Facing Reality

By Bob Trask – The Montreal Canadiens have a handful of veteran players currently on the roster who consume a lot of cap space and who create a roadblock for prospects who are trying to make the team. There was hope that at least one of these players would fetch a 1st round pick or the very least a 2nd or 3rd round pick. With others there may have been the hope that they could slide a contract to another team without the need to retain salary or add assets.

All that seems to have changed. Many teams in the league are facing their own salary cap challenges and have little or no ability to absorb another contract.

Faced with this dilemma, Kent Hughes may have to adjust his sights.

Joel Edmundson

As teams were gearing up for the playoff run, Edmundson seemed like he would have been a reasonable addition for a team looking to add some muscle and playoff experience. But injuries struck and Eddie’s somewhat mediocre play saw that opportunity quickly dry up.

Those who envisioned a Ben Chiarot kind of trade came away disappointed and the market for Edmundson may have slipped down to a 2nd round choice or even later.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman came to the Canadiens with the reputation as a power play specialist but that never materialized in Montreal. Combined with his less than average defensive play and his contract, the demand for his services evaporated.

One positive that may work in Hoffman’s favor is that he only has one year left on his contract but Hughes may have to retain salary if he is going to move him. If Edmundson slips down to a 2nd round or later pick, Hoffman might only bring a 3rd round or later pick… and that is with salary returned or a sweetener added in the form of a prospect. But NHL general managers have been known to do crazy things; let’s hope Hughes can find one of them.

Joel Armia

The fact that Armia has two years left on his contract could make him harder to move in a trade. Other options available to Hughes are to keep Armia in the hopes of a rebound, buy him out or trade him with salary retained. With two years left on his contract, the salary retained option seems unpalatable and the buyout option isn’t much better.

For better or worse, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Armia begins the season with the Habs, and depending upon his play, is made available at the trade deadline.

Jake Allen

Goaltending is a position where the Habs need to tread carefully. Allen had an underwhelming season but if he were to be traded, the depth chart could be something like Montembeault, Primeau and Dobes. If he isn’t traded, the depth chart could be Allen, Montembeault and Dobes, assuming that Primeau could be lost on waivers.

Neither of these situations look ideal but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Allen is traded despite his leadership qualities and his preference to play in Montreal. Once again, however, expectations need to be tempered as goaltenders rarely seem to bring an outsized return in a trade. A second round pick may be the best that Hughes could do if he decided to move Allen… unless the goaltender became part of a package deal.

Another option would be to trade Primeau in order to avoid losing him on waivers but he would bring even less in a trade than Allen.

Regardless of who makes the starting lineup in Montreal, the Canadiens could be in need of goaltending depth for the 2023-24 season. Look for them to add one in the off-season in addition to drafting at least one, if not two, in the upcoming draft. But don’t hold your breath if you are waiting for the acquisition of a big name starting goaltender. At least not for this off season.

Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson

These are two players who could be in demand; Anderson moreso than Dvorak. If either of them are traded it would have to be part of a package that includes a high quality player and/or a very good prospect in return.

Hughes may be actively looking at opportunities to move Dvorak if Monahan re-signs with the Canadiens or if the Habs were able to pry Pierre-Luc Dubois out of Winnipeg. In fact, Dvorak could be part of a package in a trade for Dubois if Winnipeg felt they needed some depth at center.

Anderson would command a higher price and Hughes would likely have to be overwhelmed before accepting an offer for the big right winger. The Habs are already thin at RW and Anderson’s size/speed combination are welcome attributes to have in the lineup.

David Savard

Savard is the longest of longshots to be lacing up his skates for a new team next season but Kent Hughes would likely look long and hard if an offer came along that blew him away. According to all reports Savard is well respected by his teammates and has been a steadying influence on the young defensive corps. While he has his shortcomings, many of those can be attributed to being thrust into a role that he is not well suited for.

The timing seems to be perfect for him to play at least one more year with the Habs while they analyze whether Logan Mailloux is ready to step into the lineup. If he was traded, Hughes would likely see at least a second round pick and a reasonable prospect in return. Right handed defensemen are always in demand and should bring above market value in any trade.

The Lesser Lights

This group includes bottom six players and prospects with a year or two of pro experience under their belts. One or more of these players could be included as sweeteners in a trade simply because Montreal is running out of roster room to keep all of them. I would expect Hughes to use his currency of excess players judiciously in an effort to replace quantity with quality. On their own, their trade value is marginal but could serve as the icing on the cake in a package deal.

Adjusting Expectations

Without being privy to conversations between NHL GMs, it is hard to know what kind of value they will put on players this off season. However all signs point to a buyer’s market which means Kent Hughes may have to adjust his expectations when it comes to what he will be able to get in return for any trades.

2 thoughts on “Facing Reality

  1. This was a good read for me. Hughes has gone a great job of moving players and improving the Habs at the same time. I think we are at the stage where we have to lower our expectations. Hughes may create improvement with package deals and unexpected trades involving players we would like to move combined with players we would like to keep. Even with that he may have let a few contracts expire naturally. Even Gorton has mentioned that Hughes magic we all expect and that may be necessary to make space for young, developing players.

  2. Dump as many as you can especially at LW and defense. Let the kids play. My god the Kraken have put together a playoff team in two years. Rangers rebounded pretty quickly under this brain trust. Waiting another 2-3 yrs is unacceptable. Draft the Russian, too. You have organizational depth. Take the chance.

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