By JD Lagrange – Here we go again… a French Canadian players is a healthy scratch and it doesn’t take much to get the internet excited about, particularly amongst the Habs’ fan base. New York Rangers’ head coach Gerard Gallant has decided to make former first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière a healthy scratch. No matter how we try twisting this, it’s not a good thing for the young man. This will undeniably raise questions about his future in the Big Apple and it certainly will start the rumour mill everywhere, not only in Montreal.
Kent Hughes wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t call Rangers’ GM Chris Drury to enquire about Lafrenière’s availability and get a feel for the asking price. So let’s not be offended if fans and Montreal media members alike are curious about the possibility of a trade with the Canadiens.
On social media, many fans are acting frustrated, or are laughing at the idea of trying to get Lafrenière on the Canadiens. They seem to think that there are no other reasons but language. It’s not surprising, they do the same when it comes to Pierre-Luc Dubois, a well established NHL player. But let’s put things into perspective for Habs’ fans:
- Lafrenière averaged 0.38 points per game in his first season in the NHL. Juraj Slafkovsky averages 0.32 points per game so far.
- Kirby Dach’s career high was 26 points coming into this season. Lafrenière had 31 points last season. Both are 21 years old.
- Lafrenière also had 19 goals last season. Only Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki scored more for the Canadiens last year.
- It took Jonathan Huberdeau four years to score 20 goals, and six years to score more than that (he had a 10 goals season in between). In his first three season, trade rumours were haunting Huberdeau too.
- At the age of 23, Buffalo Sabres Tage Thompson had a total of 18 goals and 17 assists in four seasons with the Sabres and Blues. He broke out last season, his fifth in the NHL, with 38 goals. In less than 2 ½ seasons, Lafrenière already has 36 goals, 33 assists, 69 points in the NHL.
- Lafrenière’s 17 points so far this season would put him tied for fourth on the Canadiens, who are looking for secondary offense past Suzuki and Caufield.
- Think of trying Lafrenière on a line with Dach for a minute…
What to trade?
If the Florida Panthers where solidly anchored into a playoffs’ spot as most thought they would be, it wouldn’t be farfetched to forego their first round pick for the Canadiens to get their hands on Lafrenière. But with the odds being what they are today, it is very unlikely that Kent Hughes would take that kind of gamble for either of the first picks the Canadiens own for the upcoming NHL Draft.
But if Hughes could get his hands on a first round pick from a playoffs’ team, say for Joel Edmundson, for example, that pick certainly could be “sacrificed” to take a gamble of Lafrenière. But then again, Ryan Lindgren is playing top-4 on the left side for the Rangers. A guy like Edmundson would be a good addition for a playoffs’ push, wouldn’t he? So how could the Habs sweeten the deal in addition to the big defenseman?
With that said, the question remains… Can they put forward the best offer for the Rangers? The Blue Shirts are rumoured as a potential destination for Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and it’s not too farfetched to think that Lafrenière would be a very tempting piece in the return heading to Chicago. The Habs don’t have a Patrick Kane to offer.
So to sum it up, don’t hold your breath if you wish to see Lafrenière in a Habs’ jersey this season. But to laugh at the idea, or to think that it’s only because of the language that he speaks holds no water. If I were a betting man, I would say that the odds of seeing Lafrenière in Montreal are slim, but fans should not give up hopes for Dubois, a more feasible trade considering he’s one year away from free agency.