Prediction Time: Where Will They Go?

Rumours are rampant around the Montreal Canadiens and with the team starting a full week without playing, it seems to be the right time to start speculating about what could happen. With them being above the salary cap and well into their LTIR, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that GM Kent Hughes will be trying to shed some serious salary off the team’s payroll.

So for the fun of it, for something to do, let’s try to guess what destination would be best for some of our beloved, but underperforming Habs. Not all will be traded, guaranteed, and most of those with term remaining to their contracts will likely have to wait until the off-season, when most teams have some cap room, to see things happen. For the sake of the exercise, I’ve stuck with veterans with relatively substantial or expiring contracts.

Ben Chiarot

According to NHL Insiders, there are several teams interested in the pending UFA. But three are particularly aggressive: Calgary, St. Louis and Florida. With a relatively affordable contract of $3.5 million on the cap, his solid frame, physical play and versatility, he will be a prime target for other teams as well. Teams falling short in their quest to get more expansive Jakub Chychrun from Arizona will likely turn to Chiarot.

Destination: Florida Panthers. The cats are deep on the right side of the defense but rather thin on the left, particularly on the top-4. Only Gustav Forsling plays over 20 minutes a game on that side. They also have plenty of good assets to dangle in a trade.

Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry

It hasn’t been an easy season for the American defenseman. Between his wife and kids staying in the US due to COVID and having some huge shoes to fill in Shea Weber, he hasn’t been able to live up to what he has been the past several years. Rumours are rampant and it’s more a matter of when than if, he gets traded.

Destination: Detroit Red Wings. He’s from Michigan. Mark Staal ($2M) is a pending UFA as are Danny McKeyser and Nick Leddy ($5M each). They already have plenty of cap space to welcome him.

Brendan Gallagher

In my opinion, one of Gallagher or Toffoli will be traded. When everyone is healthy, the right wing is a position of depth on the Canadiens. While he says the right things, Gally is clearly not happy. He wants to win. My gut tells me that unfortunately, his time is counted in Montreal and management will decide to keep Toffoli instead.

Destination: Los Angeles Kings. Marc Bergevin loves him. 37 year-old Dustin Brown ($5.875M) is in the final year of his contract with a dwindling production. And we know the chemistry between Gally and Phillip Danault, right? We’ve touched on how the Kings and Habs are good trade partners.

Tyler Toffoli

As mentioned above, I think he’ll stay because he’s cheaper, with similar production as Gallagher and… he has chemistry with Nick Suzuki. But if a team comes along and offers a ridiculous package for him, Hughes will have to listen. And there will be serious interest, rest assured.

Destination: Dallas Stars. I thought about L.A. but the Stars are in dire need of scoring and might be willing to part with more than anyone else to make it happen.

Carey Price

Carey Price

The likeliness of Price getting traded is minimal due to his cap hit ($10.5M), his no-movement clause and his questionable knee. If he comes back this season and his knee is 100%, some teams might be tempted but the Canadiens will have to eat salary and perhaps even take on a bad contract. That’s a big if. I have no issue keeping Price if the offer doesn’t work out. I would NOT give him away the way Vegas gave away Marc-André Fleury. It must be a hockey trade, not a financial trade.

Destination: Edmonton Oilers. I’ve thought long and hard about this. Seattle isn’t sure they want to go with an expansive veteran and Colorado would be hard-pressed to make the cap work. The Oilers are also at the cap but when a team is desperate enough to sign a known cancer like Evander Kane, it speaks volume. They are wasting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s prime years with patch jobs in net.

David Savard

Savard started slow this season. It takes time to adjust to new systems and create chemistry with new defense partners, and it’s compounded when you have such a rotation due to injuries and COVID. He’s been playing better since December. Both Gorton and Hughes said wanting to play fast and that’s not Savard’s forte. On a fast team in Tampa, he was mostly on the third pair.

Destination: Tampa Bay Lightning. They have allowed 128 goals at the time of writing this, and only Florida (130) has allowed more than them amongst playoffs’ teams in the East. They know Savard from having him last year for their playoffs’ run. He would be a huge improvement over Zach Bogosian and Jan Rutta.

