By Bob Trask – The NHL season has passed the halfway mark and the trade deadline is the next big event looming on the horizon. With every game the teams who will be buyers and those who will be sellers becomes more obvious.
The Canadiens are one of the obvious sellers and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Among all the potential buyers there will be only one winner this year and that will be the team that wins the Stanley Cup. As for the sellers, there could be a handful of teams that significantly strenghthen themselves. Hopefully one will be the Canadiens.
With Carey Price and Jake Allen recovering from injuries it seems highly unlikely that either one would be included in any significant trade before the deadline. Primeau isn’t going anywhere and Hammond was just acquired as a stop-gap solution.
Outcome: Expect the status quo at the trade deadline but keep an eye on the summer trade period. Jake Allen seems to be the prime candidate to hit the market in and around draft day.
Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak are on expiring contracts and both might be looking for raises that the Habs couldn’t afford at this point. If Joel Edmundson recovers from injury and Corey Schueneman or Kale Clague look like they can fill in as a 3rd pairing role, expect both Chiarot and Kulak to be traded. There is additional depth in the organization on LD, increasing the likelihood of a trade.
It sounds like Jeff Petry wants to be traded and his improved play now makes him more attractive to a playoff bound team. The hurdle is his contract but that may seem to be less of an issue today than it was a couple of weeks ago.
David Savard probably holds little value in the trade market but since RD is a scarce commodity it is hard to tell. The same applies to Chris Wideman but Wideman is on a low cost, expiring contract which might make him more attractive in the trade market. These two are a real gray area when it comes deciding which direction to take. The Habs are thin on RD in the organization so bold surgery here may have to be delayed, depending on any acquisitions made in the trade market before next season.
Outcome: Expect at least three defensemen who toiled with the club this year to be gone by the deadline or in an off-season trade. The best bets seem to be Chiarot, Kulak and Petry.
Changes at forward hinge on a lot of factors. What kind of team is Kent Hughes looking to build? How does Martin St-Louis feel that the existing players will fit into the system? Is there potential among forwards in the organization to move up the NHL club? How does age and contract status fit into the equation? There are so many moving parts it is hard to get a clear picture.
☞ The Veterans
We can start with Hughes proclamation that turing the team around won’t happen overnight. That immediately puts some of the older players on the roster in the spotlight. The three oldest are Mike Hoffman, Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher.
Of this group, Hoffman seems like the most likely to be traded. His scoring touch could be coveted for the playoffs and his contract is not completely burdensome.
Brendan Gallagher is not the force he once was but still a significant contributor both on the ice and off. The biggest hurdle if you are trying to trade him is his contract. Teams may feel he is paid too much and for too long for them to gamble on.
Byron is an interesting case. His loyalty is mindful of Josh Gorges and Tomas Plekanec. It would be a hard pill for many to swallow if Byron was moved before the deadline.
Outcome: Expect Hoffman and maybe one of the others to be plying their trade elsewhere next season with Hoffman going before the deadline.
☞ The Finns
The two Finns, Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen present the team with different problems. Armia has struggle offensively all year and is signed to a long term contract. Lehkonen has consistently been one of the best players on the ice but becomes an RFA at season’s end. Both of these situations present a dilemma for Kent Hughes.
Outcome: For completely different reasons both of these players could be suiting up with a new team by season’s end. It is more likely that one will be traded before the deadline and the other kept at least until the puck drops on the next season.
☞ Question Marks
Jonathan Drouin looks like a player who could thrive if St-Louis allows him to display his skills without fear of making a mistake. He could be in the team’s longer term plans if the management can see him back in action under the new coach.
Christian Dvorak is a player who needs to get on the ice and be evaluated under St-Louis. His past history and his face-off expertise may make him a player who is targeted by a playoff team but those attributes also make him valuable to the Canadiens who are uncomfortably thin at center in the pro ranks.
The third question mark is Jake Evans. He has been a Swiss Army Knife for the Habs and that versatility makes him a valuable commodity. If he is traded, it could be as part of a package involving a higher profile player – an addition to make the trade happen.
Outcome: Each of these players has skills that Canadiens would like to have but there is probably a 50-50 chance that one of them will be moved by the deadline. The short straw could go to Evans.
☞ Youth and Role Players
Once you get past that group, the remaining players fall into two categories: the young players with varying degrees of potential and the role players. The young players include Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Alex Romanov, Ryan Poehling and Rem Pitlick. From what they have shown, it is doubtful that Hughes is motivated to move any of them.
A couple of less proven among the youth are Jesse Ylonen and Michale Pezzetta. The return they would bring makes it unlikely that Hughes would move them. Mattias Norlinder also falls into this category.
That leaves players like Mathieu Perreault, Cedrick Paquette, Tyler Pitlick and Laurent Dauphin – none of whom have significant trade value.
Outcome: The young guys are staying and the role players are unlikely to bring anything consequential in the trade market. Don’t look for anything earth shattering here.
The ultimate wildcard is Shea Weber. There would only be one destination that makes sense and that would be Nashville. It would give the Predators slightly more influence with regard to Weber’s retirement decision and what could be a devastating recapture penalty that would apply to them.
While the name involved is big, any return would likely be small.
Outcome: There is a remote chance that Weber could be traded before next season but since there is little rush, it would be unlikely to happen before the deadline.
Despite a resurgence in play, the Canadiens are charting a new course. The recent improvement doesn’t mean that everyone has become immune to being traded. There are five legitimate candidates who could find themselves in different jerseys by the deadline and a handful more who may no longer be with the team for next season.
Shifting Trade Winds by Bob Trask