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Montreal Canadiens

Exploring The Trade Deadline Options For the Montreal Canadiens



Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

With the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline set for March 8 at 3 pm ET, the Montreal Canadiens only have five days to arrange the details of any potential trade.

What happens between now and Friday remains to be seen, but there are still a few situations in play for general manager Kent Hughes that could be cleared up if the stars align.

Defensive Logjam

The Canadiens are not in a hurry to move any players on expiring contracts, though there is a small chance a player like Tanner Pearson could be moved if a team is looking to add depth to their lineup without breaking the bank.

More realistically, the potential trades will probably revolve around the surplus of defencemen, both in the NHL and in the organization’s prospect pipeline.

Montreal has been clear when it comes to moving a player like veteran David Savard. Either pay the defenceman deadline tax or find another right-handed blueliner who has Stanley Cup experience and knows how to absorb a lot of ice time.

It’s not necessarily that the Habs are overrating Savard, but Hughes is well aware teams are always looking to upgrade their defensive situation, particularly on the right side of the ice.

Right-handed defencemen are gold in the NHL, to the point that you can’t even sneak them through waivers without a handful of teams flocking to the waiver wire like a gang of starved seagulls stalking the opening of a drive-through McDonald’s.

Savard is the type of player that you want in your locker room as you rebuild. He’s everybody’s friend, and he does a great job making young players feel comfortable, but make no mistake, the Canadiens cannot afford to ignore any interesting offer when it comes to the 33-year-old defenceman.

Getting a healthy return for a player who has traditionally produced very underwhelming numbers, and can be replaced internally, is not a difficult decision in the modern sports landscape. It’s simply wise asset management.

Seller Beware

Beyond Savard, other defencemen have been mentioned in trade rumours recently, most notably Jordan Harris and Mike Matheson.

We’ve already explored the idea of moving Matheson. He’s a very talented player, and there’s absolutely no rush to move him unless a great offer comes along that would net the Habs a young forward with high-end scoring talent.

There’s also a chance teams may move their first-round picks. Both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs stated they’re willing to move their top picks, which means there’s clearly interest in high-value targets among teams hoping to ensure a long playoff run.

Receiving a king’s ransom for Matheson would give Hughes even more draft capital he can use to make his inevitable draft weekend trade to secure a young player ready to jump into an NHL lineup.

As for Harris, I’d be very careful when it comes to moving the underrated Northeastern alumnus. As it stands, Harris and Arber Xhekaj are the only two Montreal Canadiens who have managed to be on the ice for more than 50 percent of the expected goals this season.

He’s the type of player who does a lot of important things on the ice, such as quickly corralling pucks and starting the rush with controlled exits, which leads to an influx of scoring chances at the other end of the rink. Those plays don’t always show up on the scoresheet, but they’re among the most crucial aspects when it comes to generating quality scoring chances.

Cerberus Crease Crisis

We’re in the final stretch of the NHL season and no Montreal Canadiens goaltender has started more than 30 games.

Needless to say, it’s not an ideal situation for Samuel Montembeault, Jake Allen, or Cayden Primeau.

Despite not having any semblance of consistency, all three have done as well as you could have reasonably expected, but I promise that no goaltender will ever suggest they enjoy playing in a three-goalie rotation.

Hughes gambled that a team would come looking for a goaltender when he kept three goalies on the roster, and though it may have seemed like a reasonable gamble at the time, it’s become clear that the reward of a potential mid-round pick in exchange for keeping three rusty goalies in the NHL is not exactly what you would call ideal asset management.

If I had to criticize one aspect of Hughes’ trade ideology, it would be his penchant for hanging onto veteran players for a little too long in the hopes that it will lead to a healthier return. It was certainly the case last season when they had the chance to trade Josh Anderson but preferred to keep him around because they liked what he brought to the table.

The same can be said for players like Evgeni Dadonov or Mike Hoffman. They were given way too much ice time in the hope that they’d eventually land a solid asset in a trade.

The strategy makes sense in a vacuum, but we’re talking about players that would yield a mediocre return, at best.

Keeping them in the NHL at the expense of ice time for younger players who should play a part in the team’s long-term rebuild is detrimental to the development system Hughes wisely put in place when he took over from Marc Bergevin.

That being said, there’s still a chance the Canadiens can move Allen by Friday, especially if Hughes decides to use his final salary retention slot. But unless Allen lands an unforeseen return for a goaltender at the trade deadline, you’d be hard-pressed to say keeping three goalies in the mix was the right decision this season.

Montreal Canadiens Trade Brokers

They currently have 46 players signed, which means they also have a little flexibility when it comes to acquiring expiring contracts, though they will need to keep a contract slot for Lane Hutson’s eventual NHL debut. Adam Engstrom’s contract is also on the docket, and it’s worth keeping in mind teams like to keep a few contract slots open to avoid limiting their options.

The Montreal Canadiens should be active when it comes to weaponizing their salary cap space this offseason, but in the meantime, they still have a little over $5.5 million in available salary cap flexibility.

The trade deadline is not lining up to be a very busy one for the Habs.

For enquiring minds, it’s unlikely they move a player like Joel Armia or Brendan Gallagher, but just as they did last season when they participated in the Nick Bonino trade, it would not be shocking to see the team acquire a draft pick or two in exchange for their expiring salary-cap assets.