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Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens Face Conundrum With Future of Sean Monahan



Montreal Canadiens

Sean Monahan is having yet another strong start to the season, which might force the Montreal Canadiens to reconsider their plan moving forward.

To say that Monahan has been essential to the early successes of the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge so far this season is an understatement. The 29-year old has done it all for the Canadiens, playing in all situations and maintaining a consistent level of excellence in each game.

The Canadiens are currently performing well above expectations at the moment; in fact, you’ll find UK ice hockey betting odds currently have Montreal overperforming by almost 15 spots in the NHL standings with their thunderous start to the season.

Although one can easily point to other factors like the clutch play of Cole Caufield, the resurgence of Nick Suzuki or the Canadiens’ goalie tandem standing on their heads, Monahan has been the most consistent of the group.

With his $1.95M contract expiring at the end of the season, there is always an internal reflection that a rebuilding team must take when it comes to players of Sean Monahan’s ilk.

Do they capitalize on his excellent play and extract the maximum amount of assets at the Trade Deadline, or try to extend his contract, hoping that he’s able to take a hometown discount?

It’s a worthwhile discussion.

The Value of Sean Monahan

It’s no secret: the Montreal Canadiens are a different team when Sean Monahan is in the lineup.

Shocker, adding a top-six center to any club, which Sean Monahan surely is when healthy, is going to make a world of a difference on the ice.

While the season is only nine games old, the 29-year-old center is tied with Nick Suzuki for the second-most points on the team with five goals and three assists for eight points. He also currently leads the Canadiens in goal-scoring, edging out Cole Caufield by one goal.

He’s posting a staggering 60.5% success rate in the faceoff circle, one of the best in the league.

With a little bit of luck in the health department, something he hasn’t had much of lately, this could finally be the year Monahan returns to his 60+point ways.

Of course, in practice, a team would want to keep a player like that, but there are many factors to consider.

The Cost of Keeping Sean Monahan

When you look at the current UFA class for 2024, you have big names at the moment like Steven Stamkos, William Nylander, Elias Lindholm, Sam Reinhart and more at the top of the list.

It’s looking like one of the more stacked free agent classes in recent memory, and it’s happening just as the salary cap is set to increase to a projected 87.5M.

If Sean Monahan is able to maintain such a pace throughout the season and remain healthy, the reality is, Monahan is going to want to cash in on this performance for what will likely be his final opportunity at a major contract.

Even a 50-point center with excellent face-off ability will likely cost a team in the range of $6M on the open market now, and that price tag could even increase this summer.

Unless Monahan decides to take a hometown discount for the Canadiens and sign under $5M in the short term, it would be a significant shift in direction from Montreal Canadiens management.

It puts general manager Kent Hughes and EVP Gorton in a pickle, as they want the most amount of cap flexibility over the next few years as possible; leaving them open to jump on a big fish on the trade or free agent market when the time is right.

The same management group also swore by being patient and not looking for shortcuts; but rather building something sustainable; refusing to spend money and term on players that are 30 and over.

Cashing in On Sean Monahan

Gorton and Hughes said as early as this summer that they wanted to take their time with this group; opting to build the team through youth and stockpile assets for when they deemed the core ready to compete.

With the core currently as it is, this Canadiens club will likely be able to compete for consistent playoff appearances in a couple of years, by which time, will Monahan be as effective?

The reality is, especially with such a long injury history, the chances are not on Monahan’s side; but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

The Montreal Canadiens must take that risk and weigh it against the potential return he could receive at this upcoming NHL Trade Deadline, should he continue this torrid pace.

Hughes and Gorton likely know they could get a haul for Monahan, who’s on the friendliest of team-friendly deals at the moment at just $2M once his bonuses kick in. That will be one of the best value contracts on the market and could easily bring in a 1st-round pick (or prospect equivalent) and then some from a contending team.

Yes, a late 1st-round pick or a prospect and more assets don’t have the same immediate impact as a Sean Monahan, but it’s not the asset that’s important, it’s what you do with it.

The Montreal Canadiens need ammo to go out and get top-end offensive talent to support Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield down the line; whether it be by drafting or making another Kirby Dach/Alex Newhook kind of trade, it helps them get there in a more sustainable way.

With the Canadiens currently in asset-hoarding mode, it would be consistent with their game plan to continue to stockpile assets for when the time is right.

Tough Decision Ahead

As of this writing, the Montreal Canadiens hold a surprising 5-2-2 record, which ranks them third in the Atlantic Division through nine games.

Like most young teams, they’ll likely feel the rigours of the season take effect in December and January, as they did last year; but this time, the club likely stays in the fight, rather than sink to the bottom.

That’s the kind of value Monahan can bring in the short term to this group; helping to keep them competitive while supporting the emerging core.

However, if the Montreal Canadiens slip out of the playoff picture, Hughes and Gorton will have to make the tough decision of putting the future of the club ahead of short-term success.

They want to build a winner the right way, and sometimes, it requires a team to make gut-wrenching decisions.