Boxing Day Sale: Deals On The Canadiens

The annual Boxing Day sale is taking a new meaning in Montreal as the Canadiens will inevitably be looking at liquidating assets in the upcoming weeks and months. While teams will not rush on December 26th to buy from them, they will nonetheless be looking at the flyer to see what they might need in the near future. The Habs could very well have what they’re looking for.

Pending UFAs

Ben Chiarot

The obvious choice. He’s having an excellent season in spite of the team’s struggles. Mobile for his imposing size, he plays a rugged style perfect for playoffs’ hockey. He was one of Dominique Ducharme four Clydesdales, as he called them, in the surprising playoffs’ fun last season. He makes good passes and can join the rush. Any team needing a top-4 who can play 20-24 minutes a game will be after this guy from now until trade deadline. Chiarot will bring in a first round pick at the very least as a conditional pick could be added if he re-signs or based on how far the team goes in the playoffs.

Brett Kulak

Very serviceable depth defenseman, he will provide you some quality play on your third pairing. Mobile, decent first pass, can skate the puck out and join the rush as well. Much cheaper to acquire than Chiarot, he should draw interest from Cup contenders. The Canadiens should be happy with a third round pick in return.

Chris Wideman

Wideman’s biggest asset is that he’s right-handed, a rather rare commodity in the NHL on defense these days. There’s a huge demand for defensemen who shoot right and like Kulak, he can be serviceable on the third pairing and help the second wave of the power play. I was thinking a third round pick would be good, but if there’s a bidding war (it only takes two teams), the Canadiens could potentially get a second for him due to the fact is righty.

Mathieu Perreault

Quality, low maintenance, versatile forward who can play all three positions up front, Perreault should draw some attention. Good skater, he won’t hurt you defensively, will go through a brick wall to make a play, and can pinch in offensively here and there on the bottom-six. On his own, he might get you a third or fourth round pick but packaged with a Kulak or Wideman, it could be a trade like when Marc Bergevin traded Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to Chicago, two pending UFAs, for Phillip Danault and a second round pick (Alexander Romanov).

Cedric Paquette

Gritty, versatile fourth liner, he won’t hurt your team defensively and will bring energy. Don’t expect much in return though, but an asset is an asset and we’ve seen some dandy in the later rounds by the Canadiens. They should be happy if they get a fifth round pick for Paquette.

With contract left

The players who will still be under contract after this season are more likely to change address in the off-season. Teams are tight to the cap, particularly those in contention for a playoffs’ spot or as Stanley Cup contenders so waiting when every team has cap space will open up some market and maybe, some bitting wars.

Carey Price34$10.5M until 2025-26 – NMCThis is one contract that would prove to be difficult to move. Canada wanted him as their #1 at the Olympics so rest assured that teams know his value in net, even after his injury and him going on players protection program. His play in the last playoffs show that he’s still a dominant goaltender. EDM, COL, SEA, VAN are all possibilities, although less likely with Demko in VAN.
Jeff Petry34$6.25M until 2024-25 – NTC (14 team no-trade list)I don’t believe that Petry’s play this season has affected his value too much… yet. He’s still less than a year removed from his 40+ seasons and the fact that he’s right-handed adds immensely to his value. He’s better suited on the second pair and he misses Weber the most on the Habs, to take away the toughest minutes. Many teams are looking for a top-4 RD.
Brendan Gallagher29$6.5M until 2026-27 – NTC (6-team no-trade list)In a recent article, M-A Godin quoted scouts stating that Gallagher has value and 25 teams wanted to sign him at the same amount (or more). Gallagher is a warrior, a leader, and teams will be interested in him if he’s on the block. Rest assured.
Jonathan Drouin26$5.5M until 2022-23 – NTC (3-team no-trade list)The enigmatic one has not been able to live up to the expectations in Montreal and it has take its toll on him, as he took the second half of last season off to take care of his mental health. A change of scenery is what he needs, really. Playing in a market where he’s not known off the ice. A potential reunion with Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado, perhaps?
Mike Hoffman32$4.5M until 2023-24He hasn’t been unanimous anywhere he’s played and it’s been well documented. At 32, Gorton might want to get younger and Hoffman could very well be shopped. Lacking trade protection, he’s very much a moveable asset and teams needing secondary scoring at a decent price tag will be interested.
Tyler Toffoli29$4.25M until 2023-24Much like Hoffman, Toffoli brings you some good secondary scoring at an affordable price. He’s a good teammate well liked in a dressing room and one would think that with Jim Benning gone in Vancouver, a place he liked to play, if Jim Rutherford wouldn’t come calling.
David Savard31$3.5M until 2024-25Savard is said to have declined higher offers elsewhere to have a chance to play for the Habs and Bergevin made it happen. After a slow start, he has been playing some much better hockey lately. Right-hand shot, he would be in demand from many teams, particularly at his price tag.
Joel Armia28$3.4M until 2024-25I hesitated putting him there but I feel like it would be between he and countryman Lehkonen. Lehky is having a better season, and he’s more constant in his performances night in, night out. But Armia is a playoffs’ beast with high skills, and with good size. Teams would love to have him, no doubt. He does have value.
Paul Byron32$3.4M until 2022-23The swan song is playing for Ti-Paul I’m afraid. He’s been plagued with injuries the past couple of seasons and with one year left to his contract, I doubt he’s in the plans going forward. Either the Habs keep some salary or they buy him out at the end of the season.

Not all will be traded, that’s for sure. But the likeliness of seeing a few of them gone by training camp next year are very high. Jeff Gorton has clearly stated that he likes his teams to be fast and skilled and based on that alone, Toffoli and Savard are at risk due to their foot speed. Hoffman comes with a reputation and the team sinking in the first year he’s there after such playoffs’ success won’t help his reputation, although it’s certainly unfair to think that.

The Canadiens may prefer to keep Artturi Lehkonen instead of Joel Armia. If they can’t trade now injury-prone Paul Byron, he is a prime candidate for a buyout. Drouin has had more than his fair chance in Montreal since being acquired from Tampa Bay.

The top three on this list are a sensitive topic. They have big contracts and all three are undisputed leaders and have been for years on this team. It doesn’t seem like any of them will want to be part of a rebuild, although I personally don’t believe the Habs have to go in full rebuild mode. All three have value and it is possible that some salary might have to be retained to facilitate a trade.

So there you have it. Now, we sit and wait. We wait for more salary is paid to all of the players named above to make trading them easier for teams tight to the cap. We wait for Gorton to go through is search for a General Manager. We wait to see how the kids keep developing and we wait to see if Dominique Ducharme will be told to play them more. We wait… with little interest until it starts happening.

More reading…

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