Christian Dvorak

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea which way Kent Hughes could be leaning when it comes to Dvorak. He was playing better just before his injury and he’s been by far the Canadiens’ best faceoffs’ man this season. His defensive play has been a bit underwhelming but truthfully, who has played well defensively? Is it him or the defensive system/coverage? He’s not expansive but not cheap either. But he’s a good center and they come at a premium, particularly if they win faceoffs and put up a few points.

Destination: New York Rangers. They are rumoured to be interested in J.T. Miller ($5.25M) in Vancouver but the Canucks are demanding a ransom for him (4 assets reportedly). This tells me that they might not re-sign Ryan Strome ($4.5M), who is a UFA at the end of the season. Dvorak would be a cheaper replacement.

Joel Armia

Joel Armia

Armia is an enigma since in the NHL. Some games, he’s playing like he’s got it all together but then, will disappear for several games after. When on, he’s an amazing player but when off, he’s invisible. As he’s shown in the last playoffs, he is a playoffs’ performer who can raise his game. He has size and good hands to. Some teams would be interested for sure.

Destination: Minnesota Wild. They are thin on right-handed wingers and they do like to practice a physical style. Adding a talented and big body on the right side is just what the doctor ordered. Wild’s GM Bill Guerin and Kent Hughes are good friends, so it would be a good way to break the ice between the two men.

Jonathan Drouin

I think that it’s safe to say that Drouin is what he is: a 50-55 points, talented but inconsistent winger. He won’t become the player the Lightning, then the Canadiens were hoping he would develop into. Playing in Montreal is a lot of pressure and so far, his career and the pressure have taken their toll on the man. A change of scenery in a market with less off-ice pressure might be what he needs. They’re not likely to recoup a Sergachev by trading him though. Arguably the only big trade that Bergevin didn’t win. He has a modified no-trade clause, but it’s only a 3-teams lists where he won’t accept to go to.

Destination: Colorado Avalanche. A reunion with junior linemate Nathan MacKinnon seems like a natural, doesn’t it? And they have a young defenseman that could be of interest for the Canadiens, a guy by the name of Samuel Girard. Plus their salary is within half a million, but Girard is signed long term.

Mike Hoffman

If the Canadiens can’t or decide not to trade Drouin, Hoffman could be a possibility. I doubt they would trade both however. Personally, I would trade which ever brings the most in return. Hoffman is far from being as bad as some in the media and in the fan base are describing him to be. He’s two goals shy of Suzuki in 15 fewer games played, and with 0.48 Pts/GP, he is tied with Josh Anderson. His shot is a genuine threat on the power play.

Destination: Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens want to give it another go with the core that they have and behind Jake Guentzel, it’s rather thin on left-wing as Jason Zucker is having a tough season. Hoffman with Crosby or Malkin at center, and with the weapons they have on the power play, would be a very nice fit.

Artturi Lehkonen

Artturi Lehkonen

I don’t want to see Lehky traded, let’s get that out of the way. But recently, some NHL Insiders went on the record to say that he was on high demand and that he was the Blake Coleman of this year’s trade deadline. Coleman fetched a first round pick and Nolan Foote, a first round pick himself. The Canadiens would be hard pressed to refuse a similar offer, wouldn’t they?

Destination: Los Angeles Kings. There are so many potential destinations for Lehkonen but I can’t shake off the fact that Bergevin knows him very well. He would be great on the Kings’ third line, perhaps even with Danault.

Paul Byron

It’s very unlikely that we’ll see Byron traded. Although if he regains his form and contributes offensively, there is a slim chance. He has been skating with one good hip for two years now and he says feeling much, much better, without pain. For a guy relying on speed, it’s great news. I’m leaning more towards a buyout in his case but it is possible that he could be traded, more likely in the summer. Teams will want to see how he is first.

Destination: Edmonton Oilers. A veteran presence like Byron, with the speed that he has, would be a great asset for the Oilers. He would help defensively at five on five, but also on the penalty kill, where Edmonton is 20th overall.

There you have it folks. This is all speculative, of course. I tried to use logic to the best of my abilities, going with what makes sense. But what I consider making sense may not make sense for someone else, and it’s fully acceptable and respectable. My opinion is no better, nor worse, than anyone else’s.

More reading…

Jeff Petry Has Reportedly Asked For A Trade

The Bergevin Legacy by Bob Trask

Perfect Storm Brewing For Habs’ Players Value