By Bob Trask – As Kent Hughes continues down the path of building the Canadiens into his vision of what an NHL team should look like, fans expect to see more than one off-season trade. The potential trade candidates range from highly probable in the case of Jeff Petry to the highly unlikely in the case of Carey Price. There are various reasons why a player might or might not be traded and we will take a look at some of them.
There is a better than average chance that one of Carey Price, Jake Allen or Samuel Montembeault will not be with the team next year.
Price is the defacto team leader and its best player when he is healthy. He also has a no movement clause and a contract that would be hard to move even if he did wave his No Movement Clause (NMC). That means Montembeault or Allen could be moving. Which one might depend on a combination of factors including goals for next season, readiness of Primeau, salary cap space and the return available in the trade market.
The situation will remain unclear until the moment that Hughes pulls the trigger.
It is almost without question that Jeff Petry will be gone and that Justin Barron is the heir apparent. His Modified No-Trade Clause (he must submit a 15 teams no trade list) along with the size and length of his contract will likely make the return underwhelming but moving him is unlikely to hurt the team in any significant way. When you are 31st overall there isn’t far to fall.
Edmundson, Romanov and Savard are all likely to return and will be counted on as the stabilizing influence on newer players. Along with Barron, that fills four or seven spots on the 23 man roster.
In a battle for the last spot will be Jordan Harris, Corey Schueneman, Chris Wideman and Kale Clague. Schuenemen, Wideman and Clague are all looking for new contracts next year. Mattias Norlinder, Kaiden Guhle, Gianni Fairbrother and Arber Xhekaj could also be in the mix with Fairbrother and Xhekaj being real longshots. Sami Niku is a pending RFA who seems unlikely to be tendered a contract offere.
Another player looking for a contract is Josh Brook. Between COVID shortened seasons and a devastating knee injury he has seen very little ice time and the clock seems to be running out for him as far as the Canadiens are concerned. His unique among these prospective defenseman in that he shoot right but doesn’t seem close yet.
Otto Leskinen, currently playing in Europe and having a decent season, is an offensive d-man who might have some appeal to an NHL team looking to add to its defense.
When looking at traded possibilities, other than Petry there isn’t much value. Schueneman, Clague, Niku and Brook are all pending RFAs so the Canadiens do control their fate to some degree. At best, any one of these players might be included as a throw-in as part of a larger trade.
Without trying to be pessimistic, it is difficult to expect much in return for any the Habs defenseman that are available and that includes Petry.
The Canadiens are exceptionally thin at center and unless an NHL ready player, preferably top 6, can be added through free agency or a trade, it is hard to envision Hughes relinquishing any of his centers.
After Suzuki, Dvorak, Poehling and Evans the next player in line should be Vejdemo and he is a pending free agent who is unlikely to return. Dauphin is a bottom 6 at best.
For the purposes of this article, Cole Caufield will be classified as a LW with Josh Anderson playing on the right side.
That leaves Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Rem Pitlick, Paul Byron and Michael Pezzetta as LW candidates. Pitlick brings speed and a bit of scoring ability to the 3rd line, Pezzetta brings his work ethic and some grit to the 4th line. That would leave Hoffman, Drouin and Byron slugging it out for the second line role.
Emil Heineman could also challenge for a role on the team, with Pitlick perhaps being elevated to a 2nd line role and Heineman slotting in on the 3rd line. He has a similar skillset to what Lehkonen brought to the team but we haven’t seen him play in North America yet so it’s a little early to make that judgment.
If you use the logic that Drouin is unlikely to be traded before the start of next season because of his injury, then Hoffman and Byron are trade candidates. Of course one could be kept around in the event that Drouin doesn’t recover but Hughes has to be considering their futures with the Habs.
Earlier I had slotted in Josh Anderson on the RW with Nick Suzuki at center and Caufield at LW. They have played well togeter. The job for the remaining three spots will be hotly contested among Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Jesse Ylonen and maybe even Tyler Pitlick, who is a pending UFA.
Ylonen looks like he is ready to claim and NHL job and a 3rd line role with some PP time seems like a good way for him to break into the league. His skillset seems to be exactly what Hughes is looking for. The wildly inconsistent Armia isn’t terribly expensive and brings size along with his strength on the puck to the Canadiens. Gallagher has shown some signs of reawakening but his contritbutions on offense haven’t been great. And the sample size on Tyler Pitlick is too small on which to make a judgment.
Ideally the Habs would find an offensively gifted RW to play on the second line with Ylonen developing nicely on the 3rd line. Beefing up the second and third lines offensively would also take some pressure off the Suzuki line who have been the only real threat the Canadiens have put on the ice this year.
In this scenario Armia and Gallagher would be battling for a spot on the 4th line – and that is not ideal from the point of view of the team nor the players involved. Armia is actually the better fit because he can play on both special teams – the PK and the PP, and he brings an element of size that helps late in the season and in the playoffs. He is also less expensive. While it remains unlikely that Gallagher will be traded, you can see why it could make sense.
Going into the season, versatile veteran players like Dauphin and Tyler Pitlick are good to have around. They aren’t going to be team leaders but they aren’t going to hurt you badly either.
The Final Candidates
Kent Hughes will be making some changes but is unlikely to gut the team. The following is a list of potential trade candidates. As many as half of them could be with a different organization next year. Compare it to your own list.
- Jake Allen
- Samuel Montembeault
- Jeff Petry
- Kale Clague
- Otto Leskinen
- Mike Hoffman
- Paul Byron
- Joel Armia
- Brendan Gallagher