Not all of them will be traded, but some will. New management will bring its own vision of how this underperforming club should look like, what direction it should be heading. Some say a complete rebuild. I personally don’t think it’s necessary since Bergevin and his group have been focussing on drafting and developing since 2018. Fans are impatient and many don’t realize that it takes time to develop draft picks but they are starting to trickle in and there are many more in the NCAA, junior and European ranks.
Reset, rebuilt, it doesn’t matter what you call it. As long as this new management, led by Jeff Gorton, doesn’t make the crucial mistake to sell future for immediate success. It often takes prospects at least three to five years to have an impact at the NHL level and we are in year three of Bergevin’s on-the-fly reset. Suzuki and Norlinder came from the Pacioretty trade. Romanov is young and improving. Poehling and Pezzetta are showing good signs.
But what will they do with this veteran core? Who do they keep and who do they want to see gone? Which players could fetch good value in trade, to ultimately improve the team? And which player will see eye to eye with the new management’s vision and who won’t and ask to be traded? There is no denying about the tight relationship Bergevin had with his players and while they understand that it’s business, they don’t have to agree with the new direction either.
The firing of Bergevin is so fresh that there are a lot more questions than answers for the moment… and that’s okay. They must look for a GM too. They must revamp their Amateur Scouting department.
I’ve made a list of potential candidates to be traded from now until trade deadline. Some might actually stick the season and find new homes in the off-season, closer to the Draft, the second busiest time of year for trades in the NHL. Particularly those with term remaining on their contracts.
Ben Chiarot: Pending UFA, he’s a very low maintenance player with some leadership. A very good #3 or #4 defenseman, physical, who can log you some major minutes. A guy who knows how to raise his game in the playoffs. Elliotte Friedman thinks that he’ll be worth at least a first round pick. He’ll likely on his last strides with the Canadiens.
Mathieu Perreault: A lot will depend on own his eye recovers from surgery but he’s a quality veteran, also a pending UFA at a very affordable contract. Good depth player with experience, he another low maintenance player who can motivate himself.
Chris Wideman: Teams are always searching for depth on defense at trade deadline. Best defenseman in the KHL last year, he’s had his ups and downs with the Habs this season but really, who hasn’t? He can take a regular shift on the third pairing and help on the second power play unit.
Artturi Lehkonen: He’s been on fire this week but he’s hot and cold. I have a feeling that we won’t see either him, or his countryman Armia, for next season. But there will be a lot of interest for Lehky as he does all the little things right. He’s also a well liked individual and an extremely hard worker.
Tyler Toffoli: Watching him go, I can’t help but wonder how happy he is in Montreal. Is it the pressure, the fans, or it might just be the constant loosing. But the effort doesn’t always seem to be at its peak, and the smile isn’t there like it was last season. He has a very affordable contract and teams would love to have him.
Joel Armia: While he does a lot of good things, he’s the type of player that shows sparks, but rarely catches fire. As Bergevin said, you have players who will help you make the playoffs and others who will make you win in the playoffs. He’s definitely in the second group. He also has size and excels in puck retrieval. His contract could get in the way of a trade so Lehky might be easier to move.
Christian Dvorak: If Bergevin was still there, he wouldn’t be on that list as the Habs paid a hefty price to get him. New management may think differently. One of the league’s top faceoffs’ man, he’s a good third line centre at an affordable contract. Centers are at a premium in this league.
Jonathan Drouin: Underwhelming is the term I would use to describe Jo. He was Bergevin’s project but he might not be Gorton’s, as he wasn’t Yzerman’s. Like it or not, he does have one thing going in his favour: the language he speaks. Talented home-grown talent is not easy to find and even harder to get in today’s NHL.
Ryan Poehling: I strongly believe that had Jesperi Kotkaniemi stayed, Poehling was gone. But it’s not the case. He’s played well since his last recall but if a young player could be sacrificed in a trade for a more impactful player, I have a gut feeling that it could be him. Martin Lapointe will be able to give Gorton and the new GM some good insight on the young center.
Brett Kulak: In, out, in, out, in, out… you get the jest. Kulak is what he is, a 6-7th defenseman. Like Wideman though, he could be a good, experienced depth player for a Stanley Cup run. You may get a pick for him closer to trade deadline. The Habs are filled with quality young left defensemen coming. It’s an organizational point of depth.
Jordan Harris: Could Gorton, an American, convince Harris to sign? Would he have a better chance at convincing him not to test free agency? It’s doubtful. Why would you limit yourself to one team only weeks before being able to hear what all other teams have to say? Perhaps the Habs could get a conditional draft pick based on if he signs with that team?
Paul Byron: No, I don’t think he’s tradable. He’s suffered more than his share of injuries in the past couple of years but with only one year left to his contract, I can see the 32 year-old as a candidate for a buyout.
One guy who I highly doubt will get traded is Brendan Gallagher. Instead, just give him the C on his jersey. If you don’t want to make it permanent as long as Weber hasn’t announced his retirement, that’s fine. Just say that he’s the interim captain. No one deserves it more than him. The new management should give him at least a season or two to show what he can do. There’s no better example out there than Gally for young players.
So there we have it. As we wait to hear from Jeff Gorton (likely Friday, per hockey Insiders), those are the names who are the most likely to find another home and not be in Montreal by next training camp. This doesn’t mean that others won’t be traded folks, far from there. It’s an educated guess on my part. But rest assured that there will be some player-movement, likely starting in February when it’s easier to move contracts and a new GM has had time to get his feet wet.