When Jordan Weal was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens at the Trade Deadline in return for Michael Chaput, it was with little fanfare. What was apparent is that Weal would get a chance in the NHL, while Chaput was relegated to the AHL and that gave the trade some potential right away.
And boy did Weal take advantage of his chance. In 16 games with the Canadiens, Weal had four goals and six assists. He had four goals and seven assists in 47 games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes. And it wasn’t just in terms of his production that made Weal an instant fan favourite.
Weal’s impact was with the puck. One of his biggest - and underrated - aspects was his ability to skate the puck into the offensive zone. It’s what made him an asset on the power play that was struggling. It’s what makes him a player that can play anywhere in your bottom six.
In his short time with the Canadiens, Weal fit in everywhere and made the team better. He was one of the top possession players at even strength, even when playing on the fourth line with Nate Thompson. He also had time on the third line when Jesperi Kotkaniemi spent time out of the lineup or on the fourth line. He controlled over 57% of shot attempts at even strength, over 63% of shots, and over 58% of scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances.
He can capitalize on turnovers, like he did to score his first goal as a Canadien.
It's a D'ohble Dion!— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 6, 2019
Phaneuf's turnover leads to Jordan Weal's first as a Hab! pic.twitter.com/XlF1Y8TwT2
On the power play, Weal was actually pretty successful in a small sample size. Among any player with at least 20 minutes of power play time, Weal had the most expected goals per 60 minutes (7.09 xGF/60) meaning that the Canadiens man advantage had more dangerous chances with Weal on the ice.
You're not Ryan Poehling...— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 7, 2019
Oh well, Jordan Weal power play goal! pic.twitter.com/W1At82IPV4
He took a lot of criticism for getting time there, but he has some qualities that allow him to be successful there, and to fit in. His offensive skillset is much better than one would expect from a player in a team’s bottom six and why he is an asset for a team that uses him in a hybrid role.
Of course, Weal’s contract is expiring on July 1 so if he is to remain a member of the Canadiens organization, the team will need to sign him. While they re-signed Thompson on Thursday, Weal can - and arguably should - be re-signed.
Weal could play centre, and he can play on the wing. He can play centre on the fourth line but he’s more versatile than that and Thompson’s signing doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no space for Weal. Evolving Wild has come up with contract predictions, and they peg Weal’s most likely contract at three years and $2.18 million per year. While that may seem like a lot, some of the comparables for that kind of cap hit are Shawn Matthias, Dale Weise, Riley Sheahan, Daniel Winnik, and Patrick Maroon. Weal fits in quite nicely in that group.
Marc Bergevin has had a habit of signing players after acquiring them in trades. He just did it with Thompson, and there isn’t any reason for him to not lock Weal up after his performance in a short time with Montreal. Weal is similar to Paul Byron in that he has a sneaky skillset, some speed, and is flexible in how he can be used.
He isn’t Byron, but he would be an asset in the Canadiens organization. Montreal found a diamond in the rough in Weal, and they should try to keep him as July 1 approaches.