The Canadian’s next few months

We are in mid-January and the Canadian is already far away. Too late in the rankings. Too many opponents to beat. Too many injured players. Consequence: for the third winter in a row, the Habs will be sellers by the transaction deadline, March 8.

But is now a good time to sell?

Like the clairvoyant in STAT who has lost his third eye, the oracles are confused. During the winter of 2022, general manager Kent Hughes had done golden business. Last winter ? No. Only three small transactions, of which Montreal only has a choice of 5e round. This is because the CH found itself in the heart of an unusual bazaar, where supply exceeded demand. So many rebuilding clubs were selling off their players that prices had fallen drastically.

This scenario could happen again in the coming weeks. At least eight teams – including the Canadian – have less than a 5% chance of participating in the playoffs. Two others approach. This is therefore a third of the NHL which could find itself on the sellers’ side. That’s a lot of people. Except that within this group, there are clubs which have already liquidated their best veterans, and others which hope to put an end to their reconstruction. That could be good news for CH.

According to Kent Hughes, will the market favor buyers or sellers?

“It’s too early to say,” he replied on Monday during his mid-season review. The Canadiens’ CEO highlighted the tightening of the rankings in the West, where 12 teams can hope to participate in the playoffs. “Last year, we saw at the last minute that Nashville and Washington became sellers, and that Calgary decided not to be a buyer. It really happened in the last week. For us, it’s always the same plan. We will not deviate from this one. Everything we are going to do will be to improve our team in the future. »

It is possible that by March, teams will join the seller group. Notably the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators. There is also a risk that Canadiens players will get injured and have to be taken off the market. Kent Hughes is in no hurry to compromise quickly, however. “It’s a balance. The other teams are waiting, too. Normally, buyers have a wish list. When you’re looking for a center, there might be (a player) ranked number one on the list. Teams will not go to the second (name) until they know where the first will go. »

Under the circumstances, which Canadiens players are most likely to end the season elsewhere than in Montreal? Let’s analyze the squad by position.

The gardians

Kent Hughes makes no secret of it, he wants to trade a goalie – probably Jake Allen. “The plan was not to have three goalkeepers for the full season. That’s not the plan yet. But I can’t tell you 100% that it’s certain that we will make an exchange. »

The problem is Allen’s salary cap burden. Nearly four million, for another season. That makes him one of the 25 highest paid goalies in the league. That’s too much money for a backup goalie of his caliber.

The CH could absorb part of his salary. Kent Hughes can do this sleight of hand again by the 1ster July. On the other hand, it would limit his options for making a major transaction in the draft. Just think about it.

Since the start of the season, teams struggling with injured goalkeepers have all returned to their affiliates or on waivers. There is therefore a good chance that the menage a trois will continue until the last match.

The defenders

There are more people here than at mass. And the more the months pass, the more difficult the decisions will be.

Sometime next season, Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron and Jayden Struble should join Michael Matheson, David Savard, Jordan Harris and Johnathan Kovacevic in the group of players the Canadiens will have to protect from waivers. At the same time, Arber Xhekaj, Logan Mailloux, Lane Hutson, David Reinbacher, William Trudeau and Adam Engström will claim a chair. Nice bottleneck.


David Savard

“Ultimately, waivers can force your hand,” explained Kent Hughes.

The Canadian would benefit from trading a defenseman for an attacker, as he did in 2022, by letting Alexander Romanov leave to acquire Kirby Dach. No one anticipated this gesture. Romanov, 22, was playing as much at the time (20 minutes per game) as Guhle this season.

“When we have the opportunity to balance (our roster), we will,” Hughes said. “Do I feel like we have the gun to our heads to do this right now? No. »

What happens next will depend a lot on CH’s opponents. If the Flames, Senators and St. Louis Blues decide to trade defensemen (Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Colton Parayko, Jakob Chychrun), the Canadian may have an interest in waiting until the draft. Otherwise, David Savard, who has a reasonable contract, could prove to be a good option for a club looking for reinforcements.

The attackers

According to TSN, the CH and Sean Monahan have reached an agreement in principle so that the center player will be traded to a club aspiring to the playoffs when the opportunity arises. Asked about the veracity of this statement, Kent Hughes skated with as much elegance as Joannie Rochette at the Olympic Games.

“Typically, when you discuss a one-year deal with a player, and you convince that player to come to a team under construction like ours, the player evaluates his opportunities. You come to get a fresh start, after several seasons marked by injuries. You want to recover, but also want to have playing time. Let’s see where we are at the trade deadline. »


Sean Monahan

Loose translation: Barring an injury, Monahan will be traded.

In this case, the Canadian finds himself in an advantageous position. At the moment, aside from Elias Lindholm, few quality centers are at the heart of trade rumors. Monahan’s contract ($2 million) fits very well under the salary cap. Can he bring in a first-round pick or equivalent?

I believe him. Especially since the leading teams have almost all kept their first round choice. Afterwards, do CH want to continue accumulating choices? Not sure. He already has 11 for each of the next two sessions. It is enormous. Kent Hughes also suggested that he intended to use his choices to obtain slightly older players.

Ultimately, the Canadian will have to acquire at least one impact attacker. Maybe even two. The best way to achieve this, other than by drafting in the top five, will be by combining picks, prospects or a defenseman, like the Anaheim Ducks just did to acquire Cutter Gauthier. But realistically, in today’s market, its chances of success will be better in the summer than this winter.


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