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Habs Mailbag: Likeliest Trades, Defensive Prospects, Dubois



Montreal Canadiens forward Sean Monahan

Due to high demand, we put together another edition of the fan-favourite Canadiens mailbag this week.

We cover several subjects, including the NHL trade market, potential trade targets, goaltending prospects, the Pierre-Luc Dubois dossier, and much more.

If you’re looking for more Habs-related questions and answers, make sure to check out Monday’s mailbag, and if you’d like to have your question answered in the next mailbag simply drop your query in the comment section below.

Defenceman Decisions

Kent Hughes has discussed the discrepancy in talent on both sides, hinting that he may use the imbalance to acquire assets that would help him achieve his long-term vision for the Habs.

Let’s break this down into three sections.

Short term

We can safely say Joel Edmundson is a popular name on the NHL trade market. If the Canadiens choose to move him, they’ll liberate a significant chunk of ice time, which should make things easier for the young defencemen in the lineup.

Earning a job in the NHL as a rookie defender is incredibly difficult. Being a healthy scratch and attempting to thrive in that situation? Well, that’s much worse.

Inconsistent usage has been the death knell of many promising defencemen.

Moving Edmundson would, at the very least, solve the logjam to close out the season, ending the development-harming rotation.

Medium Term

The Habs have a wealth of defensive options in the AHL, but unfortunately, very few of them happen to be right-handed shots. Madison Bowey shoots from the right, but Otto Leskinen, Nicolas Beaudin, Corey Schueneman, William Trudeau, Mattias Norlinder, and Gianni Fairbrother all play on the left.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Hughes tries to address the imbalance at the deadline, although I don’t expect him to lose any sleep if he can’t find a relatively young defenceman as a cheap add-on in a potential trade.

Long Term

Using a surplus to address a shortage is almost always a logical business decision, but when it comes to the defensive prospects playing outside the NHL or AHL, Hughes will have to proceed with caution.

As you point out, not all defensive prospects will make it.

Statistically speaking, very few will.

Only 21 percent of drafted defencemen end up playing 200 games or more in the NHL.

If we jump into some dirty math, that would mean only two of the following prospects who are still playing junior hockey would make it to the big leagues: Lane Hutson, Jayden Struble, Adam Engstrom, Arvid Henriksson, Daniil Sobolev, Dmitri Kostenko, Petteri Numeri, Logan Mailloux, and Miguel Tourigny.

As much as we like to think the prospect cupboards are overflowing with talent on the defensive side of things, the numbers dictate that the excess of valuable defensive assets can, and probably will turn into a deficit at some point, especially if Hughes dips into his prospect pool to make a trade.

Deadline Deals

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I am a sucker for a good Simpsons reference.

The first few seasons of the show were so brilliant that an entire generation has their favourite throwaway line that made a lasting impression.

Mine varies from day to day, but when it comes down to it, Ralph reigns supreme.

Hi Super Nintendo Chalmers!

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed there’s dwindling interest in The Simpsons’ references on social media.

It’s confusing.

Am I so out of touch???

No. It’s the children that are wrong.

As for the Habs players that are likely to move, I recently broke down the odds for forwards in this article.

From a defensive standpoint, I’d add Joel Edmundson as the likeliest trade target. He’s already garnered a fair amount of interest, and teams tend to get a little insecure about their physical play as they prepare to enter the playoffs.

If I had to make a bet, I’d say the Habs will make three trades from here to the deadline, with one trade happening roughly a week beforehand, possibly involving one of their big trade chips (Edmundson and Sean Monahan).

Hughes will then make two more trades at the deadline, involving the leftover trade chip and someone we did not necessarily expect to be moved. All signs point to Josh Anderson as a likely target, but I’ll go against the grain and say someone along the lines of Rem Pitlick will be moved.

If any of these predictions come true, expect me to be unbearable on Twitter.

If they fail to land, I will whistle innocently as I delete the article and pretend it never existed.

My top three in no particular order are Jakub Dobes, Jakub Dobes, and Jakub Dobes.

According to European Habs prospect expert Patrik Bexell, Frederik Dichow has shown flashes of brilliance as Frolunda’s backup goaltender, but his numbers pale in comparison to starter Lars Johansson’s stats.

20-year-old Joe Vrbetic is also struggling from a statistical point of view, posting a .880 save percentage in 18 starts for the Trois-Riviere Lions, but we must always evaluate ECHL stats with an important caveat: defensive structure is wishful thinking in that league.

Emmett Croteau joins Dichow and Vrbetic in the sub-.900 club, posting a .897 save percentage in 13 starts for the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks.

There’s plenty of time for them to find their rhythm, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue they’re enjoying encouraging seasons.

That leaves Dobes as the only goalie that’s producing good numbers.

He’s enjoying yet another solid year, posting a 17-10-1 record for the Ohio State Buckeyes, complete with a sparkling .919 save percentage, not to mention three shutouts.

If you get a chance to watch him play, you’ll notice he does not waste an ounce of energy, putting an onus on anticipating and fantastic positioning.

He’s also rather aggressive around the net, which is entertaining (and sometimes terrifying).

The last time I spoke to Dobes he mentioned his desire to win at all costs roughly 50 times, which tells you everything you need to know about his mentality. He’s charismatic, motivated, talented, and easily the Canadiens’ best goaltending prospect.

Centre Circumstances

Brian brings up an interesting point that I completely ignored the last time I addressed the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade situation.

