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Instant Analysis: Jordan Weal presents a skilled upgrade for the fourth line

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It’s a small move, but one that makes perfect sense for the Canadiens.

San Jose Sharks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

While there are names like Mark Stone, and Artemi Panarin on the market, the Montreal Canadiens opted to go low-risk with an upgrade on their fourth line. Marc Bergevin sent Michael Chaput to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Jordan Weal in the Canadiens’ first move of the day.

The Laval Rocket of the AHL are losing one of their top forwards in this deal, but in the bigger picture, Montreal is upgrading their NHL roster by a fair amount. Chaput has had a solid return since clearing waivers, and the Rocket looked like a new team with him back on the ice, but in the end, the NHL club’s needs will always take precedence.

Weal very much fills that need, as he has better offensive numbers than Chaput or current centre Nate Thompson, and while offence isn’t the driving force for Claude Julien, the slight boost in production will help bolster a unit that has been in flux for a few weeks.

What’s more, Weal can play either the wing or at centre, and that flexibility will allow Julien to shift his alignment from game to game. There are options to switch in a player like Matthew Peca for a pacier, more skilled group, or to insert Thompson and Nicolas Deslauriers for a physical, heavy fourth line. Above all else, Weal now presents not only a slight upgrade offensively on the fourth line, but also a much more stable defensive option than Thompson (who has been quiet, but stable in Montreal).

SKATR/Bill Comeau

Those sorts of underlying metrics could improve with Julien’s possession-heavy system, and Weal’s style of play meshes well with the up-tempo game the Canadiens have thrived on this year. What’s more is that Weal is an outstanding puck-carrier, and thrived with the Coyotes when transitioning in and out of zones.

CJTDevil/CJTurtoro

From Cat Silverman’s article at The Athletic, Weal is nothing short of outstanding carrying the puck, and in the faceoff dot to boot.

“[...} Weal boasted a 73.21 percent Controlled Entry Percentage for the Flyers through the team’s first 20 tracked games of the season. That led all of the Philadelphia forwards in percentage of controlled zone entries, with Weal carrying the puck in three out of every four entries through the neutral zone.”

This is something the fourth line has struggled heavily with this year, often opting to just dump the puck out instead of carrying it down the ice. It’s an immediate upgrade, not only on Chaput, but likely everyone else Montreal has filtered through their fourth line this year.

Between the flexibility of Weal to play in two positions, and his valuable skill set when carrying the puck, this trade comes off as a pretty solid win for Bergevin and the Canadiens. He isn’t a gambreaker by any means, but that isn’t what Montreal came into the deadline looking to achieve. They needed to make a small move to upgrade their fourth line and possibly the defence. Jordan Weal is just that guy for his new team, and didn’t cost much of anything for the Canadiens, even if their AHL club takes a hit in the short term.