Sometimes, it’s not what you say as much as how you say it, or what you don’t say, that conveys the message. Such was the case today when Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes met with the press, the day after trading his biggest trade bait in Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers. The Canadiens received 20 year-old prospect center Ty Smilanic, the Panthers’ first round pick in 2023 and their fourth round pick in 2022.
Speaking about analytics (or information as he likes to call it), Hughes was asked if that played into his decision to trade the veteran defenseman as he doesn’t have good analytics numbers.
“I don’t think information (analytics) is a substitute for the eyes”, Hughes said. “So many factors players can’t control. To the extent that he’s not an analytics darling, to me he’s a hell of a player who will help teams in the playoffs.”
Hughes said that one of the keys was that the first round pick wasn’t “protected”. More and more teams, when trading away their first round pick, put protection and alternatives attached to it. We saw that when the Canadiens traded for Christian Dvorak, where Marc Bergevin protected his team by stipulating that if the pick was in the Top-10, the Montreal kept that pick. While the Panthers are very likely to be a good team next season too, one never knows what the future holds. Few people thought that the Canadiens would be sitting in last place after reaching the Stanley Cup finals just a few months ago.
Hughes explained that he has seen Smilanic a lot and knows of him. The Canadiens’ GM wants a fast team with creativity and skills and according to him, he fits the prototype of what they’re looking for. Hughes feels like the young center can score and he can really skate.
In his 32 Thoughts on Sportsnet, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman said that Jeff Gorton, Hughes and Martin St-Louis all have kids who played against Smilanic. They know his game and they pushed the Panthers for him.
Not trading away a goalie
We had a long debate on Twitter yesterday as to if the Canadiens will (or should) trade Jake Allen or not. Because of the uncertainty with the future of Carey Price, I didn’t see the team trading away Allen and having to rely on a Montembeault and Hammond duo. Some were saying that the team could try signing a 1B goalie in the off-season but here’s the thing: UFAs won’t line-up to sign in Montreal, even if St-Louis made things a bit more positive, for a few reasons.
- the team’s losing season
- the unloading a bunch of key veterans
- taxes, language, weather, media, fans, pressure, etc.
Few paid attention to this, but Hughes did mention that the goaltending situation is precarious at best, due to Price’s uncertain future and that’s something they’re looking into. He answered this when asked about the team’s needs… What I got from it is that if the opportunity arises to acquire a goaltender, they’ll look into it closely. We know that the Canadiens were rumoured to be interested in Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals and the Caps had two scouts in Montreal on Tuesday night.
Hughes stated the obvious when talking about how difficult it is right now to move big contracts with term attached to them. Teams trying to win a Cup don’t have much cap space, so they want them to take money back in a potential trade.
“We’ll trade Jeff Petry if we can due to family situation”, said Hughes. “Jeff knows that, we’ve spoken about it. We’re not in a position to take on a bad contract to help a team at the moment.”
This is, in my humble opinion, something more likely to happen in the summer.
☞ When asked if he was trying to trade more players from now until trade deadline, Hughes said that he’s not work working the phones but he is keeping an eye on the salary cap, so he will consider all options.
☞ Specifically pushed on the topic of pending UFA Brett Kulak, he said that he likes him as a player.
“We have no intention on trading him”, said Hughes. “We’re not making calls to find out if teams are interested in Kulak.”
☞ Asked if he would try to cash in on selling high on players going through a good stretch, Hughes said that there are other factors to consider. He said that if he has learned anything in the past few weeks, it’s that they have a strong dressing room and the players have not given up. So because of it, he is not looking only at the potential return for a trade, but we want to consider the dressing room.
☞ The Canadiens’ GM says that he has told the players that he’s not trying to do a fire sale. If he can improve his team, he’ll make a move but he doesn’t feel like he has to make a move from now until Monday, trade deadline day.