The Montreal Canadiens may have traded away their most coveted trade chip, but it doesn’t appear like Kent Hughes is done.
By trading Monahan, the Montreal Canadiens have all but waived the white flag on the 2023-2024 season. The loss of Monahan will be a major blow to the club, which most NHL betting odds have finishing in the bottom five of the NHL standings by season’s end.
With the Canadiens now firmly entrenched in their “Seller” status, Hughes will be looking to continue to add picks or prospects before the end of the season, just as he predicted back in September.
“If I could do a trade without retaining (on Monahan), clearly there’s value to that for us; in the sense that we have that availability should we end up moving another player before the Trade Deadline or whether we participate as a third party in a transaction,” said Hughes regarding the value in not using his last retention slot on Sean Monahan. “My feeling is, with that retention component, we would get more value out of using it elsewhere than for Sean.”
By keeping their retention slot, Hughes is showing he’s still open for business. Be it as a cap broker, a retention-based trade or by taking on short-term salary to make a deal work, the team is not done tinkering with their roster just yet.
Potential Trade Chips
Although Monahan was one of the top trade options on the market, he wasn’t the only player the Canadiens were actively shopping.
It’s no secret to anyone that the Montreal Canadiens are looking to end the three-man goaltending carousel between Samuel Montembeault, Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau.
With Primeau’s impressive performances and Montembeault’s recent extension, the writing seems to be on the wall for Allen to be the odd man out.
The issue has been Allen’s $3.85M contract, which runs until the end of the 2024-2025 season, as contending teams in need of goaltending don’t have the cap space to accommodate the veteran goaltender into their salary structure.
Whether it will require retention of the Canadiens taking back some salary, one should expect the Canadiens to push hard in trying to move Allen before March 8th.
The Canadiens also have upcoming free-agent Tanner Pearson who could be of marginal interest across the league. The 31-year-old has Stanley Cup experience and could be a valuable piece on a contending bottom-six. His $3.25M contract may make him hard to move however without some retention or the Canadiens taking on some salary in return.
There’s also been some rumblings that the Canadiens may look to unclog their defensive brigade to open up ice time for some deserving youngsters. The names of Jordan Harris and Johnathan Kovacevic have come up as of late, with the emergence of
Kovacevic, a tough and reliable right-shot defenceman, is signed through next season at a meagre $766,666 and could be looked at as a prime trade piece with Justin Barron, Logan Mailloux and David Reinbacher likely pushing for a bottom-pair role on the Canadiens on the right side.
Even if the Canadiens are able to extract a mid-round pick for Kovacevic, it would be quite the turnaround for a player who plucked off waivers.
And, despite all the noise around him since he was demoted to Laval early this season, it doesn’t appear like the Montreal Canadiens have any appetite in moving Arber Xhekaj, so we can put that to bed right now.
These are the more predictable options for the Canadiens to trade between now and the NHL Trade Deadline, but there could also be a surprise or two; especially if the market shifts in a big way.
With the Canadiens having traded away their biggest trade chip, other players could become available down the road, especially if contending clubs continue the trend of trying to jump on their targets early.
One such player that comes to mind is David Savard. The 33-year-old, right-shooting veteran is on a team-friendly $3.5M deal that only expires at the end of the 2024-2025 season.
With only Sean Walker and Chris Tanev as top-4 defencemen available on the rental market, there are said to be 4-5 teams in the hunt for an upgrade on defence.
That being said, it doesn’t look like the Canadiens are openly shopping Savard at the moment.
“I haven’t had any discussions with David (Savard) as of yet, but my door is always open. Am I open to trading him? I’m open to trading anyone if it helps improve the team’. said Hughes in regards to potentially moving David Savard ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. “I can’t say that, in this moment, we’re actively looking to move David Savard.”
Although Hughes didn’t rule out moving Savard if an interesting offer was presented, he also indicated that shifts in the market could clubs to field calls on players they initially had no plans of moving.
“There’s a risk to the market shifting,” said Kent Hughes during his press conference regarding the volatility of the market. “You see who are sellers and who are buyers and what kind of players end up on the market. I don’t think a (Mattias) Ekholm or a (Dimitri) Orlov were necessarily on the market in early February or late January of last year.”
We’re already seeing this play out this year, as the Philadelphia Flyers, who are firmly in a playoff spot, have now begun taking calls on Scott Laughton due to the lack of available centers on the market.
Given Savard’s Stanley Cup experience, his strong defensive game, team-friendly contract and impressive leadership skills; he could quickly become a major piece on the market if Hughes decided to take calls on the player.
As of this junction, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils are all said to be looking for help on the right side of their defence.
Should Tanev or Walker be taken off the board in the next few days, Savard is a player that many teams, including his former club, the Tampa Bay Lightning, may circle back to for defensive help.
There is also an argument that could be made for moving another veteran defenceman like Mike Matheson, as the Montreal Canadiens are overflowing with left-shot defencemen within the organization.
The 29-year-old has put up the best offensive numbers of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, potting 15 goals and 53 assists for 68 points in just 97 games over the last two seasons.
Matheson’s got another two seasons left on his contract with a cap hit of only $4.875M, making him a value option on the blueline should a team come knocking.
However, the feeling is that the club will want to hold off on making that move until top prospect Lane Hutson is ready to assume the offensive responsibilities that Matheson is holding down at the moment.
There’s also an argument that could be made for moving Jake Evans and his $1.7M contract, which only expires in 2024-2025. Given the team-friendly deal, his ability to play centre or wing and his right-handedness, Evans could be of interest should a team be looking for an experienced bottom-six centre to add for depth.
However, given the loss of Monahan and the Canadiens’ thin centre depth, they may hold off on making such a move until the summer or next season.
But, as we all know, the NHL Trade Deadline period can bring about many surprises. One thing is clear, Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens aren’t done yet.
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