Heading Into the Trade Deadline

If you would have told me back in September the Montreal Canadiens would be in a playoff spot coming out of the All-Star break I probably would have laughed in your face. Yet here they are. That makes the trade deadline situation all the more intriguing. I'll look more in depth at the pieces that may be moved by the Canadiens, as well as looking at players that they could acquire.

Montreal is in a rare position of strength, with a team exceeding expectations, plenty of cap space, and a rich prospect pool. While I don't think this team is ready to win a Stanley Cup, I'm not ready to dismiss them as an easy first round exit. When evaluating this team, to me, it seems clear their best chance of winning is adding for a run a few years down the road. The nucleus of this team moving forward obviously starts with Carey Price in net, however the goaltending depth of Lindgren, McNiven, and Primeau leads me to think this team will have a strength in goaltending for a number of years even if Price fell off (knock on wood).

The defence still looks promising despite there being holes on the current roster. Shea Weber is still a dominant force from the back end, Jeff Petry is becoming a tremendous offensive defenceman for this team, Victor Mete continues to develop in to a player capable of playing top 4 minutes moving forward, and Josh Brook and Alex Romanov look to be exciting prospects poised to join this team soon. I chose not to include Noah Juulsen as at the time of this article, his injury status is up in the air, and his health is more important than projecting him in the NHL.

The forward group is lead by Max Domi who has turned his career around, Jonathan Drouin who is a constant offensive threat, Brendan Gallagher who is looking to be more and more a consistent 30 goal scorer, Tomas Tatar who is a gifted offensive minded player, Paul Byron who continuously proves people wrong by being a strong top 9 option, as well as Philip Danault, Arturri Lehkonen, and Andrew Shaw who are all capable top 9 players, with Danault in particular emerging as a strong two-way player.

The obvious omission was Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kotkaniemi while being a huge part of this team's success, is still only 18 years old. Moving forward Kotkaniemi, Ikonen, Ylonen, Suzuki, Olofsson, Poehling as well as whoever is taken in the upcoming draft make up the group the team should build around. That is to say, the teams best chance is when this group is around 21-23. Should a few of them be in the NHL, that would make a very dangerous team, and one that by many estimations, should be capable of making a serious run.

This means Marc Bergevin has to determine whether any trades at this deadline will help both now, and for that run. I don't think trading for a rental makes sense for this team, so trading for a player with term remaining seems to make the most sense. As far as selling players, Jordie Benn is obviously the most desired piece in the rental market due to his expiring contract.

In regards to Jordie Benn, I'll say this. The price has to make sense to move a player like him. Sure you could acquire a fourth round pick, but does that really make a difference? This is already a deep prospect pool, and even if you lose him in the summer, he fills an important 3rd pairing role, and has been a surprise bright spot on this team in my eyes. That being said, the Canadiens do have players like Karl Alzner, David Schlemko, and Xavier Ouellet that could fill a third line role competently. This is all meant to say, a trade of Jordie Benn won't change the scope of this team too much, however I don't want this team to make a trade just for the sake of making a trade.

The Canadiens are well positioned as a younger group, so trading for any player who can't help now and a few years from now doesn't make too much sense. Recently I've seen suggestions of trades for players to help fix the powerplay, and while it is concerning, a trade for a skilled 31 year old on an expiring deal doesn't fit the direction of the team.

I've identified two players I would certainly be interested in the Habs targeting. Both players are forwards, and despite the Canadiens need for LD, I failed to identify any player that would fit and make sense. The two players I've identified are Andre Burakovsky and Brayden Schenn. Schenn is more a long shot, so I'll discuss him first. Schenn firs the criteria as a player with term, that can help the team now and in the future. The price would certainly not be cheap, however. To acquire a player of Schenn's caliber, a player in the top 9 would need to be moved as well as other assets. If I were the Blues, the player I'd want back would be Arturri Lehkonen. Lehkonen is capable in both ends, has offensive potential, is a pending RFA and still just 23 years old. He seems like a perfect piece for a team that is looking for change yet still remaining relevant in the coming years. Lehkonen would not alone be enough, so a package of him as well as say a second round and a prospect such as Hillis may be enough. I may be way off in my estimation, but this is a trade I think could help both teams. Giving up Lehkonen would be incredibly difficult however, which makes me question if this trade even makes sense, as well as make it more of a long shot.

The other player is Burakovsky. This is a case of a player frustrated with his situation, and I think Montreal would be a good landing spot. While there isn't a great option to fit him into the top 9, he could immediately help a powerplay that has featured guys like Armia and Agostino this year. Were the Habs looking into acquiring him, I think a fair price would be a 2nd and 3rd, or something along those lines. Since the Habs have 2 upcoming 2nd round picks, it makes me more inclined to say a trade like this would make sense.

While it is always fun to write about trade proposals, one thing became increasingly more clear as I wrote this article: the Canadiens are already in a good position now and moving forward. The players they would be targeting via trade already exist on the roster (Danault, Domi, Tatar, Drouin, etc.) so the best option for this team may be to do absolutely nothing. Us as fans often think the best thing for the team is to make changes left and right, however when it comes to the 2018-19 Habs, maybe the best thing to do is nothing, and that really isn't a bad position to be in.

If you liked this article feel free to comment and leave any feedback (positive or negative) as I truly enjoy this forum and only want to develop as a writer. As well feel free to follow me on twitter @kurthyland. Thanks and Go Habs!

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