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Canadiens Mailbag: Xhekaj, Trade Options, Monahan, Caufield



Montreal Canadiens forward Sean Monahan

Welcome back to another edition of the Canadiens mailbag!

As per usual, Habs fans provided us with a plethora of questions, and we’re going to get to all of them at some point, but due to the popularity of the mailbag, we’ll have to run another edition on Friday to answer all the queries.

This week we discuss Sean Monahan’s trade value, Arber Xhekaj’s injury, Carey Price’s contract, Levon Helm’s brilliance, and much more.

If you want your question answered in the next edition of the Canadiens mailbag, make sure to add it to the comments below the article.

Monahan Matter

First off, violets are violet, right?

I know blue rhymes with more words, and by using violet we’d be reducing our rhyming options significantly unless the apple of our eye happens to be a pilot, but for the most part, violets are definitely violet.

Unless they’re blue. Or white. Or yellow.

Wait, I forgot where I was going with this one.

Oh yeah, the Sean Monahan dossier.

I think for the most part, everyone, including Kent Hughes and Monahan, is disappointed with the lengthy recovery period for Monahan’s lower-body injury.

It’s a tale of caution for all general managers when it comes to assets that are likely to be moved in the future.

And seeing as teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets are holding players out of the lineup due to “trade reasons”, it seems like other teams have taken notice.

But even if Monahan, who seems to be approaching a return to play, does not play many games between now and the March 3rd NHL trade deadline, I get the sense his value remains reasonably high.

There are very few 200-foot centres available on the trade market, especially now that Bo Horvat has been moved. There are a few other centres available, players, like Max Domi or Jonathan Toews, but statistically speaking, they’re disastrous in their own zone.

Toews certainly carries a perception that he can make a positive impact on a roster, but that’s been far from the truth in recent years.

Therefore, if you’re a team that actually listens to your data analysis department, a centre like Monahan remains one of the best options on the trade market.

A late first-round pick is probably still in play.

He improves every line he plays on, is fantastic in transition, is great in the faceoff dot, is defensively responsible and creates time and space for his linemates in the offensive zone.

There’s very little to dislike about his skill set.

His health status is a concern, but as long as he plays a few games between now and March 3rd, I’m not overly worried about the possible return in a trade.

And if he’s ready a little earlier than anticipated, I’d recommend the Canadiens take the same route as the Coyotes did with Jakub Chychrun. Keep him out of the lineup for trade reasons once he proves he’s healthy enough to resume play.

As an aside, a stick tap goes out to Blain for his service in the Royal Canadian Navy.

I used to know a few sailors that would have fun firing tracers at night, watching them skip off the waves like a flat rock thrown in a lake, but with a much higher entertainment factor.

Is that still common practice? Was I even allowed to mention it?

If not, I retract my previous statement. It definitely never happened.

Arber’s Ascension

Claude-André wants to know why Xhekaj’s contract did not slide last year, even if he spent the entirety of the 2021-22 season in the Ontario Hockey League.

It’s a great question and seeing as the Canadiens are in the midst of a rebuild, contract slides are worth keeping in mind going forward.

Simply put, Xhekaj, who was 20 years old when he signed his entry-level contract, did not qualify to slide.

The clause only really applies to 18 or 19-year-old players.

Via CapFriendly:

What is an Entry Level Slide?

If a player who is signed to an entry-level contract and is 18 or 19 years of age (as of September 15 of the signing year), does not play in a minimum of 10 NHL games (including both regular season and playoffs; AHL games do not count), their contract is considered to ‘slide’, or extend, by one year. For example, if a player signed an ELC for three seasons from 2015-16 to 2017-2018, and their contract slides, their contract is now effective from 2016-17 to 2018-19. An exception to this rule is that if the player is 19 on September 15 of the first year of their contract, and turns 20 between September 16 and December 31, their contract does not slide.

Players who sign at 18 years old are eligible to have their contract extended for 2 seasons. This extension does not apply if the player turns 20 between September 16 and December 31 in his signing year. Signing bonuses do not slide and are paid to the player regardless of a slide, this causes the annual average of the players contract to change, and therefore the cap hit decreases for this player.”

Carey’s Coin

In this case, salary is key.

Shea Weber’s contract was front-loaded and driven by signing bonuses.

He will get $3 million from the Vegas Golden Knights this season. The following three years he’ll be owed $1 million.

In total, that’s $6 million, a fairly reasonable amount of cash to liberate some much-needed cap space.

Price, on the other hand, is owed a lot more.

Like Weber, his contract was front-loaded and included big signing bonuses, but there’s still a lot of money left on the books

He’s still owed $17.5 million in signing bonuses in the next three years, not to mention his base salary, which adds another $6 million to the equation.

That’s over $23.5 million in cash, which will mitigate some of the trade opportunities.

Some teams may enquire about a potential trade, especially if they’re close to the max allowed under the current salary cap and want to use his LTIR relief funds to bolster their lineup, but it if the Canadiens do receive an offer, it’s likely to come from a cash-rich team.

Cole’s Contract

I wrote an in-depth article regarding the potential annual average value (AAV) for Cole Caufield’s upcoming contract extension.

You can check out the comparable contracts by clicking here.

It’s impossible to predict the exact amount, but it’s starting to become clear that Caufield’s extension will cost the Canadiens between $7 and $8 million per season.

Some are concerned about salary structure, and the possibility that Caufield may end up making more than Nick Suzuki, but seeing as the salary cap has gone up, we need to keep in mind the percentage of the salary cap, rather than the raw number.

Suzuki’s cap hit percentage (without bonuses) was 9.66 percent when he signed his deal in 2021. There’s a possibility that Caufield may end up getting paid more than Suzuki ($7.75 million AAV), but it may also count as a lower percentage of the cap ceiling.

