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Montreal Canadiens State Of the Rebuild – Grading Trades (Part 2)

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Montreal Canadiens trades forward Sean Monahan

Our ‘State Of The Rebuild’ series will evaluate several categories, including current NHL talent, prospect value, draft capital, Canadiens trades, coaching, contracts, and management.

Today we will examine part two of the important trades made by Kent Hughes since he took over as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

State Of The Montreal Canadiens Rebuild Series – Published

Montreal Canadiens Trades Part Two – Analysis Caveat

Before we start discussing the remaining marquee trades made by Kent Hughes and Co., we should address some of the common criticisms when it comes to evaluating trades in professional sports.

Some will suggest you can’t judge NHL trades because things will change.

This is false.

Of course, things can and will change, that’s the nature of professional sports. And once things change, we can adjust our assessments. But saying that you cannot judge a trade until everything winds down is essentially suggesting you can never evaluate a trade while the players are active.

And that makes little to no sense.

For example, when the Montreal Canadiens traded Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks in 2006, it was quite clear they made a risky move that also had the potential to pay off further in the long term.

But it was a good trade right off the bat, even if some suggested they should have kept Rivet in the fold.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and it has become one of the best trades in recent franchise history.

The same can be said about the trade that saw Ben Chiarot join the Florida Panthers. We weren’t aware the Habs would eventually use the pick they acquired in that deal in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche to acquire Alex Newhook, but it was still rather evident that the original deal was quite good for the Canadiens.

Nothing is written in stone. Thankfully, humans have the amazing ability to parse current information while acknowledging any changes in the future will be worth considering and evaluating.

This brings us full circle. It isn’t realistic to wait for all the trades to pan out entirely before discussing them. And frankly, that’s a rather boring approach as well.

Montreal Canadiens Trades – Part Two

After spending the bulk of a decade in a Canadiens uniform (and serving as their best defencemen during most seasons in that time frame) it was clear Jeff Petry’s time in Montreal had come to an end. The 35-year-old had some of the best underlying numbers in the defensive group, but loneliness and frustration brought on by restrictions put in place for the pandemic led to an ugly divorce with fans, who quickly turned on the veteran defenceman.

Seeing as he had asked for a trade, the move that saw Mike Matheson and a 2023 fourth-round pick (Bogdan Konyushkov) join the Habs in exchange for Petry and Poehling has to be considered one of the better moves by Hughes since taking over general manager duties.

Matheson would go on to become one of the most important players in the lineup, absorbing important minutes on a blueline populated with young defencemen who had little to no experience.

We’ve discussed Matheson’s defensive woes ad nauseam. It’s clear he’s not going to be named the top defensive defenceman in the league any time soon.  And his defensive numbers are yet to come remotely close to the impact made by Petry, even in the seasons in which fans judged Petry to be terrible.

But we have to consider the value of the assets at the time of the trade.

Time waits for no man, and Petry is no exception. Much like Shea Weber, Petry did a great job bucking the statistical norms by putting together great seasons after he turned 30, but his value was clearly in decline.

Matheson, on the other hand, would end up matching his career-high in goals this season (11) while also setting a career-high in points (62).

Individual Trade Grade: Once we consider the Habs drafted an interesting player in Bogdan Koynushkov with the fourth-round pick included in the deal, with all due respect to Petry and Poehling, it’s safe to suggest that this trade was an absolute home run for the Habs.

9/10

 

The next Canadiens trade on the docket was the epitome of a one-sided win for the Hughes. Montreal acquired Sean Monahan and a first-round pick from the Calgary Flames in exchange for future considerations.

We don’t need to spend much time on this one.

Individual Trade Grade: Hughes used the Canadiens’ financial flexibility to add a good player to the lineup, not to mention a first-round pick that included a ridiculous number of conditions. It was particularly interesting because the outgoing general manager, Marc Bergevin, always boasted about his team’s salary cap maneuverability, but never managed to take advantage of his expiring asset.

10/10 (Does this thing go up to eleven?)

 

Heading into the 2023 NHL Draft, the Habs traded a first-round pick (No.31 Mikhail Gulyayev) and a second-round pick (No.37 Ethan Gauthier) to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Alex Newhook.

