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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens Trade Targets: Three Quality NHL Forwards Available

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montreal canadiens trade targets

The Montreal Canadiens have openly admitted they want to make a splash this summer, which would act as an accelerant in regard to the team’s long-term rebuild plans.

“It’s a huge summer for us,” explained V.P. Of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton. “We want to set ourselves up pretty well.”

It’s a logical approach given their situation.

The Habs will have drafted in the top 5 in three consecutive seasons, have plenty of cap space, and own one of the youngest lineups in the NHL. It’s also worth pointing out that many of the core players, including captain Nick Suzuki, are champing at the bit to taste a little success.

With that in mind, the Canadiens must still be careful in their planning. Due diligence is in order, lest the team follow the path of the Ottawa Senators or Buffalo Sabres, organizations that seem to be stuck in a perpetual sadness thanks to their never-ending rebuilds.

The harsh truth is that rebuilds are difficult, and staying at the bottom of the standings for several years does not guarantee success. Even the Oilers, who were gifted two of the best players in the world, took almost a decade to make it to the Stanley Cup final.

MUST READ: Canadiens Analysis – Lessons Learned From The 2024 NHL Playoffs

There is no Connor McDavid in Montreal’s future, let alone a Leon Draisaitl, which means they have to be even more diligent when looking for star power in the NHL’s trade market, seeing as they will undoubtedly have to spend quality assets to acquire a player who can push them to the next level.

Montreal Canadiens Trade Target Options

There are three players available for trade who could immediately improve the Canadiens’ lineup: Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks), Martin Necas, and Jake Guentzel (Carolina Hurricanes).

We’ve already discussed the pros and cons of a trade involving Zegras, and we touched upon the possibility a player like Necas could join the fold, which means it’s time to compare all three aforementioned trade targets to get a better idea of which one would be a good fit with the Habs.

The first thing we’ll examine is the cost of acquisition.

There’s a significant discrepancy in the price tags, as Zegras and Necas are reportedly being shopped for a king’s ransom, whereas Guentzel’s rights can be acquired for a mid-round pick. This lines up well with their overall potential, as Zegras and Necas are 23 and 25-years old, respectively, while Guentzel will turn 30 by the time the 2024-25 season is ready to get underway.

We won’t spend too much time analyzing their underlying numbers, but suffice it to say, the two players who spent time with the Hurricanes last year have much better possession numbers than the player who spent his time with the lowly Anaheim Ducks. On that note, don’t expect either former Cane to produce elite underlying numbers should they join the Canadiens, at least not immediately.

As for their production, it’s quite clear which player is currently bringing the most to the table at 5v5.

 

montreal canadiens trade targets

 

Guentzel is well ahead of both Necas and Zegras in goals per 60, assists per 60, points per 60, and individual high-danger chances per 60.  All three players maintained a shooting percentage that lines up with their career averages at 5v5, which means we aren’t dealing with any sort of inflated production due to puck luck.

Other Trade Factors To Consider

While it’s clear Guentzel is the better player today, he’s also exiting his statistical prime, while Zegras is just about to enter his, and Necas is just starting to enjoy prime seasons.

This suggests Guentzel’s value will slowly, yet surely decline, whereas the other two players have better odds of improving their overall impact when the Canadiens would need it most.

There’s also the matter of salary cap hits.

Kent Hughes has plenty of financial manoeuvrability when it comes to adding contracts to the mix, but many teams have been burned by acquiring star players who are on the precipice of a decline. Guentzel is in the final year of a five-year contract that carries a $6 million annual average value (AAV), which means it’s likely the final time in his career he’ll be able to pick the team he’ll play with while also commanding a rather rich pay cheque.

The name of the game for any player heading into Guentzel’s situation is term and money.

Zegras still has two years left on his contract, which pays him a very reasonable $5.75 million per season, a price tag that allows for some value in the next two seasons. On the other side of the coin, Zegras will be looking for a healthy raise once his bridge contract expires. He’ll be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2026, which mitigates some of the risk in contract negotiations.

Necas is expected to be looking for a significant raise. He’s also a restricted free agent, however, he’s yet to sign a rich contract in the NHL. The Hurricanes got tremendous value from his two-year extension that paid him $3 million AAV, but that certainly won’t be the case for the team that trades for the talented forward. Necas is expected to demand upward of $6.5 million per season on a long-term contract.

Montreal Canadiens Trade Targets – Brass Tacks

All three Montreal Canadiens trade targets play down the middle of the ice, with Guentzel bringing a little more to the table in terms of versatility, as he has experience playing both centre and on the wing.

In terms of their playing style, Guentzel once again leads the charge. That’s not to say Necas and Zegras couldn’t possibly mesh with head coach Martin St-Louis’ strategies, but there certainly would be a learning curve, especially when it comes to their defensive play.

Simply put, if the Canadiens want a player who will make a massive impact and bring them to the next level immediately, Guentzel is the right target. But if they want to bet on potential while keeping statistical primes in mind, they should look to a player like Zegras or Necas.


All Montreal Canadiens trade targets statistics are 5v5 only, via Natural Stat Trick.

Salary cap information via PuckPedia.

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Greg

I doubt there will be a huge learning curve for any of them to fit into Marty’s system, whatever that’s supposed to be. Zegras is coming from a team in a similar situation, though the time frame for the rebuilds might be different. With Leo Carlsson, Cutter Gauthier and Mason MacTavish, perhaps they feel they can trade Zegras, but I’m not sure I would if I were the Ducks, not this summer anyways. It’s premature to trade him, unless Verbeek sees value in acquiring some defence back.
Unlike Guentzel, both Zegras and Necas will cost too much in assets, and in Necas case both assets and salary.
Necas in particular is a good example of a player who expects big money for what teams HOPE he can do. When teams keep overpaying middle 6 forwards like him, it destroys the economy of the game.

