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The Canadiens must decide at what point they sell

Contending teams have already started to bolster their rosters for playoff runs. When will the Canadiens get in on the action?

Arizona Coyotes v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens lost a winnable game against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night. There’s no use crying over spilled milk, but there is considerable use and importance in this team deciding when they’ll decide to get in on the arms race.

I’m talking of course about arms dealing in their case, because the idea of the Habs getting involved from a buyer’s stance seems more absurd than I care to discuss.

The Pittsburgh Penguins went out and added Jason Zucker for a considerable offering last night. Former Hab Alex Galchenyuk was a part of that haul, and it begs the question of what Montreal could have gotten if they had dangled Tomas Tatar in front of the Pens. That chance has passed, but it kicks off the aforementioned arms race in a way that could benefit the Canadiens.

Now we have a line on what contending teams will pay for legitimate help. Pittsburgh is far from the only contender who will need to add, and their cost of acquisition will likely influence future deals. The one thing we don’t know is when Marc Bergevin will be willing to admit defeat and sell some of his own attractive assets.

If the plan is to wait until the very last minute, then the game against the Senators on February 22 marks their final action before the February 24 deadline. Let’s say they win all six of their coming games including that one, their 12 hypothetical points from now until then might not even be enough to set the stage for a playoff appearance.

The Maple Leafs have seven games over that span, as do the Panthers. The latter dropped a game of their own last night, which helps, but the Habs need both of those teams to lose three or four games each before the deadline, in addition to winning at least five of their own. Both of those teams are also likely to try and add bodies over this span, so it won’t get any easier.

That being said, if the Habs don’t win at least five of the next six, they should probably pack it in and start selling off non-essential assets. If you’re a very generous individual you may be inclined to say that they can survive on four of six, but then Toronto and Florida really need to go on some bad streaks.

Both wild card spots appear to be going to teams in the Metro division. The Blue Jackets, Flyers, and Hurricanes would all be harder to beat than Florida or Toronto at this point, so Montreal’s best chance would be to finish third in their division. The problem is they don’t just need wins, they need losses from those two teams above them in the Atlantic.

Marc Bergevin can’t sit on his hands while missing the playoffs, but he can’t jump into an arms race against the teams ahead of him either. So he needs to decide how many re-deadline losses his team can stand before he admits defeat. Again, my stance is that the answer is no more than one.

The sun may be setting on this season, but if it is, it isn’t too late for the Canadiens to add some pieces that could help them next year. À suivre.