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Canadiens Deadline: Assets Canadian Teams Should Trade For



Montreal Canadiens vs Leafs Suzuki

With the NHL’s Trade Deadline quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at some of the Montreal Canadiens players who could be moved between now and March 8.

To spice things up a little, we’ll focus on the four Canadian teams currently in a playoff spot to evaluate whether the Habs can offer a player that would improve their respective lineups.


Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs shifted to a more physical lineup after suffering frustrating losses in the playoffs to the Canadiens in 2020-21, the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021-22, and the Florida Panthers in 2022-23.

Given their lack of playoff success, a change was probably due, but we must never lose sight of the fact that winning four rounds of NHL playoff hockey is not an easy proposal.

For example, the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins featured one of the best lines of all time, with Mario Lemieux (161 points), Jaromir Jagr (149 points), and Ron Francis (119 points) finishing first, second and fourth in NHL scoring.

The team made it to the Conference Finals, where they were eliminated by a Florida Panthers team that had finished with 11 fewer points in the regular season.

1995-96 also featured one of the most impressive regular seasons in recent NHL history when the Detroit Red Wings enjoyed a 62-13-7 record. Coached by Scott Bowman, the team earned 131 points, almost 30 more than the next team in the standings.

It was all for naught, as they were eliminated by their rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, in the Conference Finals.

And we all know how long it took Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to finally win it all.

Simply put, winning the Stanley Cup is very, very difficult.

But the changes made by the Leafs this summer haven’t yielded very encouraging results. They’ve gone from a top-5 or top-10 team in most metrics, to a middle-of-the-pack club.

And despite what some fans may tell you, it’s more than just goaltending that’s holding them back. The Leafs are 12th in the NHL when it comes to their team save percentage.

Montreal Canadiens Trade Options

With that in mind, Toronto still possesses the type of offensive talent that can power a healthy run in the NHL playoffs. Few, if any NHL lineups possess as much scoring depth. Toronto already possesses the foundation for greatness, at least from an offensive point of view.

To improve their lineup, they could stand to add a defenceman or two who can play a physical brand of hockey while maintaining strong underlying numbers.

That’s Arber Xhekaj’s music.

Not only is he one of the toughest players in the league, but he also has some of the best underlying numbers in the organization.

On that note, the Montreal Canadiens are not interested in moving Xhekaj, and it would take a king’s ransom from the Leafs to acquire the 23-year-old defenceman.

A more realistic option would be veteran David Savard.

On top of having Stanley Cup experience, which is highly valued by NHL general managers, Savard can absorb a significant amount of 5v5 and penalty-kill ice time.

He’s also a great player to have in the locker room, providing an important leadership presence while keeping things light when the results aren’t forthcoming.

Unfortunately, his underlying numbers are far from impressive, but it must be said that the Canadiens have not put Savard in a situation that’s conducive to producing good defensive results.

He’s not a top pairing defenceman, but he has been used in that manner throughout his time with the Habs. Savard’s on-ice value would increase if he was used in a role that’s more suitable to his skill set.


Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are such a fun team.

Yes, analysts will tell you they’re overachieving, and that the Canucks don’t ‘deserve’ to be in first place in the NHL.

But there’s no such thing as ‘deserve’ in professional sports.

Besides, a team potentially defying the odds is the reason we watch sports in the first place.

Risk management is important when evaluating potential trades, but we tend to overlook the risk that comes with standing pat.

The ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup, after all.

Montreal Canadiens Cap Space Value

Vancouver does a very good job of limiting chances. They allow the fifth-fewest chances against per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time in the league.

But they don’t generate a ton of shots or quality scoring chances, at least not relative to other Cup-contending teams.

The Canucks are 25th in the league when it comes to shots (Corsi) per 60, just two spots above the offensively-starved Canadiens.

They could stand to improve their offensive punch, which explains why they acquired Elias Lindholm from the Canucks a few weeks ago.

That’s where the Canadiens come into play.

They don’t have much to offer the Canucks in terms of offensively gifted players with low cap hits, but they could serve as a trade broker to facilitate a deal with another team, a topic we’ll discuss in depth on Tuesday morning.

The Canadiens have ample cap space, the most precious asset in the NHL


Winnipeg Jets

The Jets already made one of the smartest deals of the season when they acquired versatile veteran Sean Monahan from the Canadiens in exchange for a first-round pick.

Some may say the cost was too high, but they’re ignoring the variable factors that come into play when discussing the first round of the NHL Draft. They’re also ignoring that Monahan has one of the most reasonable contracts in the entire NHL. He was also far and away the best centre available once Lindholm was moved to the Canucks.

The Jets may get bounced in the first round, or they may even end up lifting the Holy Grail. That remains to be seen.

But you can’t hitch a ride on the riverboat without going down to the river.

A late first-round pick has little value to a team like the Jets. By the time the player is ready for the NHL, the Jets will no longer be in a position to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

However, it does hold value to a rebuilding team like the Habs.

Whether they use the pick to draft a late-round gem, or they once again use draft capital to acquire a young player with potential as they did when they traded for Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook, it gives general manager Kent Hughes options.

Edmonton Oilers

At the midway point of the season, the Oilers ranked among the worst NHL clubs in team save percentage.

Jack Campbell’s struggles were well documented, leading to an increased workload for goaltenders Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard.

Since Campbell has been removed from the picture, the Oilers’ goaltending situation has improved by leaps and bounds, to the point that you’d have a hard time arguing it’s their most pressing need. This means Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau are no longer considered front-runners as trade targets when it comes to a potential deal with the Montreal Canadiens.

That being said, the Oilers could stand to improve their defensive depth, as well as their forward depth.

This could lead to an interest in a player such as Jordan Harris, or Joel Armia, but it should be noted that ‘could’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence.

When we get down to brass tacks, there simply aren’t many available trade targets in Montreal that would significantly improve the Oilers lineup.

Mike Matheson’s offensive prowess, mobility, and endurance could serve the Oilers well as they gear up for the playoffs, but the price tag is likely to be a little too rich for Edmonton’s blood.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.