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Why Calgary’s Retool Could Be Beneficial For The Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens trade proposals

The Montreal Canadiens hold the Calgary Flames’ 2025 1st-round pick, which could end up being a very interesting asset if the Flames go full-throttle on their re-tool.

Yes, that 1st-round pick with the ridiculously convoluted conditions could very well be a strong trade chip for the Canadiens as soon as this summer.

Having acquired this pick from the Flames in the summer of 2022 along with Sean Monahan for future considerations, the Canadiens were able to add another 1st-round pick to their collection when they subsequently moved Monahan to Winnipeg this February.

After shipping out all of their top-tier, pending free agents leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline and likely moving goaltender Jacob Markstrom in the summer, it appears GM Craig Conroy is going shopping this summer.

“One thing we didn’t have last year was any flexibility on the cap, so we weren’t able to add anything,” said Conroy in an interview with Daily Faceoff. “So this year to have some money and build the team and add some players is going to be big for us moving forward.”

It likely means that the Flames, who are currently sitting in 21st place in the NHL standings, aren’t likely to regress too much next season; if at all.

And that could be good news for the Canadiens.

Breaking It Down

But wouldn’t a rebuilding Calgary offer up a more advantageous situation for the Canadiens, since they would likely finish lower in the standings next year?

The short answer is: Not really.

Buried within the infinite amount of trade conditions included in the Monahan deal is a little protection that Calgary gave itself in case they were ever to fall off the wagon completely.

According to the details of the trade, the Montreal Canadiens are slated to receive the better of Calgary or the Florida Panthers’ 2025 1st-round pick, unless Calgary were to pick in the bottom 10. Should that happen, the Canadiens would instead get Florida’s selection.

And, since it doesn’t look like the Panthers are going for a slide down the standings in the coming years, that would likely mean the pick would fall in the 20-32 range. After all, even an injury-plagued start to the season didn’t stop the Panthers from being one of the best teams in the NHL this season, so it’s hard to believe they’ll suddenly take a massive step back.

For the Canadiens who saw Florida’s 2023 1st-round pick, originally acquired in the Ben Chiarot trade, go from a potential lottery pick to the 31st overall pick last season thanks to the Panthers’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals, winding up with Florida’s pick in 2025 would be the worst case scenario.

However, if Conroy is successful in being a player in the free agent market this summer, the Flames, who hold over $18M in cap space, could put themselves in a position to be a bubble team next season.

Why is that good? 

To simplify things, unless Florida has a monumental far from grace during the 2024-2025 season and misses the playoffs, the best the Montreal Canadiens could hope for is to walk away from the Monahan trade with the 11th overall pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.

NHL betting odds have the Flames topping out at roughly 87 points this season, which, based on last year’s standings, would have been good for 20th in the NHL Standings and the 13th overall pick. If the Flames were to mirror the same outcome next season, the Canadiens would effectively walk away from the with a very good pick for taking on Monahan.

Had the Flames decided to tear it all down and do a full rebuild, as teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks have done of late, it would have been more worrisome for the Montreal Canadiens, as the chances of Calgary sliding into the bottom 10 next season would shoot way, way up.

And granted, it is a little soon to be talking about something that will be happening a year from now, but it’s worth looking at all the variables in advance, as the many trade conditions attached to Calgary’s 2025 1st-round pick create unique scenarios.

So let’s quickly dive into Calgary’s reality for the 2024-2025 season.

Stiff Competition Or Not?

The three worst teams in the NHL are all part of the Western Conference: Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim.

None of these three clubs are expected to rise out of the basement of the NHL standings too quickly, and that only helps likely bubble teams like the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Seattle Kraken and St-Louis Blues have better shots at making the NHL playoffs next season.

Where things may be a tad difficult for the Flames though, is qualifying for the playoffs, as they face stiff competition not only in their division, but in the conference as a whole.

Let’s look at the Pacific Division:

The Vancouver Canucks are set to be good for a while with their core locked in.

The Edmonton Oilers will likely be making one final push for the Stanley Cup next season while they still have Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid together under their current deals as Draisaitl is set to become a UFA in the summer of 2025.

The LA Kings will likely improve greatly once they finally address their goaltending woes.

And the Vegas Golden Knights seemingly cannot be denied from the playoffs, if they remain healthy.

Needless to say, it’ll be a whole lot harder for Calgary to make the playoffs than to stay out of the bottom 10; especially with Anaheim and San Jose as divisional rivals.

End Game

The Flames made some eyebrow-raising trades over the last two months when moving Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Elias Lindholm, but, each trade set a clear indication of what the Flames want to do.