Levi’s Larceny

Two things we need to address before we get into trade possibilities.

No.1, Levon Helm was one of the best drummers in music history, and I have an incredibly difficult time not thinking about his soul-filled voice and perfect timing whenever Devon Levi is mentioned.

No.2, if you haven’t had a chance to watch Levon at his best, take a look at the last time The Band performed ‘The Weight’ during their Last Waltz concert.

There’s so much talent on stage, and Mavis Staples certainly steals the show with her angelic voice and passionate delivery, but Levon more than holds his own.

Ask any drummer and they’ll tell you, singing while drumming is incredibly difficult.

Doing it live? Borderline impossible

Doing it alongside some of the most beautiful voices in music history, during a live show?

Well, that’s unheard of, unless you happen to be Levon Helm.

Alright, back to the trade options.

I know a lot of Canadiens fans are worried about the lack of goaltending prospects in the system, and it’s a valid concern.

They shouldn’t overlook Jakub Dobes, but for the most part, goaltending is the weak point in the organization’s prospect pool.

But when it comes to possible trades, I’d suggest Canadiens fans familiarize themselves with Levon Helm’s catalogue, because that’s the closest they’ll get to Devon Levi.

The Sabres won’t trade him unless they receive a jaw-dropping offer. He’s been a dominant presence in the NCAA, and his show-stealing performance on Monday at the Beanpot was simply a reminder that the best is yet to come for the young goaltender.

Northeastern played decently well, but without Levi, Harvard would have probably cruised to an easy win.

I am awful at gauging trade value, but I assume any trade that would pique Buffalo’s interest would likely be unreasonable for a team like the Canadiens.

Think of it this way, if you were a Sabres fan, what would you expect to receive in exchange for one of the best goalie prospects in the world?

Probably someone along the lines of Lane Hutson.

However, even if Levi is not available, that doesn’t mean the Sabres should be removed from the conversation when it comes to possible trades involving goaltending prospects.

There are other interesting options available in Buffalo’s system.

Billy Bat

Without checking, I can guarantee the answer to this question is Perth’s own Billy Smith, the ankle-slashing, blocker-thrashing legend who spent the majority of his career with the Islanders.

To get a better idea of how Smith went about his business, think of Jordan Binnington’s constant tantrums in recent years.

However, the important distinction here is that Smith fought his own battles, rather than starting problems and forcing his teammates to take care of the fallout.

His first fight opponent? None other than Dave Semenko.

Smith slashed more ankles than spikes on a Roman chariot, speared more opponents than sarissas in a Greek phalanx, fought more players than a boxing veteran, and was held in the highest regard by his teammates because he was always the first player ready to defend his team.

That’s not to say he always won.

Lanny McDonald once took exception to Smith trying to break his leg and fed the Ontario native his lunch. But full marks to Smith, who was just 5’9 and weighed under 180 lbs.

He may have started most of the issues on the ice, but Smith never let his teammates fight his battles for him.


Arber’s Armory

Arber Xhekaj did not participate in practice, which is as close as we’ve gotten to an update in his case.

But as someone who has had multiple shoulder injuries, I can say, with confidence, that his reaction on the ice following the punch that fully extended his shoulder was concerning.

Again, I am in no way qualified to offer a diagnosis, but when it comes to shoulders, the injuries tend to have two distinct recovery timelines.

Either it’s a minor injury that does not require surgery, which comes with a relatively short recovery time (a few weeks), or, it’s a significant injury that does require surgery and takes five or six months to recover.

The manner in which Xhekaj’s arm was hanging as he exited the ice leads me to believe it’s the latter, but again, this is pure speculation on my part and is driven by bad memories regarding my shoulder issues.

Doctors tend to push off shoulder surgeries until it’s absolutely necessary because it’s one of the most complicated joints in the body.

The shoulder has such a huge range of motion that repairing it is a difficult proposal, and there are no guarantees it will ever properly recover.

Slafkovsky Status

We’ve heard very little when it comes to Juraj Slafkovsky.

And that’s good news.

At this point, the only reason we’d hear about Slafkovsky is if there has been a problem during his recovery.

I know a lot of people are rolling their eyes while reading this, especially since the Canadiens’ track record for health issues has been questionable in the last two seasons, but in this particular case, there’s no reason to be concerned about Slafkovsky.

I’d argue the Canadiens likely prevented any additional injuries by shutting him down early.

On that note, we may see him on the ice relatively soon in a Slovak jersey.

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Arber will be out 6-8 weeks is my guess.
Replay Chiarot’s injury to his hand and how he left the ice.
Side by side its identical i shit you not.

I’ve seen different guys go off in different ways , its usually hard to tell because the context in how the injury happens usually vary’s. In this case how it happened was identical in terms of the Fight and the way he skated off the ice.

If you look at it , the last punch Xhekaj lands before wrestled to the ice.
His hand rides up desharnais should weird and he connected full forced with the bottom 2 knuckles only pirmarily with the pressure on the pinky knuckly. He’s got atleast 1 busted knuckle if not 2 .

Ron Barry

Excellent piece of writing re: Levon transition to Devon – well done. I also agree that Levi is beyond reach. That said, Portillo is a very real target who can be a free agent this summer and is surely a buy-low candidate. He’s a big kid and is worth a mid-rounder to partner with Primeau in Laval and see what he’s got. Mtl has a boatload of draft picks of the mid-round variety so this is a low-risk move. On another Habs-related note, I’m curious about your thoughts on whether the improved play of Drouin could lead to a Monahan/Drouin package (50 per cent retained on both players) to Colorado? “Ifs” aside, it could potentially net a decent return based on a healthy Monahan and an improved Drouin.

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