Now that the Montreal Canadiens have traded forward Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets, we need to take a look at how the deal will impact the organization in the short and long term.
In a vacuum, the trade was great from a Habs point-of-view, as it secured yet another first-round pick in a move involving Monahan, a feat that few, if any, general managers have accomplished in the long history of the NHL.
INSTANT ANALYSIS: Canadiens Get Great Value From Mohanan Trades
The Canadiens lost an important centre in the trade, which will impact their ability to ice a strong lineup from now to the end of the season.
However, we have to remind ourselves that Alex Newhook is approaching a return to play, and even though his first audition as a centre with the Canadiens did not turn out well for anyone involved, he can still absorb a significant portion of the ice time left on the table with Monahan’s departure.
The Canadiens are likely to recall Mitchell Stephens from the Laval Rocket to serve as the team’s fourth-line centre, while Jake Evans anchors the third line. Lias Andersson and Philippe Maillet are additional options if the Canadiens aren’t interested in giving Stephens another audition. The Laval Rocket’s leading scorer, Brandon Gignac, cannot join the NHL roster as he does not own an NHL contract. But with Monahan’s departure, the Canadiens have opened up an important contract spot, which could lead to a signing in the near future.
There’s also the possibility of acquiring a rental centre in exchange for a low-quality asset, as well as the potential for a waiver claim, which is how they acquired Chris Tierney last season.
The centre situation is not ideal, but it’s far from dire, and the Canadiens should be able to avoid adding more to captain Nick Suzuki’s overflowing plate. The biggest concern is how the youngest player in the lineup, Juraj Slafkovsky, will play without Monahan.
All five #GoHabsGo skaters on the ice touch this puck before it goes in. Nice play.
Suzuki's 13th goal of the year. Slafkovsky and Monahan get assists. pic.twitter.com/AzkIwodcEs
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 26, 2024
Montreal Canadiens Trade Capital
The Habs now own four different first-round picks in the next two NHL Entry Drafts, which gives Kent Hughes plenty of options when it comes to acquiring young, talented players.
As history has shown us, Hughes prefers putting his hands on a player who is closer to the age range of his core rather than a prospect who is still several years away from their NHL debut, let alone their prime years.
Considering the Habs desperately need to add more offence to the organization, it would be surprising if Hughes does not move one or more of those first-round picks in exchange for a player who can play an important role in the rebuild, as he did when he acquired Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks and Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche.
If no such deal can be made, there should still be a healthy amount of talented forwards available at the 2024 Draft. If one of those players drops, it opens the door for a first-round trade.
In addition to losing an important centre in the lineup, the Canadiens also have one of the most difficult strengths of schedule in the NHL. This means their odds of winning will be doubly diminished, a perfect situation to secure an early first-round pick.
Samuel Montembeault has the potential to throw a stick in the wheels of ‘Team Tank’, but all signs point to the Canadiens having a very difficult time winning games once the All-Star break is over.
The Montreal Canadiens have overachieved this season, and still rank among the worst teams in the NHL for regulation wins and expected goals. A string of losses wouldn’t just be good for the team’s draft odds, it would also remind everyone that at this stage of the rebuild, the Habs are far from being ready to compete with the NHL’s elite, thus throwing some cold water on the mounting flames of impatience.