I’ll admit that I did not love the trade at the time because the Newhook I watched in Colorado was far from an impact player. I also thought the Canadiens should have used their draft picks to add more talent to the prospect pool, which is never a bad idea during a rebuild.

Both Gulyayev and Gauthier are talented prospects, and if they eventually ascend to the NHL and make an impact in the league we can re-assess the trade outcome, but for now, the Canadiens put their hands on a talented forward who can help out in the top six, one of their greatest areas of weakness.

Individual Trade Grade: Newhook needs to improve his underlying numbers, as he’s currently well below average in a few important statistical categories, particularly defensive metrics, but he’s an offensive-minded player on a team that lacks options up front, and there’s certainly value to his presence in the lineup.

7.5/10

 

When the Canadiens re-acquired Jeff Petry alongside Casey DeSmith, Nathan Legare, and a second-round pick in the three-team trade that saw Erik Karlsson join the Pittsburgh Penguins, many of us were left scratching our heads.

The Habs had only recently moved on from Petry, and there was little to no chance he would want to join the team for the 2023-24 season. Of course, the cost was reasonable, as the Habs managed to move overpaid forward Mike Hoffman and depth forward Rem Pitlick in the process.

Individual Trade Grade: At the very least, it showed that Hughes was willing to think outside the box when it came to removing some of the questionable contracts signed by Bergevin.

In addition, DeSmith had fairly good numbers as a backup goaltender, which would hopefully lead to some offers from a team looking to improve their goaltending depth.

6/10

 

The shoe finally fell when the Canadiens moved Petry to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Gustav Lindstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2025 (the later of Detroit or Boston’s pick that year).

Lindstrom had some of the worst numbers in the league while he was playing for the Red Wings, and things did not improve once he took to the ice for the Habs. To make matters worse, the Canadiens agreed to retain 50 percent of Petry’s salary in the deal.

There’s a human element to this trade. Petry wanted to head to the United States and Hughes obliged him. That will garner points among the members of the NHLPA, but it did not do any favours for the Habs in the short term.

Individual Trade Grade: I understand why the trade happened the way it did, but the low-value return was simply not good enough to suggest this was a good trade for the Habs, especially since they retained salary. Fortunately, it finally put an end to the Petry saga in Montreal.

2/10

 

The Habs then sent Casey DeSmith to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Tanner Pearson and a 2024 third-round pick.

DeSmith would go on to play an important role for the Canucks in 2023-24, and Pearson quickly fell from grace after a relatively strong start with his new team, but I hesitate to judge this trade harshly.

Individual Trade Grade: The goaltender market in the NHL is almost always ice cold, which mitigates much of the potential involved in any goalie trade. The Canadiens also had too many goalies in the mix. Adding a third-round pick is nothing to write home about, but it’s still a positive for a team in the midst of a rebuild.

5.5/10

 

The forward market heated up ahead of the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline, leading to a trade that saw Monahan join the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for their first-round pick.

We all know late first-round picks are not as valuable as early picks, but it’s borderline impossible to criticize this deal. It was a good return for a player who cost the team absolutely nothing to acquire in the first place.

I’d also like to point out it was the first time in NHL history that a general manager acquired two first-round picks in trades involving the same player. For the record, Tyler Toffoli was also traded to the Jets at a later date, though the New Jersey Devils only received a pair of picks (2024 3rd, 2025 2nd) and they had to retain 50 percent of his salary to get it done.

Individual Trade Grade: Anyone criticizing this deal is simply looking for a nit to pick. It was excellent asset management by the Canadiens, especially since the trade market quickly cooled, leading to poor returns for any selling team down the stretch.

10/10

MUST READ: Trading Monahan Early Paid Off For The Habs

 

The final Canadiens trade we’ll consider is the move that saw Jake Allen join the New Jersey Devils on trade deadline day.

The Canadiens retained 50 percent of his salary and received a 2024 third-round pick in return. There’s a condition in the deal which stipulates it becomes a 2025 second-round pick if Allen plays 40 or more games next season and the team he plays for qualifies for the playoffs.

