Ranking the Trade Candidates

By Bob Trask – With a quarter of the NHL season under our belt we are beginning to see who are the contenders and who are the pretenders when it comes to a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. We are also seeing some big disappointments along the way. As the general managers look at the standings and evaluate their rosters, trade chatter among them will be extensive.

Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens will undoubtedly be heavily involved in any trade conversations. Those teams who thought they would be contenders but who have disappointed may want to make a move sooner rather than later. Edmonton and Calgary could be teams on that list. Other teams, like New Jersey, have surprised in a positive way and may want to wait longer to identify their biggest needs.

The Canadiens are currently closer to being a playoff team than they are to being a bottom three team but it seems unlikely that Hughes will try to bolster the roster for a short term run. They are, at best,a bubble team. I expect that he will stick with his plan of building the team and the organization for long term success.

When considering any trade, Hughes will also be keeping an eye on the 50 contract limit. According to Cap Friendly the Canadiens currently have 46 contracts counting towards that limit. There are also a number of unsigned players in the organization as well as picks from the 2023 draft that could earn contracts before next season. Given that situation, Hughes may be willing to add a prospect or two as sweeteners in the right trade.

With that information we can take a look at who might be available at various levels in the organization.

Canadiens

There are several players on the NHL roster who seem to be prime trade candidates. Unfortunately for Hughes, neither Jonathan Drouin or Evgenii Dadonov have done anything to boost their value and the team may just quietly let their contracts expire. At this point, anything received in return for this pair would be a plus. Sean Monahan, another pending UFA, is in an entirely different situation. He has become a valuable part of the team and it is possible that Hughes tries to sign him to a team friendly contract unless the return in a trade is exceptional.

Sean Monahan

Joel Edmundson, Mike Hoffman and Joel Armia are all under contract for next year and could be part of a trade before the season ends. As a defenseman, Edmundson would hold the most value followed by Hoffman and then Armia. Hughes has admitted that he doesn’t like retaining salary beyond the current year but with the Petry trade has shown he is willing to include extra assets to facilitate a trade. Players on the Canadiens who could be considered sweeteners might be Jake Evans or Michael Pezzetta but it would more likely to be a player in Laval or the amateur ranks.

Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak are in a special category. They are both young enough and have skill sets that fit well the with Canadiens’ intermediate future. Like Monahan, if they are traded, the return would have to be too good to turn down. Gallagher is another veteran in a unique category – but unique in a different way. His contract is too big for his on ice contribution but with a slightly increasing salary cap and a few contracts coming off the books, Montreal will bite the bullet for another year or two with him. In the meantime, the example he sets with his work ethic can be a positive influence on the team.

Prospects

The prime candidates on the Rocket who could be included in a trade are defensemen. With Lane Hutson, Logan Mailloux, Jayden Struble and Adam Engstrom knocking on the door, Montreal has a glut of defensemen eligible to turn pro in the near future. Justin Barron and William Trudeau are unlikely to go anywhere, leaving Otto Leskinen, Mattias Norlinder, Gianni Fairbrother, Nicolas Beaudin and Corey Schueneman as player who could be included to consummate a trade. In fact, with Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris all showing well and Mike Matheson under contract for this season and three more, Struble could be available in the right situation.

The emergence of Owen Beck, the progress made by Oliver Kapanen along with continued offensive production in junior hockey from Riley Kidney and Jared Davidson, Jan Mysak has a lot of competition at center and could be the odd man out. His work ethic an d leadership qualities might allow him to make the NHL as a fourth line center but his offensive development seems to have stalled. Even during his final year of junior in Hamilton he played on the third line.

There will be other prospects in the organization who would undoubtedly be available as trade sweeteners but it is unlikely that they would add much value to the transaction

Trade Grid

The trade grid tries to identify who might be available but does not include anyone from the European or North American amateur leagues. Each player is assigned a value with respect to what they might bring in a trade. To acquire a player with high trade value, the return would have to include a 1st round pick plus other assets; a moderate trade value would have to include a 2nd round pick or equivalent prospect, and so on. Keep in mind that any team acquiring a player with a high trade value will be a contender, meaning that even a first round pick will be mid-round at best and probably later in the first round.

One player on this list, Brendan Gallagher, is shown as having no trade value. It is not because of his abilities as a player but rather it is his contract, which would make it next to impossible to trade without withholding salary or including other valuable assets in any trade. He is more valuable to the Canadiens as a player than he is as a trade chip.

The only non-pro mentioned as a potential trade candidate in this article is Jayden Struble. The players in front of him on the depth charts combined with his injury history work against him. Struble also has the option of foregoing any contract offer from the Canadiens when the season is over and becoming a free agent on August 15, 2023. On the plus side for Struble is that he is exactly the type of player many teams will be looking for and he would be rated a a moderate trade value on this grids.

