Sean Monahan’s vague health status has had many concerned, and it could significantly impact the Montreal Canadiens’ strategy leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline.
The Canadiens have announced that Sean Monahan would be out for approximately two weeks twice in the last six weeks, with the latest announcement on January 6.
Well over three weeks since that announcement, Monahan, who had begun practicing with the Canadiens in mid-January, is still nowhere to be seen and over his two-week return table.
It’s a concerning trend this season, as, similarly to Brendan Gallagher and Mike Matheson earlier on this season, injuries are announced as minor, while going on to last many weeks longer than initially anticipated.
In a lost season, you can allow your top players with nagging injuries to rest or elect for surgery, as the Canadiens did with Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky, but, with Monahan, the Canadiens are in a bit of a bind.
Sean Monahan is the Canadiens’ best rental trade chip on the NHL Trade market by a wide margin, and, should he have suffered a setback in his rehab or require surgery himself, it could have a massive impact on the Canadiens gameplan over the next four weeks.
Top six centres certainly don’t grow on trees, and his delayed return to form is already likely to ward off prospective general managers, should he return to play over the next month. That is not to say that he won’t return, but, given the fact that he’s missed eight weeks of action already, we’ve hit the major-injury threshold at this point, and there’s a possibility it could get worse.
This isn’t to say the Canadiens aren’t trying to be transparent, but they also need to be careful about how much information they do put out, especially if Monahan does return to play before the NHL Trade Deadline.
If Monahan does return after the All-Star Break and is ready to go, he may be able to net an interesting return for the Canadiens, although a 1st-round pick may be off the table at this junction, unless general manager Kent Hughes pulls a rabbit out of his hat.
It would take a strong physical test, proof that the injury is behind him, and an immediate return to pre-injury form for Sean Monahan to consider a return being as high as a 1st-round pick at this point. It’s still possible, but grows less likely after each passing day.
Montreal Canadiens Strategy Shift
If Monahan were forced to seek surgery to repair what two months of rigourous rehabbing could not, it would be a massive blow to the Canadiens’ trade strategy.
The idea of taking on a 1st-round pick from the Calgary Flames to take on Monahan, only to flip him at the NHL Trade Deadline for a 1st-round pick would have been grand larceny from the Canadiens.
However, if he was to be sidelined for the rest of the year, the Canadiens could become far more flexible in being potential salary cap brokers, or taking on bad contracts for additional assets from Cup-contending teams looking to clear salary.
Unlike other small market clubs across the league with cap space, the Canadiens are already one of the highest spenders in the NHL, and thus could take on some extra players to improve the outlook of their future.
As it currently stands the Montreal Canadiens have about $5.3M in cap space with Monahan currently on Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR).
Once the likes of Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher return from injury, the Canadiens will have to send down three players to the Laval Rocket; at least temporarily.
That process will save the Canadiens approximately $2.4M in cap space, bumping their estimated cap space to about $7.7M.
Lastly, the Canadiens could further maximize their cap space by putting Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky on LTIR, as both are expected to miss the rest of the season, giving the Canadiens an additional $1.83M in space; bringing their total up to 9.5M to play with.
On top of being able to retain salary on up to three players, 9.5M in possible cap space, should Monahan’s injury be more severe than previously thought, could be a silver lining for the Canadiens.
It may not afford them the straight-up trade scenarios they intended for, but it could open the door for them to be active on the trade front nonetheless; just not in the way they initially envisioned.
Either way, a Monahan health update shouldn’t be too far away, and that will provide clarity to both fans and Canadiens management on what comes next.