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Potential Canadiens Trade Targets Beginning To Emerge

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Montreal Canadiens Trade Targets

The Montreal Canadiens will look to be active on the trade market this summer, and two prime candidates have seemingly hit the trade block.

With the Habs possessing a solid bank of draft picks, a glut of young defencemen and the necessary cap space to finally add to their roster, the expectation is that they’ll be looking to add scoring punch.

The significant amount of parity across the league, the desire for immediate results (as evidenced by the high number of coaching changes) and the rising salary cap make this offseason one of the most interesting in recent years.

But NHL general managers aren’t the only ones to have fun this summer. Just like readers who are browsing NHL betting odds or looking to play online on your favourite online casino; there’s going to be something for everyone this summer.

And now, with only a handful of teams left in the NHL Playoffs, certain names have begun to emerge on the trade block that has NHL general managers making calls and gauging prices.

We’ve known for months that goaltenders like Linus Ullmark and Jacob Markstrom will be highly sought-after commodities, but the forward market seemed a little bullish, until now.

Martin Necas

On a recent episode of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman continued to advance the notion that Martin Necas‘ time in Carolina is close to an end.

“Necas, I have believed for some time that one just probably won’t work out there,” Friedman said. “I just don’t think that they’re going to do what Necas wants to do.”

It appears that the situation is mutual, as Necas’ father reportedly mentioned in an interview that his son would prefer to move on from Carolina to challenge for more playing time and better usage elsewhere.

A source close to the situation has confirmed that the Montreal Canadiens have checked in on Necas’ availability and that he would be high on their shortlist of players to acquire this summer.

Necas finished the 2023-2024 campaign with 24 goals and 53 points in 77 games this season, while adding four goals and nine points in 11 games in the playoffs for Carolina.

As a pending restricted free agent (RFA), a Necas move could be very interesting from a “Sign & Trade” perspective. Acquiring teams can only extend their newly acquired players to eight-year contracts if they were on that team’s Reserve List as of the most recent NHL Trade Deadline or have an extra year left on their current contract as of July 1 of that given year.

Since Necas is a pending RFA, and in the same age range as the Montreal Canadiens’ current core (25), it could make a lot of sense for the Canadiens to adopt the same tactic used by both the Florida Panthers (Tkachuk) or the L.A. Kings (Dubois) to acquire a player of need, while lowering the cap hit due to the extra year afforded on the deal.

The question will all come down to price, and not just the trade package. GM Kent Hughes has shown some flexibility regarding term offered to his players; giving out eight-year deals to his core players, while less-proven youngsters were given four-year deals.

If Necas is willing to accept a contract offer that is either equal to or slightly less than Nick Suzuki’s current $7.85M cap hit, there could very well be a fit. And, after finishing the season with 53 points this season, a year removed from his breakout 71-point campaign, Necas wouldn’t have that much leverage to demand more.

If the Canadiens could get a player like Necas signed long-term to an affordable cap hit, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them be aggressive in acquiring him, as his skillset fit precisely into what Montreal is looking to add.,

But, if Necas doesn’t work out, there is already an alternative on the market.

Nikolaj Ehlers

Per The Athletic’s Murat Ates, the Jets are “likely to shop” Nikolaj Ehlers leading into the 2024 NHL Draft, as they look to bolster their defensive depth.

As a pending free agent, Ehlers has the type of tools that the Montreal Canadiens could sorely use; as he uses his blistering speed and quick hands to create dangerous plays out of nothing.

Over the last four seasons, Ehlers has scored at a point-per-game pace of over 60 points, while putting up 20 goals or more in seven of his nine NHL seasons.

Even with the Jets losing some of their offensive flair this season, Ehlers was able to pot 25 goals and register 61 points in 82 games. Ehlers was one of the Jet’s top players at event strength; leading the team with a 54.68% CF%,  and a 54.7% expected goal differential.

With the Jets looking for defensive help and/or more draft capital to help them improve in other areas, the 28-year-old, albeit a little older than Cole Caufield (23) and Nick Suzuki (soon-to-be 25), could be exactly what entices the Canadiens to sacrifice some defence to acquire some offence.

The Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets have a trade history together, as the Jets acquired Sean Monahan from the Habs this spring for their 2024 1st-round pick.

With Ehlers on the way out, and the Canadiens looking to secure a left-shooting forward capable of scoring and competing with their core in the coming years, there could be a deal to be had.

But, just like Necas above, the trade package and the new contract would have to make sense within the Montreal Canadiens’ fiscal structure, as it’s very unlikely that they’ll want to overpay with big contracts coming to Juraj Slafkovsky and Kaiden Guhle in the coming months.