Summer of Lateral Moves for Hughes

By JD Lagrange – Well here we are, all set for yet another hockey season. For Habs’ fans everywhere, it’s a time of dissension once again. Some wish for the team to go through another miserable season to, hopefully, get another high draft pick. For most (my assumption here based on social media), fans wish for some kind of improvement over the past two – miserable- seasons.

Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes has completed a few trades to adjust his roster, prospect pool and draft picks. But how successful of a summer was it for the second year GM? Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

Summer of 2023 – Trades

Hughes has completed five NHL trades this off-season.

June 27, 2023:

In their biggest trade of the summer, the Canadiens acquired Alex Newhook for prospect defenseman Gianni Fairbrother, a 1st round pick (#31) and early 2nd round pick (#37).

Analysis: Fairbrother had no chance in Montreal but the two picks were good ones. Newhook better work out…

July 1st, 2023:

Hughes then traded veteran defenseman Joel Edmundson (50% cap retained) to the Washington Capitals for a 3rd round pick and 7th round pick. 

Analysis: Perhaps Hughes’ best trade of the summer and here’s why: he created a spot on defense while shedding $1.75M of cap space. Definitely a good trade.

August 6, 2023:

The Canadiens’ GM convinced his counter-parts in Pittsburgh and San Jose to be the third wheel to facilitate a big trade, one involving Erik Karlsson. Hughes ended up trading Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick and received Jeff Petry, Casey DeSmith, Nathan Légaré and a 2nd round pick.

Analysis: When the dust settled on this trade, the Habs added $890,000 to their cap.

August 15, 2023:

It quickly became evident that the Canadiens had no intention in bringing back Petry, who had requested a trade from Montreal just a few months earlier. So Hughes traded the veteran defenseman to his home state of Michigan, getting defenseman Gustav Lindstrom and a 4th round pick from the Red Wings.

Analysis: The Canadiens had to retain 50% of Petry’s salary ($2.34M) to make this happen. Ultimately, it’s like getting Lindstrom for $3.29M instead of the $950k he’s making, to gain a 4th…

September 19, 2023: 

In a trade consumed a few days ago, Hughes traded newly acquired goaltender Casey DeSmith to Vancouver for Tanner Pearson and a 3rd round pick. 

Analysis: So the Canadiens traded a goalie they didn’t need and took on a forward that they didn’t need either, while adding $1.45M to the cap… for a 3rd.

Value of draft picks

Of course, you will always have those who value draft picks more than they should, ignoring the statistical analysis of the value (or lack of thereof) of any pick outside the first round. So allow me to refresh your memory.

According a research done by Dobber Prospects (in 2020), here are the odds of draft picks making it to the NHL and playing at least 100 games, per round selected:

1st74%
2nd34%
3rd25%
4th20%
5th15%
6th15%
7th10%

Conclusion

So when the dust settled at the start of training camp, here’s what the big picture looks like for the Habs and Kent Hughes:

INOUT
Alex NewhookFMike Hoffman
Tanner PearsonFRem Pitlick
Gustav LindstromDJoel Edmundson
Nathan LégaréProspectGianni Fairbrother
2024 3rd (MIN)2023 1st (#31)
2024 7th (WSH)2023 2nd (#37)
2025 2nd (PIT)
2025 3rd (VAN)
2025 4th (DET)
CAP DIFFERENCE:+ $1.98M

No matter how we try to twist this, Hughes made one good trade (Edmundson). The others are heavily hinging on Alex Newhook becoming a good NHL player, let’s face it.

While the number of picks acquired may seem impressive, the Canadiens traded away the best two picks (and odds of becoming NHL players) and received a bunch of picks that aren’t as likely to play in the league one day.

Last but not least, if the goal was to create roster spots or shed salary, the Canadiens’ GM has not accomplished any of it. At least not at the time of writing this. So while many are still on the honeymoon stage and feel like everything management does is gold, on the big scheme of things, this was a very underwhelming summer for Hughes and the Canadiens. But the off-season isn’t quite over yet… fingers crossed.