If Gorton Played Santa, A Top-5 List of Trades

Yes, it seems like Jeff Gorton and the Canadiens are getting ready to conduct interviews for the position of General Manager. Yes, their committee is taking shape and no, there shouldn’t be an announcement before Christmas. Mmmm… Christmas. There’s an idea. How about we make a list to Santa? But we better hurry, as we’re only two weeks away!

I have compiled a short list of potential trades Gorton could be temped to pull the trigger on. You will understand that like when a kid makes his or her Christmas list, they can’t possibly write all the possibilities. So I’ve narrowed it down to five that might be feasible… or not. Some come from trade rumours, others are simply made-up.

But first, let’s clarify something. I do not believe that Gorton wants to or needs to go through a full rebuild and that’s what I’m basing those trade on. The reason being that the Canadiens drafted 45 players since the reset of 2018 and they own 11 more picks for the upcoming Draft, which will be held in Montreal. A reset (yes, another one) is the route the new V-P of Hockey Operations is most likely going to aim towards, trading some of the veterans, keeping others and revamping the composition of the team to get younger, faster and more skilled.

Top-5 List

So without further ado, here’s the shortlist of Christmas wishes, or possibilities… or not:

#1 – Ben Chiarot for 1st round pick. Wow, how original. It’s like the little boy asking for a Playstation! But it’s still the most likely to happen. The real question is not if you do it, but rather when. Do you trade him now or do you risk an injury? Big Ben plays a physical style. He blocks shots. He will drop the gloves if need be – he even broke a hand doing so. And he logs tons of minutes. As most of his salary is paid, closer to trade deadline, there will be more suitors, or a bigger bidding war for him. But the way the Canadiens’ players have been falling like flies, the timing of the trade is something that the Habs have to seriously consider. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, right?

Vitaly Kravtsov

#2 – Vitaly Kravtsov is an interesting option. Jeff Gorton, who says liking his teams to be skilled and fast, was the GM who drafted Kravtsov ninth overall in 2018, while with the Rangers. He will be turning 22 on December 23rd and, as we know, he has returned to the KHL awaiting a trade. In 12 games there, he has 5G-4A-9Pts. The 6-foot 3-inches Russian is an offensive dynamo with tremendous skill with the puck. Is also an extremely good skater but he does need to improve on his defensive skills. He is, however, an ultra-skilled, talented winger with major upside, something the Habs are desperately lacking.

#3 – Dylan Strome was, once again, a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks when they faced the Habs on Thursday. Since losing Phillip Danault to free agency and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer-sheet, the Canadiens’ center depth has taken a shot, even after the trade for Christian Dvorak. To the point where they had claimed Adam Brooks off waivers, before losing him trying to send him to Laval. The 6-foot 3-inches, 200 lbs center will turn 25 in March and he’s only a few seasons removed from his 51 points in 58 games. He has a tremendous shot, plus all-round ability, including excellent playmaking skills plus the qualities of a true finisher. His hockey sense is well above-average, too.

#4 – John Klingberg could have easily been #1 on my list. Not for the likeliness of it happening, but based on the Canadiens’ biggest needs. A right-handed, great all-round right-handed defenseman who can log major minutes against the opposition’s top lines, he’s just what the doctor ordered. And the Canadiens don’t have that in their system… yet. Of course, the deal would have to come with a contract extension and with a team having the kind of season they’re having, Gorton would have some major convincing and selling to do. Yes, you’re going to pay in terms of assets and salary, but you get what you pay for. Those defensemen are few and far between and would fill a gap, allowing for Logan Mailloux to develop.

#5 – Brendan Gallagher could be on his last miles in Montreal. As much as this hurts to say, Gally was very close to Marc Bergevin, like many current veterans on the team. Teams would love to add a guy like him, low maintenance, leader, all effort, to their squads. His new contract comes with a modified no-trade clause where he names six teams he won’t accept a trade to. It’s unlikely that Stanley Cup contenders would be on that list, or… Vancouver, where he captained the Giants in the WHL. J.T. Miller has been in the rumours, here in BC and at 28, he has a lot of good hockey in him. He leads the Canucks with 18 points and he is good on faceoffs with a 54.8% efficiency.

