Aiming For The Stars – A Trades Tale

By JD Lagrange – An American Protestant clergyman by the name of Norman Vincent Peale once said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Perhaps Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes should start shooting for the moon, as the Stars seem like a good landing spot for a couple of his players. The Dallas Stars, of course.

Kent Hughes had a pretty good trade deadline with the acquisition he’s accumulated in trading some of his veteran players. With the NHL Draft held in Montreal at the end of last week, he sure made a big splash for the fans when he shocked them by not only selecting Juraj Slafkovsky instead of Shane Wright, but he completed two big trades, stealing the first round’s focus.

Tight cap

Unfortunately for him, he was not able to shed any salary at that time, which means that he still has much work to do still. With free agency opening on the 13th, Jeff Petry is still on the team and the Canadiens absolutely must shed more salary… particularly if they want to participate on the free agency market.

According to our friends at capfriendly.com, the Canadiens have a projected cap hit of $80,576,666 on a roster of 19 players thus far. This leaves about $1,923,334 of projected cap space available. They also have 33 players under contracts out of a maximum of 50 allowed by the NHL.

Dallas option

It is rumoured – and has been for a while now – that there is interest in Petry around the NHL. The three teams that came up the most often were the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings. As the Pens have re-signed pending UFA Kris Letang, it seems like that ship has now sailed and the other two destinations are most likely.

Jeff Petry

When you think of it, Dallas makes so much sense and for so many reasons. For one, the Stars are in a win-now mode with their core of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both over 30 years of age, and Joe Pavelski in his final season of his contract, at age 38. According to NHL Insiders, John Klingberg will be testing the free agents’ market. They will look at replacing him on the right side of the defense. Last but not least, they have cap space.

So why hasn’t a deal been agreed upon between the two teams yet, when everyone in hockey sees this as a natural fit? Kent Hughes gave us a hint after the draft when he warned teams interested in Petry that they will have to up their ante for the veteran defenseman as he’s willing to keep him next season. Basically, the Stars are either trying to lowball the Habs or Hughes has unrealistic value in mind for his defenseman.

Here’s a trade I could see happening, or at least the basis for one. With the uncertainty surrounding Carey Price, we know that Hughes is on record saying that he wants to add a veteran backup goaltender to avoid a situation like last season to occur. With that in mind, both teams could help each other.

To Dallas:

  • Jeff Petry – $6.25M until 2024-25
  • Mike Hoffman – $4.5M until 2023-24

To Montreal:

  • Anton Khudobin – $3.33M until 2022-23
  • Mavrik Bourque (or similar prospect)
  • 1st round pick

Why Hoffman do you ask? One of the Stars’ biggest issue last season was secondary scoring. Alexander Radulov, who had a couple of horrible offensive years, has decided to finish his career in the KHL, which frees up over $6 million. For Dallas, they need to re-sign Jason Robertson and that will come at a cost. This is why it helps them if the Habs take on Khudobin’s contract. The Stars have several quality prospects at the forward position. So I wrote Bourque for Quebecois reasons but another similar prospect would do as well.

High interest in Allen

During this off-season, Hughes mentioned to the media that he would be adding a veteran to his goaltenders’ group as an insurance if Price is not healthy. He has yet to do that and the demand on goaltenders, particularly quality ones, is very high with a low supply.

Jake Allen

For that reason, just like it is for Josh Anderson whom the Habs don’t want to trade, Hughes’ phone is ringing trying to convince him to part with Jake Allen. But if Allen is traded, the Canadiens’ GM is creating a huge issue, bigger than last season and he would go 180 degree from what he said wanting to do. For that reason, it’s unlikely that we see Allen traded this summer. As he’s entering the final season of his contract at an affordable cap hit of $2.875 million, the Habs’ goaltender’s value will be just as high by trade deadline so he may wait until then to move him.

But say the Habs complete the trade with Dallas and get Khudobin. An overpayment would still be needed to pry Allen out of Montreal. In come the Edmonton Oilers, who are in as much of a pickle as the Toronto Maple Leafs. At equal value, the Habs would prefer helping the Oilers than the Leafs, a division rival. Injured, Mike Smith is unlikely to play next season and Mikko Koskinen is returning to Europe, leaving the Oilers with rookie Stuart Skinner. Not wanting to waste away Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s prime years, GM Ken Holland will have to bite the bullet.

To Edmonton:

  • Jake Allen – $2.875M until 2022-23

To Montreal:

  • Tyson Barrie – $4.25M until 2023-24

Could the trade get bigger and add Jesse Puljujarvi, whom the Oilers are shopping around? Maybe.

Dvorak option

Christian Dvorak is also in trade rumours and teams are circling around the Canadiens center and faceoffs’ specialist. After a difficult start of the season with the Habs, he is one of the players who has benefited the most from the arrival of Martin St-Louis, and he returned to being the player that we expected to see. Averaging 0.47 points per game, Dvorak was the third most productive player on the Canadiens under St-Louis with 0.77 points per game, surpassed only by Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.

As Colin White’s contract was bought out by the Ottawa Senators and the Chicago Blackhawks will not give Dylan Strome a qualifying offer (making him a UFA), the Canadiens could be tempted in trading Dvorak and his $4.45 million contract, and signing one of the two younger centers for their third line at a cheaper rate.

So as you can see, there are options available for Hughes but he will have to act quickly. As free agents sign, it narrows down the market for trades and with the cap going up by only one million dollars, it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for teams to add substantial contracts.

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