No need to be a rocket scientist to see that this team is going nowhere fast and even if it was to improve in the next few days, or few weeks, the odds of the Montreal Canadiens making the playoffs are realistically all but gone. So what do you do with a team that’s going through the motions in November? You start thinking of the future.
No one in their right mind in hockey wants to do such thing this early in a season but the situation in Montreal is disastrous. Marc Bergevin is being left as a lame duck without a contract for next year. Carey Price is slowly coming back from substance abuse with no timeline as to when he’ll play his next game. Out of the season, Shea Weber is possibly calling it a career. Paul Byron is still out until December at least. Jonathan Drouin has headaches after getting a wrist shot to the head in early November, he’s still out for who knows how long… but it’s apparently “not a concussion”. The injury list is getting longer by the day.
Everyone who follows the Canadiens will have his or her idea on how to handle this situation. I personally would like to see Bergevin back but it seems less and less likely to happen as the season progresses and the team sinks further down the NHL’s basement. Missing the playoffs after reaching the Stanley Cup finals was not what anyone wanted. Still, Geoff Molson remains silent, watching his team self-implode with a GM who doesn’t know if his next move will be his last… or even if he has already made his last move. A ridiculous situation no matter how you look at it.
Out the door
So I’ll leave the GM situation (and the coaching) out of this… for now. Let’s focus on the on-ice product, player-personnel, as they say. It’s time to slowly start talking to teams and preparing for next season. Please understand that this is not, in any way, shape or form, against the players that I will mention. Far from there. Many I really like. But hockey is a business and in order to improve, the Canadiens must prepare for seasons to come. So with that in mind, at forward, the following players should be on the trade block:
- Joel Armia ($3.4M until 2024-25 – UFA)
- Adam Brooks ($725k until 2021-22 – RFA)
- Paul Byron ($3.4M until 2022-23 – UFA)
- Artturi Lehkonen ($2.3M until 2021-22 – RFA)
- Cedric Paquette ($950k until 2021-22 – UFA)
- Mathieu Perreault ($950k until 2021-22 – UFA)
On defense, the Canadiens are pretty deep on the left side, not so much on the right. Still, I’ve included two right-handed defensemen and the one I’m keeping needs to wake up and start playing hockey. Out are…
- Ben Chiarot ($3.5M until 2021-22 – UFA)
- Brett Kulak ($1.85M until 2021-22 – UFA)
- Sami Niku ($750k until 2021-22 – RFA)
- David Savard ($3.5M until 2024-25 – UFA)
- Chris Wideman ($750k until 2021-22 – UFA)
In net, the Canadiens are set for the immediate future. So two minor deals, by trading away at least one of the following two goaltenders:
- Samuel Montembeault ($750k until 2021-22 – RFA)
- Michael McNiven ($750k until 2021-22 – RFA)
The players with the best value on the trade market are Chiarot, Lehknonen and Armia. For the rest, good luck getting a bag of puck for them. In Byron’s case, it’s not because of the player that he is, but because of his injuries and salary. Savard is useful but with the season that he’s having, his value is likely non-existant. Kulak, Niku and Wideman are good depth defensemen for teams preparing for the playoffs.
Basically, build around the following players for the rest of this season:
Toffoli – Suzuki – Caufield
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Hoffman – Poehling – Gallagher
? – Evans – ?
Edmundson – Petry
Romanov – ?
As you can see, there are a few wholes to fill and it exposes once again the team’s biggest need being for right-handed defensemen. Quality right-handed defensemen, including a top-4. Those don’t come cheap but the Habs must address this and pay the asking price as they are not deep in the system at that position.
On a side note… The Habs have added Cédric Paquette, Mathieu Perreault, David Savard and Samuel Montembeault for this season. How is that working out? I’m all for getting local talent to play for the Montreal Canadiens but the Quebec-born talent in the NHL simply isn’t there. Here’s hoping that Jocelyn Thibeault, newly appointed at the head of Hockey Quebec, can help change that, along with the QMJHL. Right now, it just goes to show that you don’t build a contender with politics. You do with sound hockey decisions regardless of the language of the players you get. Here’s hoping that some fans and radio personalities understand that… but let’s not hold our breath.