There you have it folks. How many of those will come true? I’d say one, maybe two if I’m lucky. The top-two are most likely. Well, the top one is pretty much a certainty. The second, a possibility with strong odds. I could see Strome as well but that’s a stretch. We know how good Bergevin was with trades. Here’s hoping that Gorton can tip the balance in the Canadiens’ favour when he does pull the trigger. Or can we bring Bergevin back just to complete those trades? Asking for a friend…

More reading…

Medical Staff and Carey Price’s Future

The Bell Centre, A Welcoming Place

Three Habs Players On Marek’s Top-25 Trade List

Habs and Hawks Could Be Good Trade Partners

It’s been an off-season to forget for both the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks. In Montreal, it’s been controversy over shocking news ever since the team has lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Losing their captain Shea Weber, the departure of Joel Bouchard, Carey Price left unprotected for the Expansion Draft, the selection of Logan Mailloux, Phillip Danault leaving, Paul Byron having surgery, Jesperi Kotkaniemi gone with an offer-sheet, Price going on the players assistance program…

For the Hawks, the question marks about captain Jonathan Toews’ health situation, the trade of Duncan Keith, the trade for Marc-Andre Fleury and his subsequent silence for several days, and this whole story about Brad Aldrich and the fall outs since the investigation report came out, including the resignation of GM Stan Bowman. Results? Both teams are mightily struggling out of the gate this season. Both teams need a shake up and start focussing on the season as they are falling fast in the standings.

Please note that I have no sources either with the Canadiens or the Blackhawks and this is only a suggestion that I, personally, feel might work for both teams. I’m not going to venture (too much) into the exact details of a potential deal between the two teams but I do feel like they can help each other out. Add or remove a piece here and there, customize it to your liking. So take the following with a grain of salt… a slice of lime and a shot of tequila!

Trade idea

Here’s what could be the foundation for a potential substantial trade between Montreal and Chicago.

To Montreal:

  • Connor Murphy (RD): carries a $3.85 million cap hit this season, then $4.4 million for four more years after.
  • Dylan Strome (C): $3 million cap hit this season, RFA in the summer with arbitration rights.
  • Andrew Shaw (C/RW): on LTIR for the entire season, $3.9 million LTIR cap.

To Chicago:

  • Ryan Poehling (C): $750,000 cap hit for two years, then RFA.
  • An “A” level prospect or the Habs’ 2nd round pick.
  • One of Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia or Paul Byron: for cap relief.
  • “B” level prospects to unload a contract as the Habs are at 48 contracts (max of 50) prior to this trade.

The Habs desperately need a right-handed defenseman who can help Jeff Petry on the right side facing the opposition’s top lines. Petry has been struggling big time so far this season and he’s not the shadow of his old self. Murphy stands at 6-foot 4-inches and weights 212 lbs and he skates very well for such a big man. The 28 year-old has a pretty good shot and usually makes good first passes out of his zone. While he’ll never be in consideration for the Norris Trophy, he goes about his business in a steady and efficient fashion. Good defender, he can be a bit inconsistent as a shut down. He’s a huge improvement over David Savard in just about every aspect.

Strome is a centre who stands at 6-foot 3-inches and 200 lbs. The 24 year-old has only played two games thus far this season and he’s in the coach’s bad books due to his inconsistency. The expectations were high on this former third overall pick by Arizona back at the 2015 NHL Draft but his production has dipped in the past couple of seasons. Habs Rumour Mill informed us that the Habs were scouting the Hawks not long ago and, coincidently, Strome was inserted into the line-up for that game.

The Canadiens still hold 11 picks for the 2022 NHL Draft and are loaded on quality prospects, particularly on left-hand shot defensemen.

Laval/Montreal swap

Last but not least, I personally would send young Cole Caufield down to Laval for a while if, for nothing else, regain his confidence. We’ve never heard anyone say that a player stayed too long in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL but how many times have we seen players being rushed to the NHL, often in roles too big, too soon? The Habs cannot afford to mess the development of this kid as they have done with too many young players in recent history.

The call-up? None other than Michael Pezzetta, who in my humble opinion and based on merit, should have never been sent down to Laval in the first place. He’s on fire with the Rocket. Ducharme could easily bump up Joel Armia (or Lehkonen) to the top-9 forwards and play Pezzetta on the fourth line.

I fully anticipate to read many people, from both or either sides (Habs and/or Hawks) being totally against this idea. And that’s okay, I respect that. Remember that there are few trades happening because few GMs can agree on the value of players so imagine how unrealistic it would be to expect fans agreeing. This is a move that I would like, or something along those lines. It’s far from meaning that it would happen in real life. But it’s still fun to speculate. It beats complaining day in, day out, or arguing with other fans, doesn’t it?