Top-3 Players To Target And Refrain From

By JD Lagrange – With trade deadline coming up in three weeks time, rumours are rampant around the NHL. Truthfully, it is a bit surprising to see that the only substantial trade so far has been the Bo Horvat trade to Long Island, as the tendency the past few years has been for some GMs to get an early jump on their counterparts. But the salary cap situation makes wheeling and dealing more challenging than ever.

The Montreal Canadiens are totally out of luck. Last season, they shattered the record for man-games lost to injuries and this season, they find themselves in the top-3 in the NHL in that unfortunate category. To make matters worse, some of the injured players are those who could have been available and fetch them something at trade deadline. The two biggest pieces are Sean Monahan and Joel Edmundson. Monahan has been out of the line-up with a foot injury since December 5th, and has only played 25 games this season. Edmundson, who has been battling a bad back all season, has been out since January 26th.

Then you have pending UFA Jonathan Drouin, who was finally starting to play better before falling, once again, to an injury back in mid-January. When it rains, it pours…

Of course, I have no bearing on what Kent Hughes and his team of scouts will want to do at trade deadline. But as usual, that won’t stop us from having an opinion, right? For one, I would NOT trade Josh Anderson by March 3rd. He brings so much more to the Canadiens than what some fans are sharing on social media. Too many people turn a blind eye to many factors that cannot be measured with stats, either through ignorance or bad faith.

With that said, the purpose of this article is because I wanted to share three players (or type of trades) that the Canadiens’ brass should avoid doing, and three more that they should focus on, as trade deadline approaches.

Top-3 players to avoid

1- Jakob Chychrun

The deepest position in both quality and quantity in the Canadiens’ organization is on defense, particularly with left-handed defenders. While Chychrun is definitely more proven than most Habs’ defensemen, the cost of acquiring him, based on rumours from reputable NHL Insiders, is extremely high. Overpaying for a position of weakness can be justified, but not when the team is already deep at that position. Save the assets for a bigger need.

2- Timo Meier

The second deepest position of depth is on the wing. While there may not be many prospect immediately ready to have an impact, there is quality in there. But mostly, the reason I’m suggesting staying away from Meier, a player that I really like, is the asking price by the Sharks. As a pending RFA, his next contract will be astronomical and much like in the Chychrun case, giving tons of assets and forking out huge money at a position where there is good talent coming doesn’t make much sense to me. Not when there are two or three other huge positional needs on the team.

3- Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi

I am not against taking a flyer on an under-performing young player. The Canadiens have been doing it for a few years now, and the Kirby Dach experience is enough to convince most people. But folks, I watch a lot of Oilers’ games – my girlfriend being a huge fan – and I would stay away from Puljujarvi. If you thought that Alex Galchenyuk had low hockey IQ, or are complaining about Anderson’s hockey smarts, they are genius in comparison. Puljujarvi has mostly played with Connor McDavid and hasn’t produced. They tried him on every line without success. He has all of the talent, but is clueless when it comes to thinking the game. Don’t waist time on him.

Top-3 players to target

At the other end of the spectrum, there are players, or positions, where the Canadiens should strongly look towards.

1- Pierre-Luc Dubois

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dubois should be THE Canadiens’ prime target. And as I’ve explained in length, waiting for him to become a UFA is not the best options for many reasons. And that’s not because he’s French as some suggest. He’s a 6-foot 2-inches top-line center producing at a point per game, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. As a left-handed center, he would be a perfect complement to right-handed centers Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach. Both Dach and Dubois can take a shift on the wing from time to time as well, adding quality depth at a key position.

2- Brock Boeser

Living in BC, I get to watch the Canucks and I am surrounded by their fans. While like in any fanbase, you will find fans who will dislike the player and try minimizing his impact. But the fact remains that Boeser hasn’t had it easy the past couple of years in Vancouver and he is the perfect definition of a player who is in need of a change of scenery. A true sniper, I am confident that under Martin St-Louis, this guy would greatly benefit from playing for the Canadiens, and fits the core of this team. The hick? His $6.65 million cap hit. But what if you were to include otherwise untradeable Mike Hoffman’s $4.5 million as a cap dump? The Canucks would save one year of contract and $2 million a year…

3- Matt Dumba

I wrote Dumba’s name because he is on TSN’s top trade baits but any quality young(er) veteran right-handed defenseman would work. The fact that he’s a pending UFA makes it unlikely that the Canadiens would want to pay a big price to get him, as contenders will be more desperate. But the Canadiens do have assets that the Wild might be wanting for a playoffs’ push. The 28 year old right-handed defenseman has a rare combination of physicality and dynamic offensive attributes, and he plays over 21 minutes a game. Great skater, he can rush the puck and owns a big shot. He’s also aggressive and likes open-ice hits. 


The other target for the Canadiens is positional. Carey Price’s early “retirement” has thrown a serious wrench in the team’s depth chart. The fact that their prospects are all late round picks, and seeing the slower development of Cayden Primeau, there is a huge need for Hughes to either use a higher pick at this summer’s NHL Draft or preferably, trade for a young prospect closer to being NHL-ready. Someone like Yaroslav Askarov (NSH) or Dustin Wolf (CGY), for example. We know that the Canadiens have been rumoured to be interested in Devon Levi, a Sabres’ goaltending prospect.

Unlike last year, the picture is rather unclear for Hughes and the Canadiens for this year’s trade deadline, and we can “thank” injuries to players on the trade block for that. Hughes wants to deal, but he may have to take less than fair market value for his departing assets. In some cases (Drouin and Dadonov), trading them without having to sweeten the pot might be a challenge in itself. We have three weeks to see the outcome but fans should tamper their expectations… once again.

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