As per Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, Lars Eller is on the trade market, although t's been made clear that the Canadiens aren't in any rush to move him.
Nor should they be. As one NHL scout put it "he's an ideal shutdown centre on any team in the NHL, even the best ones."
To add to his defensive awareness, Eller usually contributes 10-15 goals, all while playing tough minutes with less than ideal teammates. Eller has also shown a penchant for stepping up his game in the playoffs, and has shown his versatility by performing well in any position. That being said, there's no harm in listening to offers, and if the right deal falls on Marc Bergevin's lap, he would be foolish not to consider it.
Here's the thing with Eller, you can't trade him for a first-round pick, especially if he's being traded to a playoff team. The odds of a draft pick in the 16-30 range becoming a better player than Eller aren't great, and even if that pick does end up flourishing, he would take several years to develop, creating a huge hole in Montreal's roster in the meantime.
A forward like Jacob de la Rose may be seen as an amazing shutdown centre by his coach, but the reality is that he'll need a few years to get to that point.
Of course, de la Rose is still quite young, but he needs time to develop before he's thrown to the wolves. David Desharnais on the other hand, can be used as a third line centre, but not in a defensive shutdown role. He's better suited for sheltered usage.
Eller is on pace for a 25 point season, which may be seen as underwhelming, although we need to consider that he was used on 10 different lines this year, as well as being used on the wing. In fact, the longest stretch with consistent teammates for Eller came at the start of the year, a 10-game stint alongside Alexander Semin and Alex Galchenyuk.
He's currently sporting a sparkling 54.8% Corsi for, controls 52.22% of the scoring chances, and 54% of the high-danger scoring chances when he's on the ice. He's fifth on the team in terms of individual scoring chances, with 44, which is pretty good considering he's 8th among forwards in average even-strength ice time.
Best fit for a move
It's hard to tell which teams are interested in Eller, however I'd like to assume that most general managers are intrigued by his value. He has size, speed, and doesn't get intimidated physically, which is always a plus in the playoffs.
Teams may also be attracted to the potential they've seen in the few games where Eller was playing alongside Max Pacioretty; a combination that yielded immediate results.
It really depends on what the Canadiens are looking for, and seeing as they're in no hurry to trade Eller, they can take their time to perform due diligence.
They shouldn't trade him for the sum of his parts. They shouldn't even consider anything below a first-round pick.
Someone like Mikael Backlund could be seen as a legitimate upgrade on Eller, although you'd be hard pressed to explain why the Flames would want to make that deal.
On the flip side, a player like Valeri Nichushkin is apparently available, although once again you'd be downgrading your current roster in the hope that Nichushkin eventually surpasses Eller's production, which isn't an easy feat when playing for the Montreal Canadiens, a team that rarely hits the score sheet. Not to mention that the Stars are likely looking for a defenceman in return, so Eller doesn't necessarily fit the bill. They may, however, be interested in a defensive specialist, especially since their team is lacking in that department.
Essentially, the Canadiens shouldn't trade Eller unless they're certain they'll be winning the trade, and the idea of receiving a first-round pick in compensation seems like a lateral move at best.
The Habs hold all the cards in this situation, yet should definitely consider dealing their Danish centre if they find the right return. Considering how weak the list of available players at the deadline is shaping up to be, they may just find that deal.
The key will be to proceed with caution.