This was fairly decent value given the market for goaltenders, but the return was less important than slaying the three-headed monster that plagued the Canadiens’ crease all season long.

Ideally, Hughes would have pulled the trigger on a goaltender deal much earlier in the season.

To be perfectly fair, there was a deal in place to send Allen to the Devils well before the trade deadline, but Allen had New Jersey on his no-trade list, which led to the veteran goaltender nixing the trade.

MUST READ: Jake Allen Blocked A Canadiens Trade To New Jersey Earlier In The Season

This exonerates the Devils to a certain extent. They clearly needed a goaltender throughout the season and by the time they acquired Allen it was a little too late, but they did attempt to make a move at an earlier point.

But it doesn’t exonerate Hughes, as he’s the one who signed Allen to an early contract extension when there was no reason to do so. He also offered a no-trade clause to Allen in the first place.

Individual Trade Grade: This was a necessary trade that took much too long to accomplish. According to many insiders, Hughes was not willing to acquiesce to his demands in trade for Allen, despite many teams being interested in improving their goaltending depth. It was a gamble, and it won’t negatively impact the team beyond next season when Allen’s contract is off the books, but it also created tension among the three goaltenders who were sharing the crease in Montreal. This, along with the Petry trade, was one of the few unforced errors made by Hughes in the many trades he made since taking over as general manager of the team.

3/10

 

Tune in tomorrow when we focus on the totality of the trades made by Kent Hughes, taking a broader approach to evaluating his workload within the context of the team’s long-term rebuild plans.


Do you agree or disagree with the grades given to the Canadiens trades? If so, let us know what you think in the comments!

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Peter

Joel Edmundson traded to Washington for a 3rd & 7th pick this year from Washington, important if only that I didn’t have to hear abysmal TSN announcer Bryan Mudryk call him Edmonton 10 times every game.

Peter

Here is another bad one Dadanov to Dallas for Gurianov. Getting Dadanov in exchange for Weber’s contract

john harmsworth

I don’t see how that is a bad deal. Dadanov was just a temporary situation to get rid of Weber’;s contract. That’s a win. Trading Dadanov for Gurianov was just an attempt to get something for a dead money player. We didn’t have a spot to make anything out of Dadanov. He probably earned his keep in his first year with Dallas but he doesn’t have enough to move the needle for them at 35, and he certainly doesn’t fit in with a young and rebuilding Habs team.
Maybe not a win, but mostly just housekeeping.

Last edited 16 days ago by john harmsworth
Peter

Dadanov for Gurianov deal is bad because Dadanov is still contributing to Dallas while Gurianov played only 4 games in the NHL with 0 points this season for Philly. It is always a gamble but it is one that didn’t payoff, certainly no blockbuster by any means.

tony

Dandonov wanted out of Montreal and you could tell by the way he played. Playing much better with Dallas but 35 Hughes rolled the dice.

Peter

Interesting that Monahan led the league in one category – he played 83 games!

john harmsworth

It wouldn’t hurt my feelings to bring him back on a reasonable contract. The guy’s; a great professional.and a leader for the young guys.

John Smith

I guess the ultimate question on this matter is “are the Montreal Canadiens better off with the trades by Kent Hughes or not?”

This can be answered in the immediate as well as long term.

I believe the answer is yes to both. In the immediate sense, Hughes has improved this roster despite its position in the standings. Why? They lost a ton of games by one goal margins. This to me does not indicate a team that finished with the fifth worst record. Second, most of the players acquired can only get better as they are young and have not come close to their primes. As a result, I foresee a bright future that will only become brighter with the transactions and picks from this upcoming summer and the one that follows.

Dana

In measuring any body of work, the various elements are not usually equals. A nothing trade for petry/ Lindstrom had no intention of moving the needle, whereas Monahan deals had greater weight and implication. . Petry was a convenience trade and more than anything, it enhanced Hughes reputation as he kept his word to Petry, as he did with Monahan, which matterers to ufa’s. First rounders do move the needle so that deal is worth far more than nothing burgers and should be weighted accordingly, ie, we trade Kovacevic for makar, it’s a 10/10. Then we trade mailloux for Parise a 1/10. Both GMs get 11 points but we got Makar so it was a massive win and Hughes should be ranked way ahead of macfarlane.