With the emergence of Kirby Dach, should the Habs pursue a trade involving Dubois?


And no.

Much like defencemen, you can never have enough quality centres. Yes, Suzuki is a lock as a top-six centre, and Dach is certainly evolving into a solid anchor on the second line, but those are the only two guarantees at the moment, and that’s without keeping a potential long-term injury in mind.

Owen Beck is a very smart prospect and his skillset should easily translate to the NHL, but it will take several years before he can make a significant impact on the roster.

Evans provides good value and fills various important roles, particularly on the penalty kill, however, with all due respect, his potential tops out as a third-line centre.

Here’s what I propose: patience.

If Dubois really wants to play for the Canadiens, he can prove it by signing a one-year extension with the Jets and then making his way to the Habs once he’s a free agent.

It would not only allow the team to evaluate the progress of their young players, and thus have a better idea of their long-term centre depth, but it would also keep precious assets within the organization

But as a general answer, I would rarely hesitate to acquire a star centre when they’re available, especially if they’re relatively young. Every centre can play on the wing, but the same cannot be said about wingers.

Worst case scenario, you have an excess of one of the most sought-after assets in the league and can use it to solve other underlying problems in the lineup.

Predicting Paperwork

Instead of dodging the question and then rambling endlessly about the different possible outcomes while trying to anticipate every single approach and counterpoint, I’m going to answer this one directly.

My prediction for the next Habs trade is as follows:

The Montreal Canadiens will trade Joel Edmundson (50% retained salary) to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 fourth-round pick, and Matt Irwin.

Is that too greedy? Statistically speaking, absolutely. The Capitals would be smart to avoid that type of deal.

But the same was said about the Ben Chiarot trade, and we all know how that ended up.

As a dark horse trade candidate other than the aforementioned Pitlick trade, I’ll say Jake Allen will be sent to a Western Conference team in exchange for a mid-round pick. Or maybe it’ll be Chris Wideman, but I get the sense a trade will occur that’ll catch most of us off guard.

Full disclosure: I’m terrible at predicting trades, and consequently, there’s little to no chance either trade will happen.

Goaltending Guidance

Personally, I hate the idea of spending valuable assets to either acquire or draft a goaltender.

There are simply too many goalies out there and too few opportunities for them to prove their worth. That leads to several talented goaltenders falling through the cracks, which is a market inefficiency I’d like to see the Habs exploit.

Samuel Montembeault’s emergence has given them a little more runway to address the organizational weakness, not to mention, evaluate the progress of the goaltending prospects throughout the system.

As for potential goaltenders on the market, I’m unfortunately rather ignorant about the players available, which limits my ability to give an honest answer rather than just pointing to a few random goalies I think may end up moving.

If you’ll allow me, I’ll verify every goaltender in every organization at some point in the future, which should yield a much better answer.


Smelling Salts

I have been watching quite a few games where I’ve seen players passing around something that they inhale – like smelling salts. What gives with this? I get smelling salts have a place, but to be passed around? Can you clarify the mystery of what it is and why players are passing it around? What effect are they looking for?

Those are indeed smelling salts. They’re laced with ammonia and come in small packets that players crush and sniff while on the bench.

In my personal experience, smelling salts do little to nothing, although they did seem to slightly improve the airflow through my nostrils once the irritation passed, which is obviously an advantage for any athlete, especially if they have a deviated septum, as I do.

If I had to guess, it was probably just an elevated heart rate that led to more oxygen being delivered to my body, which is something you can achieve without smelling those awful little things.

From a medical point of view, which I am absolutely not qualified to offer, passing around something that’s in direct contact with a mucous membrane sounds like a terrible idea, but these players are in such close contact for the majority of the season that I really don’t think it’ll change much when it comes to transmitting any possible virus.

When I inquired about the value of using smelling salts, players suggested it improves their energy levels as well as their alertness.

In other words, it lights a fire under their butts thanks to a perceived surge of adrenaline.

There’s only one problem: there’s no scientific proof that using smelling salts improves anything, except maybe your ability to tear up on the spot.

Unless you consider the placebo effect.

If a player thinks one of their habits is helping and enjoys better results because of it, the actual physiological changes are irrelevant unless they present a long-term negative threat to their health.

All that matters is that they think there’s wizardry in that little white package, and they play better once they consume their magic potion.


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Jack Sanderson

Saw a coach doing the smelling salts recently. Not sure what he had in mind???

Pierre B.

A trade to address the RHD/LHD imbalance before the 2023 deadline could occur with LAK.
Most likely players or prospects involved:
RHD from LAK: Durzi, Spence or Grans
LHD from MTL: Edmundson or Harris

Even if Hughes trade both these players before the deadline, he’ll still have 3 LHD on his roster (Matheson, Guhle and Xhekaj) as well as a few call-up options in the AHL (Beaudin, Schueneman, Trudeau, Norlinder), a NCAA prospect to sign this year (Struble) and amongst the top prospects in the pipeline (Hutson, Engström).

A really shocking trade would be one that involve LHD Guhle from MTL for RHD Clarke from LAK. With Guhle injured, we don’t have to worry about that one, at least for now.


You forgot Bedard in our centre depth. 🙂

Even without him, we could leave Dach on the wing if we get dubois if we were loaded.
Caulfield Suzuki Dach
Slaf Dubois Bedard
Or maybe beck or Bedard centre the 3rd king.

Also, they should have traded dadonov at the start of the season. His value went down if anything. Unless his addition was to help us tank.

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