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Trades, not draft picks, may steal the show for the hometown Canadiens

There are plenty of whispers around this time of year.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The 2022 NHL Draft starts on Thursday night, but the fireworks can come at any point as trade season is now open as well.

The Montreal Canadiens are a team to watch, and not just because they have 14 draft picks including the #1 overall selection. With a new hockey executive staff, including general manager Kent Hughes, and a rebuild already started, there are reasons to believe there will be a lot of player movement.

Now, to be clear, it isn’t realistic to expect all of these things to happen, whether this week or even at all.

Let’s take a look at some of the most reported options.

Jeff Petry

This is the most obvious one, given that Hughes has mentioned Petry by name several times in his search for a trade. He has been steadfast — including on Monday — saying that a trade will only be made if it moves the Canadiens forward. Let’s assume they get one that works.

The chances that Petry reports to training camp with the Canadiens is slim. Not just because he requested the trade, but because he will interest other teams. Half of a season, no matter how bad, isn’t enough to tarnish his reputation, especially after he picked it up late in the year.

If the Canadiens are looking to add another first-round pick, or even move up with some pick swaps, Petry is a pretty good trade piece. After Ryan McDonagh was traded, the market for defence has already kicked off.

Josh Anderson

This name is one that comes and goes. I think there is less of a chance of Anderson being moved than Petry, but I also think it’s more than likely that if it happens, it happens before the end of the first round on Thursday.

Although Kent Hughes has not shied away from trading for older prospects like Emil Heineman and Justin Barron, you still want to have the most control over the assets you acquire as possible. Draft picks are like cars. When they are at the dealer, they are shiny and new and the possibility are endless. As soon as they get used, or driven off the lot, they lose a lot of their value.

I don’t think it’s overly realistic to expect a trade, but a team may tempt Hughes with an offer he can’t refuse.

Christian Dvorak

For the second straight off-season, Christian Dvorak’s name is being discussed in trade rumours. This one is interesting, and I think his name surfacing right now is interesting.

Like Petry, he struggled to start the year and was then injured. He didn’t live up to expectations, but he finished the season strong.

Why I think his name surfacing interesting is that it may indicate who the Canadiens favour with the first overall pick. If Dvorak is traded, the depth chart at centre for Montreal is Nick Suzuki, Jake Evans, and Ryan Poehling. That leaves a relative opening for, say, a centre. Likewise, if they add a centre, then Dvorak becomes a luxury as a middle-six pivot.

I don’t necessarily expect this to be a deal for a draft pick, but it’s possible the team recovers part of what it cost to acquire him in the first place.

Mike Hoffman

Hoffman, like so many Canadiens had a rough season. His calling card is his shot and his ability to score goals. Given his age, it’s likely that he finishes out his contract somewhere other than Montreal.

This won’t be the biggest move if it happens, but teams are always looking for players to put them over the edge, and Hoffman might entice a team that sees him as a depth scorer who can improve their power play.

Trading Up

The Canadiens will not be making 14 picks at the 2022 NHL Draft. Add that to the fact that they are more likely to make a splash as Draft hosts and you have the perfect recipe for the team to package a couple of picks to move up in the first round.

With picks 26 and 33, they have an opportunity to jump up for a player they really like. They can also use picks 62, 66, or others to move up higher into the second round.

The Canadiens have looked into a lot of the top prospects, including ones that are not in the conversation for first overall. That indicates they may be waiting to pounce on someone high on their draft board who may not be as coveted by other teams.

Trading Down

Kent Hughes raised eyebrows when he said it’s as likely that they trade for the #2 pick as it is that they trade the #1 pick. Now, to be clear, if there was a 0% chance of both, that technically is the same.

It is possible that a clear top three coupled with the uncertainty with who the Canadiens will choose will entice a team to jump over New Jersey or Arizona (or one of those two teams themselves) to pick the player they want rather than leaving it up to fate.

I don’t necessarily think this is likely, and Hughes said if the draft was Monday they would be picking, but the option is there.