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Marc Bergevin’s biggest deadline asset isn’t a player

The Canadiens have a few big pieces available, but the vast amount of cap space available could play the biggest role in negotiations.

Vancouver Canucks v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

There’s a potential fire sale approaching at the trade deadline in Montreal this year. Outside of a few named players, it seems like almost anyone could be moved for pieces to kickstart a rebuild after a disastrous season thus far.

Names like Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk lead the lists of hottest commodities on the trade market, and while they’re extremely valuable, and likely to bring a decent return, there’s a bigger piece available that could interest every team in the NHL.

That is the large sum of cap space the Canadiens currently have in their possession. According to CapFriendly.com Montreal has $6,971,257 in cap space, with just 44 out of the 50 allowed contracts under the NHL’s CBA. This gives them the flexibility to absorb some bad expiring deals from contending teams in exchange for prospects or more draft picks to stock the cupboard, much like the Vegas Golden Knights did before the expansion draft.

Taking on some of these deals is a great way for Montreal to get the most out of their deadline day deals.

There are several contending teams who may be looking to make a splash, so attempting to work a deal involving one of these potential contract dumps that brings in more picks or prospects is the smart play for Marc Bergevin

So which teams could fit this bill for Montreal?

San Jose Sharks

As we explored recently, a trade with the Sharks doesn’t only have to centre around a Sharks contract transferring to Montreal, but can involve a key player leaving the Habs as well. In a potential Tomas Plekanec trade, Montreal could take on the last bit of Paul Martin’s contract.

The Sharks have a handful of intriguing prospects that could make the last year of Martin’s $4,850,000 deal more palatable. It has the ability to be a major win for both teams, with Montreal wanting to restock their prospect pool, and San Jose needing a centre for a playoff run this season.

Minnesota Wild

Another trading partner could be the Minnesota Wild, who are extremely tight against the cap with some deals that could give them breathing room if they’re moved. Chief among these is that of Tyler Ennis, who has this year and next year left on his $4,600,000 AAV deal.

With his ability to play in any of the three forward spots, Ennis isn’t a bad option to fill in while Montreal restocks their roster with younger players. During the off-season, the Wild had major interest in Alex Galchenyuk, so structuring a deal where Montreal agrees to send Galchenyuk to the Wild, while taking on a poor contract means there’s likely to be a larger return in it. Someone like Joel Eriksson-Ek or Luke Kunin plus picks could draw the right interest from Montreal’s camp in a hypothetical deal.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Galchenyuk and Pacioretty both might be of interest to a young, feisty Blue Jackets side, as both were mentioned in rumours earlier this season. The focal point returning to Montreal was the local young gun, Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was drafted third overall in 2016.

Dubois is an incredible talent, but not established at the NHL level yet, which makes surrendering a player of Pacioretty or Galchneyuk’s quality a bit hard to stomach. If Montreal wants to squeeze a bit more out of the trade and 100% secure Dubois plus more, they could offer to take on the rest of Jack Johnson’s contract.

Johnson has openly requested a trade out of Columbus, citing that he wants to play more than his current role under John Tortorella. Luckily for Johnson he’s a left side defender, something Montreal desperately needs in their top four right now. He’d more than likely play the heavy minutes he wants given that Montreal’s current options on the left aren’t up to the level of a top team.

In return Montreal would obviously ask for Dubois, but could try and grab a throw-in prospect for freeing the Blue Jackets from a player who is clearly unhappy with his current situation, and occupying space that could be used to add a rental in the meantime.

St. Louis Blues

Perhaps the team most frequently mentioned in Montreal trade rumours is the St. Louis Blues, and for good reason. They’re loaded with youthful assets that the Canadiens could use to retool their roster on the fly, even if it means losing Pacioretty.

Prospects Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou are likely at the forefront of any proposal, but there’s a good way to grab even more. Of course it requires Montreal to take on the remainder of a poor contract, and that contract belongs to Jay Bouwmeester, who has one full year at $5,400,000 left on his deal. With his Team Canada pedigree, and ability to play the left side, Marc Bergevin would likely jump at the chance to also add Bouwmeester back in a deal.

By taking on his contract, Montreal opens up a good chunk of cap space for the Blues, meaning the Habs can get plenty more in return as well. Asking for someone like Vince Dunn in addition to Thomas or Kyrou is a good starting point in that possible trade.

Obviously this is all speculation, the trade deadline brings deals out of left field that no one expected. One fact is true however: Montreal has the cap space to take on deals teams might want to offload. Taking on those contracts almost always means that a team is going to get some form of picks or prospects back, and facing the prospect of a second early off-season in three years, that is exactly what Montreal should be focusing on.