By Bob Trask – With the trade deadline behind us and a playoff spot out of reach, the next focus for the Montreal Canadiens and Kent Hughes will be the NHL entry draft. The Canadiens will have an embarrassment of riches at the draft table and it remains to be seen how they will handle the currency they have accumulated. There are several options available to them and they are not all mutually exclusive.
The traditional approach would be to use all 14 picks and try to accumulate as many assets as possible and as soon as possible. The problem with this approach is that suddenly the team suddenly has a lot of players they need to sign at the same time and with contract limits, they might have to forego players they would like to keep.
Odds: Highly unlikely
Trading up involves swapping two or more later picks for an earlier pick. If the team sees a player they really want to grab, this is an option to consider. Given that the talent among 1st year draft eligibles this year has been ranked as average, it seems like a waste of currency. But the Habs management team could have their eye on a hidden gem that they don’t want to risk losing.
Trading out means the team swaps a pick (or picks) in this year’s draft for a pick (or picks) in a later draft year. With the 2023 draft looking like it could be stronger than the 2022 draft, these option seems plausible. It also spreads out the deadline to sign draftees to contracts over a longer period of time thereby avoiding a glut of contracts in the system.
Kent Hughes could also choose to trade up and out. A team looking to rebuild its prospect pool but lacks the picks to do so, may want to accumulate mulitiple picks in 2022 in return for higher pick in 2023 or later.
Trading down is the opposite of trading up. At this point the Canadiens don’t really need more later round picks in 2022. Unless they trade down with one team and then turn around and use those picks to trade out with another team, this doesn’t seem like an option the team would pursue.
Odds: Highly unlikely
The 2022 draft will be somewhat unique. The 2020-21 season was shortened for some junior age players and non-existent for others. Scouts were unable to get a good read on a lot of these players and some quality talent may have been overlooked in the draft.
This season is a different story and some of those who were overlooked now have a chance to prove themselves. Frequently these players fall to the middle or later rounds and this could be a sweet spot for the Habs because of their plethora of picks.
It is a strategy that Marc Bergevin used in the past. The current management team could continue with this practice.
Picks for a Pro
If a player who fills a need is available for a pick (or picks) the Canadiens could be tempted. This could also include a Canadiens roster player and a pick, for a roster player from another team.
Based on what we have seen from Hughes, the fit would have to be exactly right.
Odds: Even money
Picks for a Contract Dump
One of the failings for Hughes at the trade deadline was his inability (so far) to shed burdensome salaries like those of Jeff Petry, Shea Weber and (risking blowback from the faithful) Brendan Gallagher. Including a draft pick in any potential trade of this nature might be necessary.
Kent Hughes and his staff will employ several of these options at the draft table. It will be a busy weekend in Montreal.
Grading the Trades – Toronto And Montreal by Bob Trask