By JD Lagrange – While hopes for success entering this NHL season were never very high for Canadiens’ fans and media members, the prospect of having a few pending UFAs brought them some hope for trade deadline. Unfortunately for General Manager Kent Hughes and his team, the anticipated story didn’t develop as planned.
Their pending UFAs had a bad season and injuries have taken their toll on those who might have fetched a good return. And to make matters worse, the Florida Panthers, who looked like they were out of luck for a playoffs’ spot halfway though the season, are now in playoffs’ contention. The Canadiens own the Panthers’ first round pick at the upcoming NHL Draft, pick acquired in the Ben Chiarot trade a year ago.
There was hope that pending UFAs Jonathan Drouin and Evgenii Dadonov, playing on a contract year, would perform to their talent. Both had a horrible season… up until recently. But have they done enough to catch the interest of a contending team, to give up assets in hope that they receive the recent players and not the players from the first half of the season?
Sean Monahan, the team’s other UFA, was having a bounce-back start to the season. But he has been out of the line-up due to a foot injury since the first week of December. He was on pace for 20 goals and 56 points season prior to being injured. There were question marks going into this season as Monahan was coming back from two hip surgeries and his health remains a huge question mark for any contender wanting to acquire him.
With the surprising performances of Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Arber Xhekaj, the Canadiens then turned their hopes on Joel Edmundson as a possible trade target. The big veteran defenseman missed training camp due to a bad back and has been out of the line-up for a few weeks for what is thought to be the same reason.
Many were hoping that Mike Hoffman would have a good enough season to draw positive attention from other teams who were looking for secondary scoring. He started the season really slow but has been heating up lately. The issue is that he has one more year after this one, carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million.
Now here’s the reality of the situation. The Canadiens need to get something in return for some of those players, not so much on some others. Kent Hughes must try to find trade partners for pending UFAs Drouin ($5.5M cap hit) and Dadonov ($5M cap hit) for sure, possibly even Monahan ($6.375M cap hit). The nice thing about Monahan is that he came with the Flames’ first round pick so while the Canadiens might miss on getting another first, they are not losing in that trade with a lesser value at trade deadline.
As for Edmundson, the Canadiens don’t have to trade him. He has one year remaining at an affordable $3.5M cap hit, and he’s a great veteran to have around for the young defensemen on the team. Further, with the injury to Arber Xhekaj, the Canadiens may want to keep the veteran. If he remains healthy, Edmundson could become a great asset at next year’s trade deadline. And the same goes for Hoffman.
This brings me to Josh Anderson. I’ve written plenty lately about him and the trade speculations:
- Jan. 2023: 3-Headed Beast: Learning From Each Other
- Dec. 2022: Josh Anderson’s Trade Value to the Habs
- Nov. 2022: Hockey Analysis – The Unmeasurables
- Jun. 2022: Avoid Turning The Habs Into The Leafs
- Jun. 2022: LeBrun to CTL: Habs Turned Down Serious Offers for Anderson
- Feb. 2022: Trading Anderson Would Be A Monumental Mistake
You may not read them all but there is research in all of them, proving why a guy like him is so wanted by other teams and, at the same time, why he’s not being shopped around by Hughes and the Canadiens. That doesn’t make him untouchable, but it means that it would take a King’s ransom to pry him off Montreal’s hands.
In conclusion, fans and media will have to do like Kent Hughes and readjust their expectations at this year’s trade deadline when it comes to both the number of trades, and the return on any trade completed. The unfortunate reality is that the off-season has now become a more important time for the Canadiens’ future.