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Taking on Ryan Callahan’s contract could net additional assets for Montreal

It’s a hefty contract, but by acquiring it the Canadiens might be able to pry more out of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It’s been stated that the Montreal Canadiens’ trade deadline is likely to be quiet, relatively speaking. That could all change quickly, especially if an offer comes along that could present Marc Bergevin with a two-fold bonus for his organization.

One such opportunity could present itself from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who in spite of being the NHL’s best team are looking to solidify their forward depth, and find a reliable bottom-pairing defender.

Given what the Lightning are looking for combined with what the Canadiens are working toward creates a potential match for the divisional rivals. One name that could possibly be discussed is Ryan Callahan, whose style of play could very well fit what Claude Julien is envisioning for his fourth line. The main issue is that Callahan is owed one more year after this one at $5.8 million, which is too big pill to swallow for many teams, especially given his reduced production in recent seasons.

Tampa Bay apparently loves having the veteran forward around, but with Brayden Point due for a massive raise in the off-season, the Lightning will need to find a way to clear up some more cap room for their budding star. To shift Callahan off their books, they’d likely need to sweeten the pot, and they have plenty of young talent in the AHL to do just that.

That sweetener is what will appeal most to Marc Bergevin, and after talking with our friends at Raw Charge pretty much anyone in the AHL outside of Cal Foote is a possibility to be moved. That includes players like Taylor Raddysh (14G, 17 A), Boris Katchouk (7G 10A), Alex Barre-Boulet (23G, 22A), or Mathieu Joseph (13G, 7A with Tampa Bay).

Montreal is looking to bolster their prospect ranks at the AHL level. They lost draftees Nikita Scherbak and Jacob de la Rose on waivers along with Kenny Agostino, in addition to Michael McCarron and Hunter Shinkaruk going out with injuries.

The Canadiens’ on-the-fly rebuild has yielded some incredible prospects quickly, but as it currently stands, only Jesperi Kotkaniemi has any professional experience, and the next closest to being at that level in North America are Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling (depending on his NCAA career). Adding youthful pieces like any of the names listed above would be a massive boost for a Rocket team primarily playing for pride at the moment.

So why Callahan? He’s a physical forward, with some defensive ability, and the capacity to chip in the odd goal every now and then. He no longer a 20-goal forward, but as a fourth-liner he’s been capable of contributing just under 10 goals and double-digit assists in a year; more than the Canadiens are getting from anyone else on the line this year.

His start in Tampa Bay wasn’t great, but using Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) model, we can see he’s rebounded in recent seasons.

Evolving-Hockey.com

He’s improved recently, and while not a driving force in the Lightning lineup, he’s not actively dragging the team down. That makes him a fit for Julien’s system.

The asking price, as always, is a huge point in potential negotiations, but in a deal like this it could be rather cut and dried. In speaking with Raw Charge they believe a B-Level prospect like Jacob Olofsson, or the out-of-favour Charles Hudon plus a mid-round pick would be fair compensation for parting with two professional players, one of whom is on a rich contract.

Someone like Jordie Benn was also of interest for the Bolts, as they want to solidify their bottom pairing heading down the stretch and into the playoffs. That’s a relatively low ask overall when you consider that in this potential deal Montreal can bolster the fourth line further and give themselves another skilled prospect in the system, due entirely to their excess cap space.