By Bob Trask – Every hockey fan likes to toss out their own fantasy trades and with a lot of player movement expected by the Canadiens this summer, what better time than now to throw our hat into the ring? These are some of the things that could happen before the season begins – with more player movement occurring at the trade-deadline or earlier, depending on circumstances.
I’m sticking with my Nashville story on Petry but I think it would need some creative thinking to make it happen. Here’s the fantasy trade – Petry (with ~$1M retained) and Gianni Fairbrother to the Preds for Philippe Meyers, Luke Prokop and Nashville’s 3rd round pick (83 overall) from Los Angeles in 2022.
Nashville adds some depth along with offensive capability to their right defense as well as a left defense prospect. Salary wise, the deal is not onerous for them because of the $1 million in retained salary and the dumping of the Meyers salary. It should still leave them room to sign Filip Forsberg.
Montreal picks up a right defense prospect who played on a pairing with Kaiden Guhle, a mid-round pick and a recovery project in Meyers who could be shuttled off to Laval for a year. They give up a decent left defense prospect but the team is deep at that position and they shed some salary long term.
Who knows, with the lack of right-handed defensemen available, the price for Petry may be even higher than that. And if Petry remains in Montreal (and is happy to do so), that is one fewer holes to fill.
The Los Angeles Kings were the second lowest scoring team to make the playoffs. They are a relatively young team and have ample cap room to take on a contract like Hoffman’s. The fantasy trade is Hoffman for the disappointing Lias Andersson (RFA) and the Kings’ third round pick (85 overall) from Pittsburg in 2022.
Marc Bergevin signed Hoffman to his contract in Montreal so it not unreasonable to think he believes the player holds some value. It’s hard to say how much influence Bergevin has on decisions in LA but they didn’t hire him for window dressing.
Hoffman did play better, particularly defensively, at the end of the season. As a veteran presence on a younger team he could be a good addition to the Kings while they wait for the impressive pipeline to begin delivering players who are NHL ready.
For Montreal this is a contract dump with both Andersson and any third round pick being long shots. The Kings may be happy to get something (anything) for Andersson who was originally drafted by Jeff Gorton when he was with the Rangers. The third round pick could be used to choose a player or as currency to move up in the draft.
This is a deal that has nothing to do with playing ability and everything to do with one team trying to reach the salary cap floor while the other team is trying to remain cap compliant. The fantasy trade features Shea Weber and Montreal’s 7th round pick from St. Louis in 2022 going to the Arizona Coyotes for their 7th round pick from Vancouver in 2023.
☞ Jonathan Drouin may be a trade candidate but any team willing to take a flyer on him are unlikely to be willing to give up much in return until he sees how his wrist heals after surgery. A trade for Drouin seems more likely to happen after the season has started. He needs to prove himself first.
☞ Paul Byron probably holds little value because of his age, his injury history, his declining performance and his contract. A buyout seems more likely than a trade but even that is a long shot. I expect the Canadiens to bite the bullet for one last year.
☞ Brendan Gallagher’s contract is impossible to move until he can prove he has returned to the level of play he has shown in the past – and that can’t happen over the summer. However, if Kent Hughes can create cap space by moving other contracts, Gallagher’s contract doesn’t hinder the team from a cap point of view. In the meantime he brings leadership, an unmatched work ethic and intangibles to the team. Gallagher will remain with the Canadiens for the foreseeable future.
☞ Christian Dvorak’s final numbers with the Canadiens were almost exactly what everyone should have expected given his career to date, but he was a 3rd line center thrust in the role of a 2nd line center. He may fill that role again even if Kent Hughes drafts Shane Wright. If that happens, the team may want to see how Wright performs in training camp or in a ten game pro trial before depleting their depth at center. I expect Dvorak to begin the season with the Canadiens unless Hughes is overwhelmed by an offer this summer. He is also the type of player that playoff teams may covet at the trade deadline so I expect any trade for Dvorak would happen at that time.
☞ Josh Anderson’s production may have been less than expected and he seems to have settled in more as a middle-six winger than a first line power forward. His contract is not team friendly but it isn’t a cap killer either and he brings speed, size and leadership to the lineup. I fully expect Anderson to start the season with the Canadiens and don’t expect a deadline deal for him either.
☞ Always inconsistent with flashes of brilliance, Joel Armia took that inconsistency to a new level this year. There were mitigating circumstances as Armia struggled with COVID absences twice and with being separated from his family for the entire year. His inconsistency and his contract make a summer trade unlikely. If Martin St Louis can unlock that talent during the season he could bring a solid return at the trade deadline but I expect him to start the season in Montreal.
☞ David Savard is another player who was asked to take on a role that was more than his skill set warranted, particularly with the slow start of Jeff Petry. However, he is a right-handed defenseman with some size that could work well with a young puck-moving left defenseman like Jordan Harris. The pairing would have a combination of size, experience and skill but would be best suited to start the year as the 3rd pair. I expect Savard to begin the year wearing a Canadiens’ jersey.
☞ Some may be willing to immediately hand Joel Edmundson’s duties on left defense to Kaiden Guhle but Hughes will want to see Guhle’s performance in training camp before making any decisions. He will likely play and develop in Laval and be called up from time to time to get his feet wet in the NHL. Edmundson stays.
☞ It is highly improbable that Jake Allen will be moved. Carey Price’s health is still an unknown and the team won’t know his status until September. Cayden Primeau has bounced back in the AHL but lacks the experience to be thrust into the role of a #1 goaltender in the NHL while Samuel Montembeault seems to fit the role of a swingman who could start the season in the AHL if he is not lost on waivers. Given all of that, Allen stays – at least until the situation becomes more clear.
I expect this to be a selective cap clearing summer for Kent Hughes. If and when a trade is made, he may explore filling the hole created by dipping into the 2nd tier of the free agent market. And example might be offering Anton Stralman a contract if Petry is traded. I doubt he will want to clutter the lineup with aging veterans on highly priced, long term contracts – players like Malkin or Letang.
Given what I have seen of Kent Hughes so far, I expect his steps to be well thought out and measured carefully. He’s not building the team for next season, he is building it for the next ten seasons.