Any trade the Canadiens make at this point in the season has to be about improving the future of the team. The chances of making the playoffs are extremely slim, but the state of the club isn't the worst, so they still have a chance to be good in the coming years.
With that in mind, the most pressing need would be to improve the forward corps. One team with an abundance of young, talented forwards is of course the Edmonton Oilers. One of their forwards whose name has been tossed around is none other than Nail Yakupov.
Yakupov's season has been somewhat marred by injury, and he only has 15 points through 40 games played. He is shooting at a career-low 5.8%, and now may be the point in time where it would be cheapest to pry him away from the Oilers.
And if you're looking for ways to lower the price, it gets better from there. At even strength, he's rocking a 48.9% Corsi For this season. On the scoring chance front - again at even strength - he is at 47.5% scoring chances for, and 46.3% high-danger chances for. Simply put, his stat sheet doesn't read very pretty right now.
His stats this year may be enough for some to question whether he's worth it, but he is still a highly talented young player who projects as a potential top line winger. He has the ability to play both sides of the wing as well, and that versatility would be beneficial to the Canadiens.
What would it take?
If you're Montreal, you really don't want to be shedding draft picks right now, so the ideal situation would be a player-for-player trade. Edmonton has a pressing need on the back end, so in a perfect world you could try to get Alexei Emelin to waive his no movement clause in order to join the Connor McDavid show in Alberta.
But it may not even be necessary to offer a roster player to get Yakupov at this point. I suspect that a player like Nikita Scherbak would be enough to entice Edmonton to make a deal. If they do insist on getting a defenceman, Morgan Ellis has been doing great in the AHL this year, so they may be able to work out a deal with him and perhaps another mid-level prospect.
I'm operating on my opinion of the market here, but I honestly believe that Yakupov could be had at a very reasonable price. The only thing I would avoid, were I Marc Bergevin, would be the aforementioned shedding of draft picks.
Is he a fit?
Yakupov played junior for the Sarnia Sting, and it just so happens that one of his frequent linemates was Alex Galchenyuk. They formed quite the formidable duo in the OHL, and one has to wonder if they could tear up the big league in a similar fashion. It is tantalizing to say the least.
His ability to skate on either side of centre would be huge for the Canadiens. They aren't very deep on the right side, so they could easily use him on that side if they need to.
And say he plays on the left. Imagine a line of him, Galchenyuk at centre, and Brendan Gallagher on the right. Can you see it? Is it beautiful? I bet it is, because I'm envisioning the same thing right now, and I can smell the goals. He is definitely a fit on the team, and there would be plenty of options as to how he would be used.
This is all conjecture, but if Bergevin can find the type of deal I believe to be out there, he should take a shot at Nail Yakupov.