By JD Lagrange – In hockey, things can change in a hurry when it comes to player availability. Injuries, contract negotiations and performances by the player in question or others at the same position are just a couple of examples of how the dynamic of the value of a player to a team can be affected.
As Kent Hughes works the phones to try to unload his surplus of wingers and defensemen, let’s have a look at most of the team’s players and their chances of being traded, 30% of the season played.
Not being traded
Notice that I didn’t use the term “untouchable” here. If Wayne Gretzky got traded, it is better to making such claims. But on the Canadiens, those that I feel can sleep tight at night knowing that they’re not going anywhere are, in no particular order:
- Nick Suzuki: The captain is having a breakthrough season and will lead this team for years to come.
- Cole Caufield: Expect an announcement for a contract extension in the next few weeks, with a cap hit slightly below Suzuki’s.
- Kirby Dach: Acquiring him for the 13th overall pick was a gamble by Hughes but it seems like he will win his bet.
- Juraj Slafkovsky: Do I really need to explain why? First overall pick who keeps on improving as he gains experience.
- Mike Matheson: You need some veteran leadership on this young defense. He’s a quality one.
- David Savard: See Matheson and he’s right handed, worth gold on this team. Not playing in his seat is not his fault.
- Kaiden Guhle: This guy is already playing like the team’s number one defenseman. Happy retirement Shea Weber.
- Arber Xhekaj: The biggest surprise this season, the team grows two inches when he’s in the line-up. Leads all NHL rookie defensemen with four goals.
- Jake Allen: Yes, some dream of seeing him gone but that’s all it is: a dream. His new two-year contract starts next season.
Going from one extreme to the other, here are the players whom, in my humble opinion, are the most likely to find a new home from now until trade deadline. Again, in no particular order:
- Mike Hoffman: Admittedly, not an easy guy and contract to move. But he was heating up prior to his injury and $4.5M is not that much for secondary scoring.
- Christian Dvorak: Truthfully, his future in Montreal hinges on if Monahan is retained or not as the Canadiens are exploring that option. A third line center who wins you some faceoffs does have value and $4.45M is reasonable.
- Joel Edmundson: Before the season started, had you told me that I’d have him in this category and I would have laughed at you. But the way the young defensemen have been playing, considering the depth on the left side of the defense, he’s now a good candidate to fetch a good return.
- Sean Monahan: There have been plenty of debates to know if the Canadiens should consider re-signing the former Flames. But the way he has fit into the team, with his leadership, experience, the way he wins you faceoffs and provides secondary offense, more and more people are changing their mind. He could very well be traded too though, which is why he’s in this category.
Need an severe overpayment
I only have one name on that list but he’s a big one, in more than one way. I debated putting Jordan Harris in there but he has been a healthy scratch lately and after a strong start to the season, his play has levelled off a bit.
- Josh Anderson: He’s in the rumours everywhere and there’s a reason for it. Likely the most underrated and unappreciated player on the Canadiens, Anderson is one of a kind. A big guy who can skate, hit, fight, score goals are rare in this league. Since acquired for Max Domi, only Suzuki has played more games amongst forwards for the Canadiens. He has a pace of 24 goals per 82 games since in Montreal. His 335 hits since the 2020-21 season are miles ahead of second place Joel Armia who has 194. So saying while some fans will try to convince you that he’s expendable, don’t buy it as NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun informed Cheering The Logo that Hughes has declined several serious offers for his power-forward.
The following players would likely be available but due to a combination of performances and salary, the Canadiens would have to sweeten the deal by throwing in a draft pick or prospect to make a trade happen. And listening to Kent Hughes, it’s not something he’s willing to even discuss. It is interesting to note that doing that same exercise before the season started, Dadonov and Drouin would have been on top of the list of the “most probable”.
- Evgenii Dadonov: Who wants a guy who is afraid of his own shadow, doesn’t get into the dirty areas and doesn’t produce offensively for $5 million? Even as a pending UFA, he would have to seriously head up in order for a team to offer even a late pick with half his salary retained.
- Jonathan Drouin: You can read the Dadonov description above, change the salary to $5.5 million and add his mysterious injuries. I had hopes for him under Martin St-Louis but he just never lived up to expectations (his own included) in Montreal.
- Brendan Gallagher: One thing no one will ever be able to blame Gally for is his dedication and willpower. He works as hard as ever, he skates better than ever, he creates scoring chances… but the puck isn’t going in for him. At $6.5 million long term, no one will take a risk.
- Joel Armia: So much potential, so little consistency. That would be a way to sum up Armia’s career so far. With one meagre assist and no goals to show for in 13 games, and two more years at $3.4 million, the Canadiens are stuck hoping he finds his game.
There you have it. There are several players I didn’t mention. The rest could be packaged up in a trade or stay, either way is fine. Will we see some trade action in December, or will we have to wait to February and March, when teams are more set in their playoffs’ positions and decide if they’re going for it or not? Time will tell. But many of the trades that we will see at trade deadline are being worked on right now.