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What have the Canadiens gained in Evgenii Dadonov?

How will Dadonov fit into the Montreal lineup?

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Despite there being only two pieces in the trade between the Montreal Canadiens and the Vegas Golden Knights, the main focus has largely been on just one of them thus far. Shea Weber, or more accurately Weber’s contract, going to Vegas has drawn the attention. However, the Canadiens received an NHL forward in the deal, Evgenii Dadonov.

Dadonov, originally a Florida Panthers draft pick in 2007, played a few seasons in North America, mainly with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, before heading back to the KHL for most of the 2010s. He returned to join the Panthers in 2017, putting together three seasons with at least 25 goals and 45 points before signing with the Ottawa Senators in 2020. He was there just one season before being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in the off-season.

A successful 20-goal season in Vegas was marred by the Golden Knights attempting to trade him to the Anaheim Ducks for John Moore and Ryan Kesler’s contract. That traded was infamously voided as Vegas had not abided by Dadonov’s no-trade clause. Last week, Vegas finally found a way to acquire a contract for long-term injured reserve (LTIR) purposes.

That LTIR portion is crucial — for both sides in this deal as a matter of fact. For the Canadiens, trading Shea Weber gets them under the salary cap for right now without requiring LTIR. The folks at CapFriendly explained it quite well.

Given that Montreal is far more likely to use their AHL affiliate for call-ups given the status of the team rebuild, being able to save any funds on recalls is important. It also gives the team some more flexibility going forward as they negotiate this important summer. It’s not a ton of space, but having any room at all is better than being in another overage and hurting the cap situation for next season.

As for the newest member of the Canadiens organization, the 33-year-old winger has just the 2022-23 season remaining at a $5,000,000 cap hit, and is the perfect candidate to be flipped as the team approaches the trade deadline. But he will be playing the majority of the season in Montreal at least, so let’s take a peek at what the team can expect from Dadonov right now.

Since returning from the KHL, he has been a slam dunk to add at least 20 goals to a team each year, save for Ottawa in a year that the Senators finished one point out of last place in the North Division. In Montreal, he shouldn’t be expected to carry the load as a top-line winger, but may see some sporadic time with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield anyway as the team works out its optimal lineup.

By the end of the year, due in large part to the various injuries suffered by Vegas, Dadonov was the third-most-used forward at five-on-five, and ended up as one of Vegas’s more consistent forwards. He kept pace with players like Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Reilly Smith in terms of expected-goals-for percentage (xGF%) on the year. Dadonov clocked in at ninth on the team at 53.2%, under a percentage point behind all of the aforementioned three, who are not exactly slouches when it comes to generating offence.

In terms of actual counting stats, Dadonov had 43 points on the year, and 37 of them were primary points (goals and first assists), showing that he was often directly involved in the offensive creation for Vegas.

Evolving-Hockey

While Dadonov isn’t going to solve Montreal’s power-play woes, his even-strength offensive production should still be a boon for the Canadiens next year. He’s not a defensive ace by any means, but has the profile of someone who is perfectly comfortable handling regular defensive responsibilities. He wasn’t usually starting his shifts in the defensive zone for Vegas, but he’s far from having to be sheltered like a Mike Hoffman-type player.

HockeyViz.com

Dadonov should be a welcome sight for Martin St. Louis, as the coach struggled to find full-time top-six options that could reliably produce in his first year on the job. Whether it be alongside Shane Wright or Christian Dvorak, Dadonov should be an easy piece to plug into the Montreal lineup, and his versatility will benefit the team as it looks to build a stable lineup.

From a purely business standpoint, this is some heady business by Kent Hughes. Other teams gave up picks or other pieces to shed their unwanted contracts, Montreal was able to give up nothing but Weber’s deal and received a quality NHL player in return. Hughes created some flexibility for himself and eliminated a potential LTIR problem before it became a bigger issue at the end of the year. Across the board, it’s a solid trade for Montreal.