves, and have been looking to get creative since the start of the season.

Creative Options

The Montreal Canadiens have shown a penchant for being creative and pouncing on the needs of their rivals in the league since Kent Hughes has taken over.

There is certainly potential for a move of this magnitude after the Roster Trade Freeze; as many teams are beginning to get antsy about their position in the standings.

With Washington playing .531 hockey as of late; you can expect that they won’t wait too long to remedy their depth issues right now, as they need all hands on deck

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David Trott

Hughes is creative and patient. He likely has similar options elsewhere so it’ll be fun to see what he does when crunch time arrives.

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