The other day, Sportsnet ran a report naming the Montreal Canadiens as being among several teams interested in acquiring Kerby Rychel from the Columbus Blue Jackets. We know that Marc Bergevin has been actively in discussion with other NHL general managers, so it doesn't seem like such a far-fetched idea.
This is not the first time that Rychel has been linked to the Habs, so it seems worthwhile to take a look at what such a trade would involve. Back in May of last year, Elliotte Friedman had mentioned that the Canadiens were interested in him, so the idea that Bergevin is willing to bring the 2013 first-round pick into the organization.
The report from Sportsnet alleges not only that Montreal is interested in him, but that Rychel's father, agent, and "possibly others" met with Columbus management at the team's development camp. The purpose of this meeting was to ascertain why he had been buried in the team's lineup. So not only does it seem that the Habs are interested, but he may want out of Columbus as well.
Rychel is a former first-round pick for the Jackets from back in 2013. He is 21 years old, and currently on the first year of a three-year contract, which carries a cap hit of $863,333. The contract is certainly affordable for the Habs, but the question remains; is he worthwhile to pursue?
Keep in mind that we're dealing with a very small sample, but here are his NHL numbers
(All Stats five-on-five, via WAR On Ice. iCF/60 = individual Corsi for per 60 minutes of ice time; CF/60 = Corsi-for per 60 minutes; CA/60 = Corsi-against per 60 minutes; CF% = Corsi-for %; iSF/60 = individual shots-for per 60 minutes; SA/60 = team shots-against per 60 minutes; SF% = shots for %, ZSO% = offensive zone starts divided by total of offensive and defensive zone starts)
Again, small sample, but one thing that sticks out is Columbus never had very much faith in him. His average ice time dropped in his second partial season with the club, and his deployment became less favourable as well. To be fair, the rest of the numbers don't look overly great, so there could be a reason for the lack of playing time.
Right now he's not playing in the NHL, but he's doing very well for Columbus' AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. Over 20 games, he has five goals and 18 points. That is good for second on the team behind T.J. Tynan, who has 23 points over 33 games. Reasonable AHL numbers to say the least. His OHL numbers were good, albeit not spectacular.
The bottom line is that there is not a big enough body of work to make many conclusions. Based on his AHL time, he appears to be a solid offensive producer, but there's just no way of knowing for sure until he spends some meaningful time in the NHL.
What would it take?
Right now, it definitely wouldn't make sense for the Habs to give up a roster player to get Rychel. A deal something like the one that sent Christian Thomas to the Coyotes for Lucas Lessio, however, is certainly within reason. That being said, Rychel doing as well as he is in the AHL would mean a decent prospect going the other way.
What decent prospect does Montreal have who has been largely buried in the lineup and in the AHL? Well, Jarred Tinordi jumps to mind. Tinordi's cap hit is roughly $100,000 less than Rychel's, and him being on an expiring contract gives Columbus the flexibility to audition him for a spot with little responsibility moving forwards.
Nobody else really seems to make sense. If Columbus needs anything right now it's probably a defenceman or a left winger. Since they don't seem to want to use Rychel - coincidentally a left winger - a trade with Montreal would really only make sense with a blue liner, and Jarred Tinordi fits the bill perfectly.
It is possible that either team would also ask for a pick in this hypothetical deal. That is where I could see both sides parting ways.
Is it worth it?
If it is Tinordi for Rychel straight up, I would strongly suggest considering it. Rychel doesn't necessarily help the team right now, but they're not using Tinordi, so it could wind up being a beneficial deal for both parties involved. Rychel at least provides an insurance option on the farm given the injury problems in Montreal this year.
If Columbus is asking for a pick or a supplementary prospect in the deal, then I'd give it a no. There is not a big enough sample of Rychel at the NHL level to justify paying more. Given his limited workload, and the fact that they'd be committing to two more years of contract, the Habs can't overpay.
Simply put, acquiring Rychel for cheap helps the Habs depth this year, so it could be a wise trade, as long as they don't overpay for him.