Yes, it seems like Jeff Gorton and the Canadiens are getting ready to conduct interviews for the position of General Manager. Yes, their committee is taking shape and no, there shouldn’t be an announcement before Christmas. Mmmm… Christmas. There’s an idea. How about we make a list to Santa? But we better hurry, as we’re only two weeks away!
I have compiled a short list of potential trades Gorton could be temped to pull the trigger on. You will understand that like when a kid makes his or her Christmas list, they can’t possibly write all the possibilities. So I’ve narrowed it down to five that might be feasible… or not. Some come from trade rumours, others are simply made-up.
But first, let’s clarify something. I do not believe that Gorton wants to or needs to go through a full rebuild and that’s what I’m basing those trade on. The reason being that the Canadiens drafted 45 players since the reset of 2018 and they own 11 more picks for the upcoming Draft, which will be held in Montreal. A reset (yes, another one) is the route the new V-P of Hockey Operations is most likely going to aim towards, trading some of the veterans, keeping others and revamping the composition of the team to get younger, faster and more skilled.
So without further ado, here’s the shortlist of Christmas wishes, or possibilities… or not:
#1 – Ben Chiarot for 1st round pick. Wow, how original. It’s like the little boy asking for a Playstation! But it’s still the most likely to happen. The real question is not if you do it, but rather when. Do you trade him now or do you risk an injury? Big Ben plays a physical style. He blocks shots. He will drop the gloves if need be – he even broke a hand doing so. And he logs tons of minutes. As most of his salary is paid, closer to trade deadline, there will be more suitors, or a bigger bidding war for him. But the way the Canadiens’ players have been falling like flies, the timing of the trade is something that the Habs have to seriously consider. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, right?
#2 – Vitaly Kravtsov is an interesting option. Jeff Gorton, who says liking his teams to be skilled and fast, was the GM who drafted Kravtsov ninth overall in 2018, while with the Rangers. He will be turning 22 on December 23rd and, as we know, he has returned to the KHL awaiting a trade. In 12 games there, he has 5G-4A-9Pts. The 6-foot 3-inches Russian is an offensive dynamo with tremendous skill with the puck. Is also an extremely good skater but he does need to improve on his defensive skills. He is, however, an ultra-skilled, talented winger with major upside, something the Habs are desperately lacking.
#3 – Dylan Strome was, once again, a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks when they faced the Habs on Thursday. Since losing Phillip Danault to free agency and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer-sheet, the Canadiens’ center depth has taken a shot, even after the trade for Christian Dvorak. To the point where they had claimed Adam Brooks off waivers, before losing him trying to send him to Laval. The 6-foot 3-inches, 200 lbs center will turn 25 in March and he’s only a few seasons removed from his 51 points in 58 games. He has a tremendous shot, plus all-round ability, including excellent playmaking skills plus the qualities of a true finisher. His hockey sense is well above-average, too.
#4 – John Klingberg could have easily been #1 on my list. Not for the likeliness of it happening, but based on the Canadiens’ biggest needs. A right-handed, great all-round right-handed defenseman who can log major minutes against the opposition’s top lines, he’s just what the doctor ordered. And the Canadiens don’t have that in their system… yet. Of course, the deal would have to come with a contract extension and with a team having the kind of season they’re having, Gorton would have some major convincing and selling to do. Yes, you’re going to pay in terms of assets and salary, but you get what you pay for. Those defensemen are few and far between and would fill a gap, allowing for Logan Mailloux to develop.
#5 – Brendan Gallagher could be on his last miles in Montreal. As much as this hurts to say, Gally was very close to Marc Bergevin, like many current veterans on the team. Teams would love to add a guy like him, low maintenance, leader, all effort, to their squads. His new contract comes with a modified no-trade clause where he names six teams he won’t accept a trade to. It’s unlikely that Stanley Cup contenders would be on that list, or… Vancouver, where he captained the Giants in the WHL. J.T. Miller has been in the rumours, here in BC and at 28, he has a lot of good hockey in him. He leads the Canucks with 18 points and he is good on faceoffs with a 54.8% efficiency.
There you have it folks. How many of those will come true? I’d say one, maybe two if I’m lucky. The top-two are most likely. Well, the top one is pretty much a certainty. The second, a possibility with strong odds. I could see Strome as well but that’s a stretch. We know how good Bergevin was with trades. Here’s hoping that Gorton can tip the balance in the Canadiens’ favour when he does pull the trigger. Or can we bring Bergevin back just to complete those trades? Asking for a friend…