The other noteworthy caveat is that perhaps the best measure is how you do against your peers. There are 32 GMs so how does Hughes rank in trading skills? He may not win every trade but who does, and is it a relative strength or weakness? Nick is our top Center but how does he measure against the other top centers is a better way to understand his value. Same thing with GMs. Brian Burke famously quipped at his the onset of the cap era something like the team with the best GM would win the most. Lot bigger exercise to measure GM trades to compare them but it really helps provide clarity.

Peter

Despite playing on an offensively challenged team Suzuki had 77 points which was 12th in the NHL amongs centers (7th in goals and even had more than McDavid – also Montreal was 26th in goals amongst NHL teams) There is room for a huge improvement – next season playing the full year with Caufield & Slafkovsky should provide dividends and hopefully as well a healthy Kirby Dach (the powerplay with be better with him and possibly Hutson)

Dana

Agreed, Nick should be better than a point per game next year, as he was this year post all star game. He might even have 100 point potential?

Pierre B.

When I read “But saying that you cannot judge a trade until everything winds down is essentially suggesting you can never evaluate a trade while the players are active”, I realized I am the polar opposite of the opinion. While it is fun to look at how things evolved, it is unfair to grade a GM’s trade based on what occurs later. A trade is a decision made in a given context based on numerous factors, including the respective objectives of the teams involved. One might conclude later that a trade was a bad one, but it is more important to acknowledge that the GM’s decision itself was a sound one. This is how I would like a rebuild to be graded. Are the decisions sound in the context of the rebuild? When we are lucky or not, let’s just admit it for what it is.
Statistically, the 2006 trade (Craig Rivet for Josh Gorges and 2006 SJS 1st) was not much different than the Toffoli trade. Both landed a late 1st-round pick and an asset. The fact that this 2006 pick (#22) became Pacioretty (who later was traded for Suzuki amongst others) should not change the grade on that initial trade. At the moment of the trade, the GM got a given value, that of a late 1st-round pick + an asset.
The other aspect is the context. It is never fully known to fans as we are not privy to the GM’s discussions. Unless we see another trade soon after in which similar players are traded, it’s tough to know the going market value of the assets traded. And even then, going market value may fluctuate based on offer and demand. While we might want to believe that a GM should be able to predict the evolution of the offer and demand, it can only be to a certain extent, as this should already be accounted in the going market value.
As for the objectives, one should not expect a GM to admit to “tank” his team, but his actions may speak louder than his voice. What I really want to know is how the trades have contributed or are contributing to getting the right roster (players in, players out) to become a sustainable contender in a given time frame (e.g. as when Gallagher and Anderson’s contracts expire).

Last edited 16 days ago by Pierre B.
Rickster

i think two things on trades
1 they are people and organization of their words
2 i think they did the best they could with what they had to work with ..You take chances win some lose some

Greg

I think it’s wrong to rate the Petry trades the way you did. Certainly, I’d have given him a 0 on the 3rd Petry trade, when you look at it altogether, Hughes managed to move Hoffman, and absolutely NOBODY EVER thought THAT would happen. In total, Hughes turned Petry, Hoffman, and Pitlick into Mike Matheson, a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rd picks and retained some of Petry’s salary. Yes, we can nitpick and rate it by all 3 trades, but when you look at the results in total, that’s a very solid use of assets not worth much into a lot more. I imagine Pens fans wish they’d never traded Matheson.
The Allen trade I see much differently. Yes, 3 goalies isn’t ideal. Recall though that it was actually 4 until camp. He got a 3rd and a contract for a backup, and a 3rd that could be a 2nd for a career backup. Good value given goalies are worth nothing in trade market. I’d argue Primeau benefitted from the 3 goalie system and it didn’t harm Montembeault. Finally knowing he had made the NHL, he proved why the team has had the faith in him they’ve had.
Yes, I wish Allen was gone by Christmas too, but I doubt we’d have gotten more, so it has to be a win. Perhaps not a huge win. But a win nonetheless.
As for me, I’ll always love Hughes for managing to get anything but gut wrenching laughter when he offered Hoffman up for trade.