Montreal Canadiens’ NHL Trade Outlook Feeling Like Déjà Vu
The Montreal Canadiens are reportedly in for a quiet NHL Trade Deadline, but with interest in some veteran players still high; it’s all starting to feel like déjà vu.
Since taking over as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, Kent Hughes has done a wonderful job at positioning himself in favourable situations and propping up his players to his rivals.
Going into the season, the Canadiens were likely looking to do the same with the likes of Sean Monahan or Evgenii Dadonov, pending free agents that could have been flipped for more assets in the coming weeks.
However, injuries and underwhelming starts have made Hughes’ job a little more difficult.
That isn’t to say he’s going to stand pat at the NHL Trade Deadline, nor does it mean the Canadiens are low-key preparing a fire sale; it just means Hughes needs to take another, pretty familiar approach to get the needle moving on certain trade talks.
On Saturday night’s 32 Thoughts segment, NHL Insider Jeff Marek took some time to speak about the Montreal Canadiens’ current outlook for the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline given the injuries to some Canadiens veterans.
“This time around, with injuries to players like Sean Monahan and Joel Edmundson, we expect the Montreal Canadiens to be … quiet,” said Marek regarding the Canadiens’ current NHL Trade Deadline outlook. “There’s a lot of veteran players that Kent Hughes is taking calls on, but Hughes believes he wants these quality veteran players around the abundance of youth that are in the Canadiens lineup right now.”
There is a sense of déjà vu when it comes to this positioning from the Montreal Canadiens, as it greatly resembles the rhetoric put forth by the team after Ben Chiarot was removed from trade consideration.
When they moved Tyler Toffoli and Chiarot, it seemed like the Canadiens had finished their selling early; projecting the Canadiens to have a quiet March 21.
We all know what happened next.
Leading up to March 21, it was supposed to be quiet; with the Canadiens not having a particular player on their roster that they were openly shopping.
The Canadiens were presented as being seemingly content after the Chiarot and Toffoli deals, viewing their veterans as too valuable to unload, unless the offer was too good to pass up.
As a reminder, this is what general manager Kent Hughes had to say about Arturri Lehkonen, a key veteran he was looking to retain last season.
“We’re not trying to trade him right now. I think I’ve said that about a number of players on our team,” said Hughes in an interview with Sportsnet last March. “We’re not trying to trade them, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t receive phone calls with regards to them. And if something happens…”
Hughes used the same kind of positioning for Brett Kulak, who wasn’t openly being shopped, but remained a popular player in trade conversations.
“We like Brett Kulak. We don’t intend to trade him, but I can never say we won’t,” said Hughes a few days prior to the Trade Deadline. “If there’s an offer we can’t refuse, we have to listen, but we’re not out in the market offering players.”
Despite stating that they’d like to retain veterans like Brett Kulak and Arturri Lehkonen, the perception that they could be retained was an interesting bargaining tactic.
It made those veterans more valuable on the trade market, as the Canadiens publicly identified them as players they’d like to keep around; thereby sending a message to rival general managers that they’d need to blow their socks off to secure a trade.
And that’s exactly what happened. Lehkonen and Kulak were traded on March 21, hours before the NHL Trade Deadline, for returns that few saw coming just a few months prior.
Will We See A Repeat?
Although the jury is still out regarding the health of Monahan and Joel Edmundson, there are other veterans on the Montreal Canadiens that have garnered interest of late.
Their most valuable asset is undoubtedly Josh Anderson, who has been the player Hughes has received the most interest in since taking over as general manager.
There are also more considerations for players like Christian Dvorak and Mike Hoffman, whom have picked up their play of late and are performing to the height of their ability.
All three of the above have picked up their games in considerable ways in the face of all the injuries the Canadiens have faced so far this season.
The issue is the uncertainty that teams will be willing to pay the necessary price required to extract some of the Canadiens’ more coveted players, leading to that kind of positioning coming out of Montreal.
That being said, the potential is certainly there, like it was last spring, for deals to pop up as we inch closer to the NHL Trade Deadline; especially with a handful of impact players already off the board.
After a very slow start to the NHL season, Josh Anderson has picked up the goal-scoring pace in a big way, going from an 18-goal pace in December to a 24-goal pace as of today.
An NHL source confirmed to Montreal Hockey Now earlier in the week that trade talk has picked up regarding the Canadiens’ power forward, but that the kind of offer the Habs would entertain has not yet been presented.
Hoffman has also been hot as of late, posting two goals and eight assists for ten points in his last 12 games, with 11 of those points coming at even strength.
Considering that Hoffman was primarily known as an effective power-play player, the fact that he’s near a point-per-game average over the last month at even strength has gotten some attention.
Even for Dvorak, who sits fourth on the Montreal Canadiens in scoring with 23 points in 56 games, the offence, or lack thereof, is in line with the rest of the team’s dried-up offensive contributions.
However, Dvorak’s points percentage in comparison to his teammates, in conjunction with his 52% faceoff efficacy rate, prop him favourably within the structure of the team; hinting that there is potential for a scoring hike on a stronger, more balanced club.
It now remains to be seen if Hughes’ positioning will be as effective this spring as it was in 2022.
However, based on precedence and the rumblings surrounding certain veteran players of late, it would be shocking if Hughes were to simply stand pat or make a couple of minor moves.
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if Sean Monahan plays a few games before the deadline he will get traded for conditional pick. Not a one. It would not surprise me if Josh Anderson get dealt.
I’ve been thinking the same thing about Monahan and Edmundson. If they came back, would teams be willing to take a risk with their available cap space for deadline shopping if we took conditional picks for them based on games played in the playoffs? Considering Hughes’s penchant for conditions (see Toffoli deal) it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were also conditions for points or faceoff % for Monahan and maybe +/- for Edmundson or something like that. The key is just getting another team willing to take the risk on them. Then we can upsell them based on their play. But, I think there are a lot more safer options out there for teams to spend their money on, so we’ll have to see. If they do get traded, I’m picturing it as a last minute deal before the deadline ends as a team’s last option that has missed out on other more viable players.
Anderson, Dvorak, and Savard are the wildcards that we don’t need to move, but they have value if they do get traded… Anderson would take a massive haul but his market value is high enough that trading him now might be the best way to max his value… Dvorak plays center and wins draws, so we don’t really want to move him, but for the right price he’d be gone… and Savard is more likely to fetch a good return than Edmundson would right now but we aren’t as strong on the right as we are on the left, so we are in no rush to move Savard unless the return is something we really like…
Monahan, Drouin, and Dadonov should all go with us eating half their salaries, but we shouldn’t expect much of a return for them… We need a healthy Monahan to show up ASAP to get any kind of a return of mention…
It would be nice to move Hoffman, not sure if anyone bites, but us taking back an expiring contract could peak a desperate team that misses on their other options…
I could see us keeping Edmundson now, we won’t get the Chiarot-like return we want with him out (more likely to get that if we deal Savard), but he’s also a vet leader on a young team under control for another year at a decent price, we could wait until next year to move him and hope he has a healthier season next year… although with our depth at LHD (when healthy) we’d certainly move Edmundson if we can get the return we want, it’s just not looking good with him out…
I don’t like to speculate, as I am often wrong when it comes to reading what Hughes is up to, but I still believe there is a GM or 2 out there that are clever enough to take a chance on Monahan and the Canadiens receiving a decent return.