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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|High to very high value||Joel Edmundson|
|Moderate trade value||Mike Hoffman||Jesse Ylonen|
|Low trade value||Joel Armia||Otto Leskinen|
|Chris Wideman||Nicolas Beaudin|
|Michael Pezzetta||Cayden Primeau|
|Jake Evans||Jan Mysak|
|No trade value||Evgenii Dadonov||Corey Schueneman|