We won’t have to complain on March 8 at 4 p.m., at the end of the trade deadline, if Kent Hughes has no trade to comment on during his speech to the media.
The Canadiens’ GM has already achieved one of the only hoped-for, and possible, moves in his position: obtaining a first-round pick for Sean Monahan before he gets injured.
What is left to exchange? Almost nothing. Tanner Pearson and Chris Wideman are the only two other potential unrestricted free agents, therefore labeled rental players. Pearson, 31, just returned to the game recently. His lack of speed is obvious. He has three points in his last 25 games. And it affects 3.25 million annually. Its value is almost zero.
At least Hughes already got a 2025 third-round pick when he was acquired from the Canucks for goaltender Casey DeSmith. Wideman did not play all season due to a back injury.
There is obviously the case of goalkeepers. It would be better to keep 24-year-old Cayden Primeau, with an annual salary of $890,000, for one more season. But who will be worth Jake Allen, 33, with his annual salary of 3.85 million for this year and next, and poor statistics, with a record of 5-9-3, his goals against average of 3.43 and his save percentage of .901? Even withholding half of his salary, Allen will not be easy to compromise.
And David Savard?
Colleague Guillaume rightly recalled this weekend: Montreal traded Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen in 2022 even if they would still have been contractually linked to the organization after that season.
The CH is still rebuilding, at least resetting, but the context has changed slightly over the past two years. The organization was then in decline, in order to accumulate draft picks, and why not draft at the top? Montreal is now aiming for growth, and the goal next year will be to fight for a playoff spot until the end of the season. We have to get back on track one day.
Thus, defender David Savard, 33 years old, free agent without compensation from 1er July 2025, could have an interesting value on the market, but the lack of depth on the right in defense, and his influence over young people, make him an invaluable asset for another year. Kent Hughes won’t turn down a jaw-dropping offer, but it just has to be.
Why not have kept Monahan if we wanted to enter a period of growth, some still ask? Monahan, after all, had 35 points in 49 games and was shining in most facets of the game.
Unlike Savard, Monahan was a few months away from full autonomy in a season now lost for the Canadian. In addition, Hughes had promised to trade him to a Stanley Cup contender if Montreal was left out of the playoff race as the trade deadline approached.
The Canadian probably also concluded that it would not be healthy in terms of salary to offer Monahan, 30 years old in October and worn out by numerous injuries over the years, a long-term, profitable agreement.
Let’s just remember Brendan Gallagher. He was 28 years old when Marc Bergevin signed his six-year contract extension in October 2020. He had just had a season of 43 points, including 22 goals, in 59 games in this season shortened by the pandemic, a pace of 60 points, including 31 goals, over a schedule of 82 games. He was still a vital part of this team, as Monahan still was until his departure last Friday.
Gallagher has scored 23 goals and 54 points in 143 games since. By bringing this production over a full season, it is 13 goals and 31 points over a year of 82 games. He still has three years of contract left at an average salary of 6.5 million within the cap. The CH gave him 8 million this season and will pay him 9 million next year, according to the site capfriendly.com.
A contract buyout will be significantly more advantageous in one year, from June 2025. There will then be 10.5 million to give him over two years, and not 19.5 million over three seasons as will be the case this summer.
In such a context, Gallagher is obviously impossible to trade, you guessed it. Just like Josh Anderson. Anderson, 30 in May, is also under contract for three more years, at an average annual salary of 5.5 million. He receives 8 million this year and will receive 7 million next season.
Anderson has scored seven goals this year, and obtained thirteen points, three fewer than Gallagher, 16 points, including 8 goals, in 48 games. Geoff Molson is therefore coughing up 16 million this winter for 15 goals…
A young defender can always be sacrificed
With the probable arrival of Lane Hutson this spring, perhaps that of Adam Engström if he offers convincing performances in Laval at the start, and a defense already congested on the left, room will have to be made. But there is no urgency either. Arber Xhekaj can still be returned to the American League without being subject to waivers. Kaiden Guhle can stay on the right. And Jordan Harris will revisit the press box if he doesn’t improve.
We sometimes trade younger players at the deadline. But this type of transaction generally occurs more often in the summer, at the dawn of the draft or during the event. Nothing is impossible, obviously, but more improbable than the opposite.
Brandon Gignac rewarded
This moment should be remembered during a preseason game against the Ottawa Senators on September 27. Kirby Dach and Johnathan Kovacevic were punished successively at the start of the third period. Who did Martin Saint-Louis put on the ice as the only three-on-five attacker? Not Monahan, not Suzuki or Harvey-Pinard, but Gignac, a center under contract with the Laval Rocket.
Gignac also scored the Canadian’s first goal that evening, played 13 minutes and had a success rate of 68% on faceoffs. His speed was obvious. But he was sent back to Rocket training camp two days later with 28 fellow workers.
It took four months to reward him, but, now armed with a two-season NHL agreement, with a component for the American League, and the departure of Sean Monahan, Gignac can expect to stay in Montreal for the rest of the season. And prove that he can become the fourth Canadian center for next year, ahead of Luca Condotta, the other candidate.