The Montreal Canadiens would like to add a third 1st-round pick, and it might not be as impossible as we’ve been led to believe.
Since the start of the season, the 2023 NHL Draft has been propped up as being one of the strongest in recent memory; and rightfully so.
With the likes of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov and more at the top; it’s certainly the draft with the highest likelihood to produce stars at the top in bunches.
In consequence, there have been reports that contending teams may be more reluctant than in previous years to move their top picks for reinforcements at the NHL Trade Deadline, because teams could realistically get an NHL player well into the late stages of the 1st round of this class.
In a recent interview conducted with TSN Analyst Craig Button, the former NHL GM was quick to paint the positioning of the 2023 1st-round picks being untouchable as posturing from contending teams looking to use the quality of the draft as leverage.
“Well, those teams that are locked into picking there, they’ll trade their 1st-round picks,” said Button on the perception that contending teams would retain their 1st-round picks. “It’s 100% posturing, because, if you’re the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs, they’re all in to try and compete for the Stanley Cup.”
In Button’s estimation, teams won’t be as stingy as we’re currently being led to believe, especially with top teams now starting to separate themselves from the pack in January.
“If it takes a 1st-round draft pick to get a player they think could help him, that 1st-round pick is going out the door; I don’t care how good this draft is,” said Button regarding the ever-present pressure to win now. “For those franchises, this is not about this year’s draft, this is about this year’s team on the ice and competing for a Cup. Posturing 100%, and they have to.”
There has been a hesitancy across the NHL to openly admit a player’s worth being that of a 2023 1st-round pick, outside of can’t-miss rentals like Bo Horvat or Ryan O’Reilly, but that will soon change.
Montreal Hockey Now has learned that the parity in the Wild Card race, especially in the Eastern Conference, has general managers looking for moves; and, the longer they wait, the better-positioned sellers will be to capitalize and extract those coveted picks.
It may delay trades to the very last days before the NHL Trade Deadline, but, the longer it takes, the more the balance of power will shift from buyers to sellers; similar to last year.
As we saw, the Montreal Canadiens outwaited his rivals and was able to extract his given price on players like Ben Chiarot, Arturri Lehkonen and Brett Kulak.
The belief is that, as we return from the All-Star break, the possibility of 2023 1st-round picks being available will become more realistic, especially with more clarity in the standings.
Let the poker game begin!