Montreal Canadiens forward Sean Monahan did not participate in practice on Monday morning. The veteran was permitted to take a therapy day, a preventative measure in most cases.
And while it’s certainly true Monahan has done his best to fill Kirby Dach’s shoes as a centre with the ability to drive the play up the ice with control of the puck, the delicate situation surrounding his health, among other factors, must be considered when evaluating the pros and cons of keeping him in the lineup or moving him prior to the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline.
Value To The Canadiens
Monahan checks a lot of boxes for the Canadiens. His versatility has been a godsend, as evidenced by his heavy powerplay and penalty-kill usage. He’s also tasked with anchoring the third line for the Canadiens, something that he’s accomplished with a fair amount of success given the lack of quality linemates and his 56 percent efficiency at the faceoff dot. Not to mention, he’s more than capable of playing up the lineup or on the wing.
Simply put, very few players in the Canadiens lineup provide as much situational cover as Monahan.
With 11 goals and 20 assists in 41 games, Monahan is also a relatively consistent source of secondary offence, a role that takes on even more value on a team like the Canadiens that has very few potent offensive weapons.
And we recently saw how quickly Monahan can help younger players, such as Joshua Roy, find their rhythm as they dip their toes in the chilly waters of the NHL.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 18, 2024
With that in mind, it’s more than fair to contend that Monahan is an important member of the Canadiens lineup, and therefore Kent Hughes should look into an extension rather than moving him to a Stanley Cup contender.
But the very same reasons that make Monahan an important player for the Habs also make him an interesting option on the NHL’s trade market.
Not only would Monahan help almost any lineup, but he’s also signed to a very reasonable $1.985 million contract, which means any time acquiring him at the deadline would only have to pay a fraction of his cap hit, thus allowing them to upgrade their lineup in other crucial areas, and consequently, improve any potential return in a trade.
Of course, much like last season, Monahan’s trade value would be completely erased if he were to once again succumb to injury. This explains why the Canadiens have given him several therapy days. They don’t want to get stuck in the same situation as the last trade deadline: a player with an expiring asset value.
It’s a good reminder that in the NHL, the opportunity to maximize your asset value is almost always fleeting.
For example, Hughes likely had an opportunity to trade Josh Anderson last season when his value was arguably at its highest point but did not pull the trigger. Not only did the Canadiens not receive any type of valuable asset that could help them in their long-term rebuild plans, but they’re now stuck with a player who has very little value to other teams and carries an expensive $5.5 million salary cap hit until 2026-27.
Missing the window of opportunity will have a lasting impact on the rebuild.
It would be ill-advised to follow the same path with Monahan, who, by all accounts, is the perfect rental for any team that holds legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.
The calls to keep him in the lineup also ignore a very important aspect of the Canadiens’ lineup.
Monahan is 29 years old and will be closer to 32 or 33 by the time the Canadiens are ready to make a legitimate push in the playoffs. It may sound cruel, but statistically speaking, he’s already out of his prime seasons. He’ll be even further removed by 2026.
In fact, we’re already seeing significant red flags in his underlying numbers.
Last season Monahan was one of the rare Canadiens players who produced decent possession numbers. This season, however, his numbers have cratered. It’s never easy playing on a team like the Canadiens, and the stats will reflect the difficulty of the assignment to a certain extent. The Habs rank 28th in shot control (46 percent) and expected goal share (46 percent).
But his decline suggests it’s more than just a player stuck on a bad team.
Last season, Monahan managed to control over 53 percent of the shots and 48 percent of the expected goals on an equally weak team. This year, those numbers have dropped to 45 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
Given his age, his concerning underlying numbers, his good health, his bargain contract, and the potential interest around the NHL, the stars are aligning for Hughes and Co.
Moving a player like Monahan would also improve the team’s draft odds down the line. This, combined with the upcoming strength of schedule, could lead to a much-needed top pick at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s never easy to move a player who wears many hats. Monahan has provided great value to the Montreal Canadiens, and he’s done so while making less than most bottom-six players.
But in this particular case, striking while the iron is hot would lead to maximizing asset value, one of the most important aspects of any NHL rebuild.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.