TRADE VALUECANADIENSLAVAL
High to very high valueJoel Edmundson
Josh Anderson
Christian Dvorak
Sean Monahan
Moderate trade valueMike HoffmanJesse Ylonen
Low trade valueJoel ArmiaOtto Leskinen
Chris WidemanNicolas Beaudin
Michael PezzettaCayden Primeau
Jake EvansJan Mysak
Mattias Norlinder
Gianni Fairbrother
No trade valueEvgenii DadonovCorey Schueneman
Jonathan Drouin
Brendan Gallagher

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Hughes On The Phones – Rockets Deserving Call-Up

By JD Lagrange – Stating that I don’t follow or write about prospect often might be an understatement. There are plenty of people following them more than I do, including my colleague Bob Trask on this very site. Admittedly, I don’t know much about them as I start taking a bit of interest when they get to the AHL. And even then, I pay more attention when they are getting closer to deserving a shot with the big club.

So far, there are six players who are drawing my attention as being deserving of a call-up to see where they are at in their development. Those who attend Rocket’s games might have a few more, or disagree with my choices, and it’s okay if that’s the case. This is only one man’s opinion based on what I see.

Anthony Richard: He did very well at camp and was one of the last players cut. Fast, intense, he has 12 goals in 19 games so far for the Rocket and leads the team with 18 points.

Justin Barron: After a bit of a slow start, likely shocked and digesting being sent down, he has since been on fire. The right-handed defenseman has 6 goals and 6 assists in 19 games so far and has been solid at both ends of the ice.

Rem Pitlick: It is my humble opinion that Pitlick doesn’t deserve to be down, but he’s the victim of the numbers’ game in Montreal. Excellent penalty killer, he should be in the NHL.

Jesse Ylönen: Here’s another guy who should be in Montreal. Like Barron, he had a slow start to the season in Laval but he has since picked up his game. A good, fast, 200-foot player who happens to play at a position of depth in Montreal, on the wing.

Peter Abbandonato: The 24 year-old forward is a surprise for me. With 11 points in 13 games, he is showing signs of progression in his development. It might be good to keep a close eye on that kid and perhaps give him a couple of games in the NHL to see where he’s at.

Xavier Simoneau: In his case, I’m not suggesting a call-up but I wanted to acknowledge his contribution and where he’s at in his development. The rookie has been on fire for the Rocket lately and now has 15 points in 18 games at the pro level.

Hughes working the phones

The issue now is that the Canadiens simply don’t have room for these guys. The Canadiens have a lot of dead wood, particularly up front, that Kent Hughes is trying to move. In fact, Hughes told reporter Anthony Martineau yesterday that the phones are busy everywhere in the NHL.

Kent Hughes

“We’re always in discussion with teams”, he said. “A lot today [Saturday], since we’re driving back. We’ve reached the quarter season mark, I think that every team is take calls to see what other teams wish to accomplish at this stage of the season.”

Hughes confirmed to Martineau that ideally, he would like to add another first round pick for this upcoming Draft. Asked about which prospects he was particularly please with, he didn’t name anyone from the Rocket, surprisingly. I could be an oversight, or he doesn’t consider players already turned pro as “prospects” per se.

“We’re very happy with Luke Tuch, Lane Hutson, Jayden Struble, also Sean Farrell, collegian players”, advanced Hughes just to name a few. “Of course players that we’ve drafted this year like Owen Beck, Filip Mesar have a good start. Engström also in Sweden is having a good start so we’re really happy, we think that we have some very good players joining in the future à Montréal.”.

Does he have a window, a time frame or a goal to return to the playoffs and for his team to become a contender? In short, no he doesn’t. Of course, a lot of it will depend on the young players’ development pace but also, things can change quickly in the NHL.

“I couldn’t tell you in June that we predicted getting a guy like Sean Monahan and a first round pick”, Hughes explained. “Things chance so quickly.”

But one thing is for sure, he won’t trade picks and prospects if the Canadiens are close to a playoffs’ spot by trade deadline. “We don’t want to make sudden decision without thinking enough, detrimental to the future of the team, we won’t want to do that.”

As the Canadiens’ GM is patiently looking to unload a few players, the team is responding extremely well to the coaching staff and the young guys have taken over the team. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are comparing favourably to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Kaiden Guhle is already playing like the number one defenseman on the team, Arber Xhekaj is building a reputation of a guy you don’t want to mess with, Samuel Montembeault is challenging Jake Allen and Kirby Dach is making boo-birds eat crow. The future is bright, Habs’ fans. And there’s no need for tanking and throwing games.

You can see the two minutes interview in French down below.

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