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Instant Analysis: Nathan Beaulieu trade opens up possibilities for Canadiens

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The Canadiens have options - and draft picks - but trade leaves questions, too

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, the Montreal Canadiens trade of Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres for the 68th selection in the draft looks like an odd move. But, below the surface, it can open up possibilities for the Canadiens going into the expansion draft and beyond.

The obvious thing this does is allow Jordie Benn to take the third defenceman slot on Montreal’s protection list that needs to be submitted by 5:00 PM tonight. However, it could open up other possibilities as well.

The Canadiens now have two second-round picks (56 and 58 overall) and two third-round picks (newly acquired 68 and 87) this season. This is along with three second-round picks in 2018 (one of those is conditional in the Jonathan Drouin trade.)

They are said to be in the market for a new defenceman, and could use one of their picks to upgrade on Beaulieu and drop down a few spots in the order with their new pick from Buffalo.

It was obvious that the Canadiens wanted more flexibility in both their protection options and their draft collateral. Whether this means another move is coming up, either before or after the trade freeze, is up in the air.

It was clear that the Canadiens patience in Nathan Beaulieu had run out, and the addition of Jakub Jerabek surely pointed to too many defenceman on the Habs roster. And that is before any other defenceman is added, as is being reported.

This also is an ironic change from Marc Bergevin’s build-through-the-draft approach. This trade means the Canadiens have traded their 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2016 first-round picks — all by Bergevin — while reportedly shopping their 2012 first-round pick.

Most of those picks, like Beaulieu, were traded at their lowest possible value. Beaulieu was called out by Marc Bergevin at his year-end press conference. If you are going to trade a player, it sure is an odd way to market your player to the other 30 GMs.

A third-round pick is not a huge return, and it makes you wonder if the pick was worth it considering the Canadiens could have left Beaulieu unprotected and have Vegas draft him. Now they do get a third-round pick, but they also lose another player who will be left unprotected.

As much as you think this is part of another, bigger move, you can’t help but think this is the Canadiens undervaluing their own trade assets so much that they are left with nothing to show for them.