Montreal Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes has made several trades since being handed the reins of the most storied franchise in hockey history.
Amid a rebuild, many of those trades were for future picks and prospects, but in a few instances, the Canadiens received a roster player who would go on to don the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.
For this article, we’ll evaluate the return these trades have provided for Les Glorieux, while ignoring minor deals that involved waiver pick-ups or players who only passed through briefly, like Nick Bonino, Andrew Hammond, and Casey DeSmith.
Let’s get grading!
Kirby Dach – Grade: A
Hughes’ greatest acquisition, Kirby Dach looked like a legitimate number-one center last season, as well as the two games he played earlier this year.
However, the young career of the 22-year-old has been plagued with injury since joining the league, so, this grade hinges on his ability to string consistent seasons at the dominant level of play he is hinting at.
When healthy, Dach has all the makings of a great centre: Size, skill in transition, and an affinity for making all his linemates better.
Simply put, the Habs are a much better team whenever Dach is on the ice.
For example, during Dach’s shifts last season, the Habs managed to control 49 percent of the shots, 47 percent of the quality chances, and 49 percent of the expected goals. Those are fairly impressive numbers when we consider the Canadiens were one of the worst-performing teams from an underlying numbers point of view.
But without Dach, Montreal only controlled 44.5 percent of the shots, 40 percent of the quality chances, and 42 percent of the expected goals.
A player can rarely make that much of a difference in a lineup, particularly a losing lineup, but that’s exactly what Dach brings to the table for the Habs.
On the upside alone, this has the hallmarks of a slam dunk – especially considering it only cost Alexander Romanov and a couple of mid-round picks.
Kirby Dach sets up Alex Newhook's first goal in a Habs uniform.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 12, 2023
Tanner Pearson (Grade: C)
Before entering the 23-24 season with three goaltenders, the Montreal Canadiens had to get rid of a fourth one: Casey DeSmith.
Hughes successfully managed to flip him in exchange for a third-round pick and Tanner Pearson, who the Canucks were looking to deal due to his injury history and elevated cap hit.
Pearson started things well with a hot five points in five games but has since cooled down, with only one point in eleven contests. He shows good forechecking abilities, is a calm veteran presence that seldom makes mistakes, and his versatility affords Martin St. Louis to deploy in virtually all situations.
If Hughes were to obtain assets at the trade deadline in exchange for Pearson, this grade would improve.
Son premier avec le Tricolore!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) October 15, 2023
Alex Newhook (Grade: C-)
In a stacked 2023 draft where the rebuilding Montreal Canadiens held two first-round picks, fans revelled in the idea that some picks could be packaged to improve their shot at an elite prospect. The main driving force behind the logic is that the Canadiens have several talented players in their prospect pool, but few project as elite.
Unfortunately (for some fans), this scenario did not materialize, and an anticlimactic trade for Alex Newhook went through a day before the draft, squashing much of the excitement for day 1 of the NHL Entry Draft.
Alex Newhook is not a bad hockey player, and his seven points in 16 games place him sixth in total points for the Canadiens this season… but there is much left to desire about his game.
He’s quick and has a good motor, but can struggle to find time and space. This directly impacts his ability to score. He also seems to lack hockey sense and creativity as a winger, and he doesn’t possess the passing ability of a good centerman, nor the face-off acumen.
The silver lining is that he looked good at times playing on Dach’s wing. Perhaps they could find success together, next year. Otherwise, it’s hard to envision where he fits, over the next four years.
It’s too early to consider this a terrible trade as Newhook still has a lot of hockey left to play in a Canadiens uniform, but it’s understandable why some would have preferred this trade never materialized.
Johnny on the spot!
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) November 17, 2023
Evgenii Dadonov / Denis Gurianov (Grade: D)
An attempt was made. You can’t win ‘em all.
Justin Barron (Grade: B+)
Arturri Lehkonen rewarded GM Joe Sakic for acquiring him by being instrumental to the Colorado Avalanche’s third Stanley Cup run.
In return for parting ways with the Finnish winger, Kent Hughes received a 2024 second-round pick, and former first-round pick, Justin Barron.
With a need to shore up the right side of his defence, it made sense for Hughes to target Barron. And so far, the young defender has shown legitimate top-four upside and flashes of a potent, offensive-minded rear-guard.
He’s still unpolished and improving, but the skill set is clearly apparent. And he’s been one of the better blue-liners for the Montreal Canadiens, this season, at just 22 years of age.
The kicker will be how the 2024 pick is utilized, but for now, it seems like a good, fair trade for both parties.
Barron ouvre la marque 🙌
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) February 22, 2023
Mike Matheson (Grade: A-)
In the summer of 2022, Hughes managed to trade a depreciating asset who wanted out in Jeff Petry, alongside Ryan Poehling for Mike Matheson and a fourth-round pick, clearing roughly 2 million dollars per year of salary, in the process.
With the way Matheson has been playing on most nights, it’s a successful trade, bar none.
Matheson was oftentimes the best player on the ice for his team, and while he’s had some games where he seriously struggled, he still brings more to the Montreal Canadiens than Petry and Poehling to their respective teams.
His numbers are down this year, however, he’s still producing a reasonable amount of offence, which mitigates some of his defensive issues.
Plus, when you factor in the fact the pick acquired was used to draft Bogdan Konyushkov – who is having a solid start to his KHL season – it makes it incredibly sweeter!
Mike Matheson with an early goal-of-the-year candidate.
End-to-end beauty. pic.twitter.com/MLJLiz5bSf
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 25, 2023
Sean Monahan (Grade: A++)
The Calgary Flames wanted to sign Nazem Kadri so badly they offloaded Monahan’s contract along with a first-round pick, to the Montreal Canadiens. It was one of the most complicated trades in NHL history, and the stipulations are rather hard to keep track of. If you’d like a detailed breakdown, you can click here.
Ironically, Kadri’s 0.67 point-per-game (ppg) average comes short when measured against Monahan’s (.73 PPG) since they both joined their new teams.
Granted, Monahan missed considerable time last year, but when healthy, he often is the best Montreal Canadiens forward on the ice.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) November 10, 2023
He also signed for a team-friendly, one-year, 1.985 M$ contract that proves a bargain and could fetch a huge return, if Kent Hughes elects to trade him at the trade deadline. If this scenario materializes, the grade for this trade would get an astronomical bump!
With the Flames going through a rough start to the season and contemplating a reset, this trade looks better with each passing day.
LeBrun on Insider Trading: “What teams are telling us is that the Flames are listening in on the others pending UFAs as well: Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm. The Flames are ready for a roster reset”.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) November 15, 2023
On behalf of all Montreal Canadiens fans, as well as team management, thank you, Brad Treliving!
What do you believe was Kent Hughes’ best trade so far? Let us know in the comments.