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Nino Niederreiter would be a great fit in Montreal

The Minnesota forward is rumored to be available, and could bolster the Canadiens; top six immediately.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As the expansion draft draws ever closer and the off-season prepares to hit it’s stride, teams are faced with a multitude of tough decisions ahead because of salary cap concerns. One of those teams is the Minnesota Wild, who are extremely close to the cap ceiling, but also have several key players up for new contracts.

One player who has been mentioned as being available is pending restricted free agent Nino Niederreiter, who is coming off a career season for the Wild. With a lack of picks in the first and second rounds of this year’s draft, and a hefty payday awaiting Mikael Granlund, the smart move may be to ship the Swiss star out and recoup some missing picks.

Niederreiter would be a good fit in Montreal, the Canadiens are in major need of some more offensive firepower to help out Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. Even if Alexander Radulov re-signs in the summer, the sudden decline of Tomas Plekanec, in addition to the uncertainty of whether Paul Byron and Phillip Danault can repeat their career years, the team could use one more major piece.

Niederreiter potted 25 goals and 32 assists this past season, which placed him fourth on his team, however in Montreal he’d have finished second in the goal-scoring race, behind only Pacioretty. It was his third consecutive year registering at least 20 goals, and his point total steadily increased over that period.

He stands 6’2” and weighs in at 209 lbs., so should Marc Bergevin still be looking his increase the size of his forward corps, he doesn’t have to sacrifice skill to get it. He’s got great hands, especially in close, and a wicked wrist shot that would be great to have on one of the top two lines.

Not only can he score, but he does well driving play in the right direction, and that would fit in well with the new system that Claude Julien is trying to implement. Clocking in at a stellar 55.41 Corsi-for percentage, Niederreiter not only produces points, but limits the offence of the opposition as well.

As the HERO chart above shows, he is capable of both producing and limiting offence against at an outstanding rate. Even if he slides into a second-line spot, the Habs sorely need more production all the way through the lineup, and having a player of this calibre who can play either wing in the top six is a huge boost.

Minnesota won’t be giving up the pending RFA without asking for a decent sum in return. The fine folks at Hockey Wilderness had a few theories on what it would take to move Niederreiter, and still come out looking alright.

The Wild are in need of a mobile defender or an offensive centre. Given Montreal’s lack of high-level centres we can cross that option off the checklist for the time being. What the Canadiens do have however, is a fair excess of defencemen, including several attractive prospects ready to step into the pro game. The first likely asking point would be either Mikhail Sergachev, whom I imagine Bergevin isn’t keen on moving after less than a full year in the organization.

The next logical step would be to offer either Nathan Beaulieu and a combination of younger prospects and picks to sweeten the deal. Or perhaps the Wild might be interested in Noah Juulsen who will be making his jump to the AHL this upcoming year. There are likely other combinations that might be appealing to the Wild, but it’s extremely clear that to acquire the 24-year-old, you’re going to have to pay up.

Bergevin is technically correct that it isn’t easy to acquire star players, but he’s got a prime chance to poach someone from a cap-strapped team. It would likely put a dent in the prospect pool, but if he is serious about addressing the team’s issues, they have to take a risk and go for an impact player in this situation.

The core isn’t getting any younger, and the division is becoming a lot more competitive. It’s time to take the plunge and bring in a young offensive star.


Should Montreal trade for Nino Niederreiter?

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