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It is time for the Montreal Canadiens to embrace the role of seller

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The playoffs aren’t realistic, but being competitive within the next few years just might be.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens returned from their break to face the Washington Capitals, needing a significant winning streak to start any sort of charge for the playoffs. Carey Price played well, but they couldn’t get him much run support, so any cinderella run just got considerably harder to realize.

It was always a long shot, and at this point every loss makes it that much more so. It is therefore in the best interest of the franchise to begin capitalizing on any assets not vital to near-future success.

I’ll take ‘‘a long way to say they should tank for $500, Alex.’’

The Habs need about .750 from here for a realistic shot at the postseason. That would be about 24-7-0, which would give them 99 points, so they’d still require a little help to make sure it’s enough in the east. Jonathan Drouin could be injected with the Captain America serum before coming back, and this still seems an impossible task, so the team’s management has to act accordingly.

Now there is a great starting point. Even if you’re one to believe that the Habs can pull off a miracle, Nate Thompson wouldn’t be crucial to that end, so why not add whatever a team like Washington would be willing to give for him. Start slowly, then build into a bidding war for the prime assets as the team drifts towards the inevitable fate of selling at the trade deadline.

I’ve opined this ad nauseam of late as it pertains to Tomas Tatar, and of course Ilya Kovalchuk. The list of expendables may be more expansive depending on who you ask, but they should start with those least likely to yield a good return, and build into what hopefully will become a contest for those top names. It’s time to tank, but make sure the big targets you have yield the best returns they can.

Because this Habs team isn’t as bad as their record. What they lack — Top tier scoring talent, upgrades on defense — can be obtained rather quickly, and it’s possible they can trade their way to a much better 2020-21. Don’t tank simply for the sake of tanking, maximize your assets by enticing teams that need a little help, and think they could win hockey’s greatest prize this year if they get it.

Finishing last is somehow more unlikely than winning the cup at this point, so it’s not about that. Even if you truly tank for last place, you have no guarantee for the top pick even if you get there, so there’s no sense in letting anyone go for less than full value. If the moves you make can’t guarantee you a lottery win, you can at least ensure they make the team better moving forwards.

There is of course the argument that Marc Bergevin can’t or won’t accept this situation, because missing the playoffs might cost him his job. If that’s how he feels, I’d argue his shot of keeping it is worse if he tries to fight tooth and nail to make it without doing so. If they battle their way back to finish just outside the picture yet again, they’ll worsen their likely draft position on top of losing out on a chance to cash in on some of the assets they have.

If he can make moves that set the team up moving forwards, maybe he could even use that as an argument to stick around instead of trying to blame it all on injuries that he didn’t have contingency plans for.

But I digress. I think the Habs need to embrace the role of a seller, and start looking at how they can make lemonade out of this lemon of a season.