Last edited 11 days ago by Greg
Denis B.

I just don’t think Montreal has the assets, they are willing to move, to get a very good youngish top 6. They will have to settle for a Dach/Newhook project trade. Perhaps a slightly more of a sure thing, but still an undervalued player.

Ghg55

I’m completely fine with passing on all three.

The combination of zegras being voted most overrated player by his peers (even if it wasn’t an overwhelming choice), plus the fact that he doesn’t play defence, and that Anaheim would be willing to trade him if he was moved, all points to a player that likely isn’t worth what’s required to get him. It’s not like the ducks have 8 players to fit in their top six so they’re trading from a place of excess. Zegras can still help them without giving up assets. The combo of these facts is not a good look.

Necas is apparently wanting top line and top pp time with his dad causing a stink about it. Plus, as this very site has noted, he’s 25 so not MUCH more room for improvement, he’s played with some great offensive players, and has really only had one good season. Another combo of facts that don’t look great. Especially when you account for cost.

Guentzel will cost a ton up front in salary. Not a big deal. He’s certainly help. But my concern from there is, what happens in 4 years, halfway through the big money contract he’d demand, when he starts clearly declining just as Hutson, reinbacher, Roy, Mailloux etc are just STARTING to hit their prime, and demand big salaries of their own…. Their primes potentially don’t align with his and we maybe have to trim some younger players because of his contract.

I’m fine with paying big for a star forward. But I want those assets to go far. I’m cool with over paying. But again, I don’t want those assets to provide a player who won’t help in the playoffs, or who will decline before half the roster is ready to compete.

I’d rather spend these assets on a different young player not listed, or on another draft pick that better aligns with the timeline of Hutson, reinbacher, slaf etc…. Necas and zegras do, but are they the type of players we really want? Idk….

Last edited 11 days ago by Ghg55
Harry Anderson

I’ve seen Owen Beck play many times. I believe he is better right now than Zegras, and will only get better in time. Forget the trade and keep what you already have.

Staylo58

None of them really bring excitement. Sounds like the cost of a Zegras or Necas is substantial. And losing WIFI would be an issue. If all goes well in 2-3 yrs you need him on D.
Maybe he never scores like Larry Robinson but if his D improves he can be very good. He keeps every opponent on the ice honest. And i do not see any other D or F who has that in their DNA yet. Reinbacher, Mailloux, Struble all look to have skill, some degree of toughness. Then it looks like Xhejak, Gulhe and Hutson. Which leaves a bunch of depth with Barron, Engstrom (who i haven’t even seen play), Kovacevic, Trudeau and a Russian.

And i have ignored Savard and Matheson.

I just do not think Zegras or Necas are worth it. I’d rather pick 5th and hope at 26 th Boisvert, Beaudoin, Basha, Parascak

John Spearing

None of these fit the Hughes buy low narrative… I really can’t see us landing any with the assets we are willing to move – the overpays would want too much
Kent Johnson if affordable and available might work but even he might be too much and Waddell might be tricky to deal with
Kakko is the type that fits the buy low with a high ceiling
We are still turning over stones 😉

Peter

Not all of the defense are waiver exempt which gives Montreal another year to ascertain which of the players will improve the most. No sense trading someone and finding out later they are a star on their new team. Also injuries will play a factor as well, so survival of the fittest.

William O'Neill

Adding a possible top six forward in the draft and the natural maturation of players already in the system will gain improvements. As many others, I can see Hughes using the 26 pick to bring in an early twenties player who hasn’t quite fulfilled promise on another team. Whichever way it goes I have complete faith in HuGo to do what’s best for sustained success.

Dana

Not sure any of these are the high impact guys required to help us become an elite team in a few years. As stated many times but several posters here, it’s high quality and not quantity that’s required as we enter the roster refinement stage of the rebuild. We likely have 20 roster spots accounted for but the remaining spots need to be some of the best players on the team. Would any of those 3 be in the top 4 on the team? I think it’s a stretch so I’d exercise patience until the right guy comes along.

I havent heard it said so I’ll put it out there, I don’t think another Dach/Newhook deal is the solution. They were both relatively low cost acquisitions of distressed assets with upside. Depending on perspective, we have st least 4 top 6 forwards with our top line and Dach and maybe Newhook and or Roy? We will draft another top 6 so any acquisition or signing needs to be an A or A+ talent as that player needs to be established and highly productive or on the cusp and a guy that will be our best or a top 3 player. I’m thinking a UFA next year but there are other options.

Our top line will be extremely good but not the best as we don’t have a top 3 forward. However, if we could assemble a top 3 second, third and fourth lines in the league, that would make us aggregate the best forward group. We know the D has the makings of a top 10 group – maybe top 5- based on projections of the young guys.

That’s why we should pass on these guys or other Dach/Newhook plays, it likely won’t provide us with the player required to anchor the best second line in hockey.

Tyrone

I would do Zegras and Anaheim’s pick at #3 for Reinbacher and our pick at #5 in a heartbeat. Zegras was drafted 9th + 3rd pick = 12, whereas Reinbacher + 5th pick = 10. It might look on the surface that we lose “mathematically”, but the player we get at #3 is likely to be the best of the bunch, which means we win the deal.