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Canadiens Mailbag: Monahan, Slafkovsky, NHL Trade Value

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Montreal Canadiens manager Kent Hughes

Welcome back to another edition of the Canadiens Mailbag.

This week we cover Sean Monahan’s return to play, Juraj Slafkovsky’s rookie season, trade talk, Logan Mailloux’s future, and more.

Monahan Move

Great question by Carina, who hit on one of the biggest issues this season: the lack of players in the lineup who are good in transition.

Fortunately, Sean Monahan and Kirby Dach fit the bill.

Unfortunately, Monahan is almost guaranteed to be dealt by the NHL’s trade deadline, which means his presence in the Canadiens lineup is unlikely to run beyond March 3rd.

With that in mind, I’d argue Monahan would be better off playing on the wing alongside Nick Suzuki, seeing as he was one of the few players who featured on the first line that managed to produce decent numbers.

Playing with Suzuki should improve the returns for Monahan, one of the few two-way centres available in a trade.

The organization is hellbent on making Dach a centre, putting an onus on long-term value rather than short-term gains. It’s also worth noting that both Josh Anderson and Mike Hoffman have enjoyed an uptick in production since playing with Dach, which should improve their value on the trade market.

Slafkovsky’s Season

All things considered, I’d suggest Juraj Slafkovsky’s season, or rather his development was nothing short of a failure.

Of course, I’m working with the benefit of hindsight, but seeing as he finished the year with the lowest average ice time among all regularly used players, not to mention less ice time than Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Alex Galchenyuk received in their rookie years, it’s hard to argue he was put in a situation that was conducive to developing properly.

With all due respect to Jake Evans and Michael Pezzetta, you’re not going to develop into an elite talent by playing minimal minutes alongside those two on the fourth line.

He also missed time with an injury and a suspension, which only added to his chaotic year.

In retrospect, the decision to keep him in Montreal rather than send him to the 2023 World Junior Championship, was questionable, at best. The same can be said about their hesitance to send him to the Laval Rocket, as to build up some confidence in the AHL.

However, I’d also argue Slafkovsky possesses the type of mental fortitude that will allow him to quickly turn the page on his disappointing season.

We have to remember he absorbed a ridiculous amount of information since the Draft, and at just 18 years old, there’s plenty of time to turn his weaknesses into strengths.

His rookie season was a failure, and most of the factors that led to that failure were out of his control. It’s still too early to tell whether or not it will negatively impact his long-term potential.

He is, after all, the youngest player in the NHL.

We’re simply at the beginning of the beginning when it comes to his development, and he’s far from the only NHL player that went through a tumultuous rookie season.

Avalanche Targets

Now that they have dealt with their Stanley Cup hangover, as evidenced by their current five-game winning streak, the Colorado Avalanche will likely be looking for reinforcements at the trade deadline.

And they’ve been linked to Monahan throughout the season, mostly due to their lack of centre depth since Nazem Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames.

A player like Alex Newhook could be an interesting asset for the Canadiens. He’s a centre, and at 21 he’s in the perfect age range, but I get the sense the Avalanche are not interested in further depleting their centre depth, even if Monahan is part of the trade.

One factor that could give the Canadiens some leverage is the Avalanche’s salary cap situation next season, Newhook’s entry-level contract is set to expire, and he’s due for a raise. Colorado has 13 players under contract next season, with less than $13 million in cap space, which may force a move.

But realistically speaking, I don’t think Newhook is on the table at the moment.

Mailloux’s Future

Now that the Canadiens have (rightfully) taken the PR hit due to the selection, I don’t think they’ll be in any hurry to trade Mailloux.

Simply put, even though he’s producing a lot in the CHL, his trade value is lower than his potential impact on the team.

In my opinion, Mailloux is a long-term project since he missed a significant part of his development, and the team is projecting him as a potential member of the blue line rather than a trade chip.

 

Habs History

Players, management, coaches and anyone else involved with interacting with Canadiens fans should absolutely have a strong knowledge of the team’s glorious past.

For example, if you somehow don’t know who the Pocket Rocket happens to be, you probably shouldn’t be hosting an event. It’s insulting to the fans.

The franchise is moving towards writing a new chapter, and that’s important given how often they’ve relied on history for marketing purposes, but they cannot forget the reason why the Canadiens are one of the most famous sports franchises in the world.

As an added bonus, any lessons learned from watching Jean Beliveau (on and off the ice) will serve players well.

No one expects players to know exactly when Tom Johnson won his Norris Trophy, but working for the Canadiens, in any capacity, comes with a certain level of responsibility, and relatively accurate historical knowledge of the franchise certainly falls within the realm of reasonable expectations.

Hutson Hype

No.

As exciting as Lane Hutson has been this season, we have to remember he’s only 22 games into his NCAA career, and still has a lot of information to absorb.

He’s excelling due to raw talent, but that won’t be the case in the NHL, where systems and strategies play a much more important role.

It’s important to remember he’s only 18 years old.

He can stand to improve some of his defensive positioning and his decision-making, especially when he’s deep in the offensive zone.

When it comes to an exciting prospect like Hutson, there’s a certain temptation to fast-track things, but the NHL is littered with a long list of prospects that were rushed and eventually failed to meet expectations.

Sean Farrell, on the other hand, is much more likely to join the team at the end of the season, schedule permitting.

Draft Value

I don’t get the impression an offer sheet will occur, mostly because Hughes has made it clear he wants to add more first-round picks to his Draft cupboard, rather than using the ones he has to acquire an RFA.

The 2023 Draft is projected to be one of the best drafts in recent history and will end up being a crucial aspect of the rebuild.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the team decides to move a Draft pick or two, to improve their position in the Draft, but I doubt their own first-round pick is in play. The same can be said about Florida’s first-round pick. The talent in the draft is simply too strong to risk a move that involves the aforementioned picks.

If anything, they’ll likely be more interested in moving one of their surplus fourth-round picks.

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Pierre B.

An offer sheet can be signed on July 1st at the earliest, i.e. after the 2023 draft (June 28-29). Thus, the compensation would be 2024 draft picks. Because the Canadiens do not have their second-round pick, Hughes is limited to an offer sheet in the 4.2 to 6.3 M$ range (compensation: 1 first-round pick and 1 third-round pick) or one below 2.1 M$ (compensation: at most, 1 third-round pick).

Gord Janicijevic

We know what you meant Mark, but you got it backwards when talking about Slaf: “and at just 18 years old, there’s plenty of time to turn his strengths into weaknesses…”

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