For the first time in a few years, there is actually a fair amount of quality players who could be available at the NHL trade deadline for teams to choose from.
The opposite is also true, in that there are plenty of players that could end up being a fit on paper, but in reality trading major pieces for them would be a poor move. The Montreal Canadiens are in a a position different from what has been usualy been the case in recent years, now likely selling off assets instead of buying a better chance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As they look ahead to next year and beyond, they would do well to avoid a few players being offered. The team has a ton of cap space (over $35 million, to be specific), so there is room to add a contract another club no longer wants, but there are some players who simply aren’t worth the potential gain
The thorn in the side of the Canadiens since the 2013 playoffs is likely available, as the Ottawa Senators appear to be dismantling their team ahead of a rebuild.
Pageau fits a major organizational need as a centre, especially now that Tomas Plekanec has been traded to Toronto. Unfortunately, he’s also more of a hindrance than a help for a team like the Canadiens right now, who need younger assets or veterans who can be of use until draft picks and prospects mature.
Pageau’s offensive abilities have been in decline since he tallied a career-high 43 points in 2015-16. This year he’s managed a meagre 20 points in 57 games, with just seven power-play points. Not only are his numbers slowly sliding in terms of scoring, his possession metrics aren’t great either, and in the role he’d likely be brought in to play, the Canadiens can’t afford an anchor.
Assuming he’d likely be taking over Plekanec’s role as Montreal’s third-line centre, his numbers don’t stack up well at all — outside of points that is. He’s a negative possession player on his teams, and actively makes the majority of people he plays with worse on the ice.
Given the Senators’ need for younger players and picks, Montreal should not be comfortable giving up pieces they need for their own rebuild to take on what is clearly a player who is declining in terms of performance.
The defenceman is openly on the market as both he and the Columbus Blue Jackets look to get a fresh start. The 31-year-old is a puck-moving blue-liner, which fits a need for the Canadiens, but he isn't of top-quality. He would be far from an upgrade on Jeff Petry, who's been pressed into service as the Habs' number-one defenseman with Shea Weber on the mend, though will drop back into the second-pairing role upon Weber’s return next season.
One big pro in Johnson's favour is that he's an unrestricted free agent at season's end. However, his dip in play (eight points in 62 games this season) will give teams pause before signing him to a lucrative contract in the off-season. Unless they somehow get an exciting young player and have to take on Johnson's contract, it's best for the Canadiens to avoid Johnson.
The second Senators player on this list, the forward has been dangled as a pill to swallow for a team that would like to get in on the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes. The Canadiens have reportedly been acting as a third team to facilitate a Karlsson trade, and it's possible a team may want the Canadiens to take on Ryan's contract as part of any deal, for a fee of draft picks or prospects.
Ryan has just 22 points in 41 games this season and his numbers have been trending downward since the end of the 2015-16 season. His current production isn't ideal with a $7.25 million cap hit for the next four seasons, especially with the significant salary commitments already made to Carey Price and Shea Weber.
If Habs fans are willing to throw Max Pacioretty under the bus for his goal-scoring woes, Ryan would be very poorly received in Montreal, and doesn’t seem to have enough to offer to justify the additional assets he’d bring.
There's no doubt that third-year forward Max Domi could use a fresh start in a new city. He's a 22-year-old centre who's been underperforming for the Arizona Coyotes after a promising rookie season in which he scored 18 goals and 52 points.
Since his outstanding start, Domi has just 14 goals to his name. Part of that is tied into how poor the Coyotes have been, but the dip in his goal-scoring production is still a major point of concern if you’re going to be acquiring him.
However, the Coyotes are also sellers at the deadline and they likely won't part with Domi unless the price is right. If that price includes draft picks, that price would be too steep for the Canadiens. For a team in Montreal’s position, adding a piece like Domi might look like a great move in theory, but taking a huge chunk out of the draft pick or prospect war chest might do more harm than good right now.
Montreal shouldn’t be buying on anyone expensive at the deadline. They’re not in a position right now to do so. Adding larger contracts or declining assets is just going to throw a band-aid on a gaping wound, a strategy that has plagued the Canadiens in recent years.
If Bergevin can find a smart deal for his major assets that can help with the impending rebuild, then he would be wise to take them. Taking on any of these deals without getting a major sweetener or added pieces would be highly unwise for the Canadiens general manager, and the outlook of the team going forward.