A new Vice-President of Hockey Operations, new General Manager, new Director of Amateur Scouting… a team that’s been decimated by injuries and COVID, who can’t win games. In Montreal, you have the perfect storm for a sweep on the ice and that’s what we’re likely to see in the upcoming months.
Jeff Gorton has already stated in his only press conference thus far, that he likes his teams to be fast and skilled. The Canadiens made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals by being physically punishing and bruising, out-muscling their opponents. So the composition of the team isn’t exactly what Gorton envisions. Further, the Habs are so tight against the salary cap, they are deep into their LTIR funds. Those two points can be added to the reasons for a major sweep.
Veterans will be gone
From reading on the internet, everyone in the media and in the fan base is expecting to see some veterans being traded. Ben Chiarot is on everyone’s mind as one of the top pending UFAs likely to be traded by the March 21st NHL Trade Deadline. But there are others on the Canadiens who are very likely to find a new home in the next several months.
Just yesterday, I was debating the value and mostly the need (or lack of thereof) for trading Carey Price. Why did I get sucked into such a debate? For one thing, there is no way that he’s being traded from now until trade deadline. It’s way too much salary to swallow by any team. IF (and that’s a big if) he gets traded, it won’t happen until the summer so why waste our time on that?
In order to help everyone avoid falling in such traps, I decided to compile the list of veterans on the Habs. I went further by ranking those players by likeliness of getting traded, and when it’s likely to occur, if it ever even does.
|1-||Ben Chiarot||D||$3.5M – UFA||Trade deadline|
|2-||Brett Kulak||D||$1.8M – UFA||Trade deadline|
|3-||Mathieu Perreault||C/LW||$950k – UFA||Trade deadline|
|4-||Chris Wideman||D||$750k – UFA||Trade deadline|
|5-||Paul Byron||LW||$3.4M until 2022-23||Off-season|
|6-||Jeff Petry||D||$6.25M until 2024-25||Off-season|
|7-||Brendan Gallagher||RW||$6.5M until 2026-27||Off-season|
|8-||Tyler Toffoli||RW||$4.25M until||Off-season|
|9-||Jonathan Drouin||LW||$5.5M until 2022-23||Off-season|
|10-||Mike Hoffman||LW||$4.5M until 2023-24||Off-season|
|11-||Joel Armia||RW||$3.4M until 2024-25||Off-season|
|12-||Carey Price||G||$10.5M until||Off-season|
|13-||Jake Allen||G||$2.875M until 2022-23||Trade deadline|
|14-||Artturi Lehkonen||LW||$2.3M – RFA||Trade deadline|
|15-||David Savard||D||$3.5M until 2024-25||Off-season|
|16-||Christian Dvorak||C||$4.45M until 2024-25||Off-season|
|17-||Joel Edmundson||D||$3.5M until 2023-24||Off-season|
|18-||Josh Anderson||RW||$5.5M until 2026-27||Off-season|
Trade deadline moves
Like everyone else, I’m fully expecting Chiarot to be gone by trade deadline. The only question mark is when exactly it will occur. If you wait closer to March 21st, more of Chiarot’s salary will be paid and more teams will be able to bid on his services, therefore raising his trade value. But with the way the Canadiens’ players have been falling like flies, and with Chiarot having contracted COVID himself, do you want to take the risk of him being injured or out of commission, and risk getting nothing for him? If a good offer comes soon, I’d be tempted of taking it!
Mathieu Perreault comes third (could be second) because he’s an experienced, low maintenance, versatile player who can play all three forward positions. He’s defensively responsible, plays a gritty style and can pinch in on offense from time to time. Last but not least, he’s cheap. The return won’t be much, but he should be gone by trade deadline.
Kulak and Wideman are serviceable defensemen as depth players, something teams planning on a deep playoffs’ run are wanting. Inexpensive contracts, both of them bring a skillset that can help a contender on their bottom pairing or in case of injuries. Again, low return but likely gone.
In my opinion, Jake Allen and Artturi Lehkonen (13th and 14th on the list) aren’t going anywhere but if a team comes with a ridiculous offer (particularly for Lehkonen), the Habs could listen. Their contracts are moveable by trade deadline, which is why I put them there.
I have Paul Byron at 5th but he’s unlikely to be traded. He is, however, a prime candidate for a buyout in the off-season, as he will only have one year left to his contract. Injuries have caught up to Ti-Paul and it would be surprising to see him back next year.
Not all veterans will be traded, of course. From position six to nine, I’m expecting that two of the following four players will be gone next summer: Petry, Gallagher, Toffoli and/or Drouin. Which ones will obviously depend on a few factors: which one(s) new management want to keep around, which one(s) want to stick around for another reset, and the kind of return the team could get for them.
The odds of seeing one of Price or Allen gone are slim. Not that they wouldn’t trade Price, but his contract (which includes a full NMC) would be very, very difficult to move. If I’m the Canadiens, I would not keep a lot of salary just to see him gone. Truthfully, I’m expecting both goaltenders to be back in front of the Canadiens’ net next season, with Allen finishing the last year of his contract. By then, young Cayden Primeau should be ready to be Price’s backup and take more and more playing time from him as years go by.
In conclusion, I’m fully expecting the Habs to send a feeler across the NHL informing them that there are basically no untouchables amongst the Canadiens’ veteran players and to call if they have interest in any of them. So whomever the new GM coming in will be, it will be a steep learning curve as it will be a very busy few months when it comes to trades, in addition to learning about the Draft and contract negotiations. Candidates beware…