Usually, in deals leading up to the trade deadline, teams stock up on picks to help them rebuild, but Calgary went for deals that included NHL players and prospects that could help the team as early as next season.

They even turned down a 1st-round pick in their discussions for Chris Tanev because they put more value in getting prospects who could help the team sooner, rather than a higher pick in the upcoming draft.

Acquiring players like Andrei Kuzmenko and Daniil Miromanov is just the start of the Calgary Flames’ re-tool, but we’ve seen that those strategies rarely work without a significant influx of talent.

Their current core of Johnathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, Nazem Kadri and Rasmus Andersson is good; but not enough to rival the powers in the West,

Unfortunately for the Flames, their bid to remain competitive without bringing in game-changing talent may impede them from moving beyond just being a bubble team; and that could be of great benefit to the Montreal Canadiens in a year from now.

It’s something to keep an eye on.

*For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel

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Tyrone

Based on the exodus of talented players heading out of Calgary (and more to likely go), if the Flames management team and fans think just because they have cap space they will be able to sign top free agents and be competitive right away, they are going to get a rude awakening, unfortunately. I don’t understand why everyone wants to leave Calgary. It’s a beautiful place to live. It’s a shame. I know their arena is a little outdated, but that’s hardly a reason for players with long term contracts to demand a trade out of town. I know that many of the players that wanted to leave are Americans, so there’s possibly a connection there, but what’s so bad about living in Calgary?

Tony

Yeah, but it doesn’t need much to become team that draws the fine line between 10 and 20th, in the West, and that’s where they are headed if they status quo now, add a few above replacement level players, and their new additions stay on development track, which they are. Agree to a certain degree on players staying, I lived in Calgary for 3 months, as well as every city in Canada for business. It’s OK, but nothing special, and a LOT of whether a player wants to stay depends on so much more then the city, sometimes. IE chances of winning, team direction, likeness fo the coach Sutter sucked), quality of teammates, friendships, wifes and children factors, etc.

Tyrone

I was talking more about what is available close to Calgary with respect to the Rockies and all the outdoor beauty vs the city itself. The Zoo, Olympic Park and Spark Science Centre are great, but that’s just 3 things. But Banff, Canmore, and so much more are close enough that you could spend forever outdoors in the summer and even other seasons depending on what floats your boat.

I agree Suter would definitely make guys want to leave, but he’s long gone now, so Lindholm, Hanafin, Tkachuk, Markstrom… all have nothing to do with Sutter.

Billy P

Not to nitpick but Monahan was moved to Winnipeg by Montreal

Tony

I think and look at this situation often. Superb analysis and so exactly spot on. Thank god Conroy is trying the Bergie retool and not the Gorton rebuild (which I prefer).

Sidenote, slight typo, only caught cause of my OCD:):

“when they subsequently moved Monahan to Calgary [insert Winnipeg] this February.”

Love your writings Marc.

Off topic question and worth a Poutine on me: Any idea what the Epic Robert L from the very early days of eyes on the prize is doing nowadays?

Howard

I wouldn’t trade that pick. The 2025 draft is going to be a very strong draft.

Dana

You never know, we could end up with more than 2 firsts in that draft if Hughes gets his way over the next year.

I am open to trading anyone or any asset, it all depends on the return. Hughes has yet to lose a trade so make deals that align to the goal of winning the Cup.

Mikeysl

Lose is interesting word… Petry retained was a poor deal to save face…

Dana

Hmm, you honor your word, which reverberates throughout your locker room and indeed the hockey world. It will be easier for him to be attract free agents, deal with agents, rival GMs etc because of his integrity. It was a low level transaction with high impact. Need proof, ask Petry or Monahan or Allen. A win in my books.

Pauly

Close but not quite right, Calgary’s pick has some top 10 protection but not absolute, if Florida’s pick is top ten it doesn’t transfer to Calgary, in that scenario the only protection Calgary has is if it is number 1 and then they keep it. You are correct in saying the most likely scenario is it is the florida pick the habs will get but the best case for the habs is 2 not 11, for the 2025 draft

Ghg55

He clearly said it’s unlikely the panthers pick is going to be that high and so he proceeded on that assumption…

Me2

Maybe everything unfurls in such a way as to benefit the Canadiens, but a long way to go between now and the 2025 draft. Who knows.

And, this draft pick Montreal got from Calgary in the Monahan deal, it’s just 1 piece of a larger plan of the Canadiens rebuild. Better to look at the bigger picture getting the team back to being competitive and winning hockey than to zero in on just 1 small part of the plan.