The Montreal Canadiens were active this weekend, making a total of ten selections between Friday and Saturday. Opinions on the draft itself seem fairly split, but most would agree that the Habs did pretty well. Receiving grades ranging from As to Bs, Montreal was able to stock up on organizational weaknesses, mainly left handed defensemen. What’s more, Montreal made quite a few trades during the weekend. Nothing earth shattering but enough to get a sense of what they are planning.
The question remains though, did Montreal maximise their assets and do well trade-wise during the draft?
The Habs were active over the weekend, trading back and grabbing a few picks for next year’s draft in the process. It is possible that the front office perceived this draft as ‘weak’ compared to the one coming up in 2020. They could also be stocking up on picks, as the draft will be hosted by Montreal. If it is the former, did they play their cards well enough to earn the most through their trades?
Let’s revisit the trades from the 22nd of June and see how the Habs fared overall. On the second day of the draft we saw a lot of activity, beginning as early at the third pick of the second round (#34). It went as follows:
- Nashville traded their pick #34 to the Flyers for pick #45 and #65, moving down 11 spots to get an early third round pick.
- Carolina traded their pick #37 to the Senators for picks #44 and #83.
- San Jose traded the 41st overall to the Golden Knights for picks #48 and #82.
- Montreal traded their second round pick to the Kings for #64 and #126.
- New Jersey traded their #55 pick to the Sharks for picks #82 and #91.
- Carolina trade their pick #59 to the Wild for #73 and #99.
- Vancouver trade Marek Mazanec, #71 and a conditional first to Tampa Bay for T.J. Miller.
- The Coyotes traded their pick #74 to Pittsburgh for picks #98 and #151.
- The Predators traded pick #75 to the Wild for a third rounder in 2020.
- The Blue Jackets traded pick #81 to the Panthers for picks #104 and #114.
- New Jersey traded their pick #91 to the Capitals for picks #118 and #129.
- Vancouver traded pick #102 to Buffalo for #122 and #175.
- Montreal traded their pick #108 to the Sharks for a future fourth round pick in 2020.
- Montreal traded the 136th overall pick to Florida for a fifth round pick in 2020.
- Detroit traded their pick #143 to Buffalo for picks #177 and #191.
- San Jose traded their pick #153 to Washington for picks #211 and a 2020 seventh round selection.
- Vancouver traded Tom Pyatt and pick #164 to the Sharks for Francis Perron and pick #215.
- The Flyers traded their 201st selection to Montreal for a seventh rounder in 2020.
- Toronto traded their 208th selection to St-Louis for a seventh round pick in 2020.
- San Jose traded their 211st selection to Pittsburgh for a seventh round pick in 2020.
That's quite a few trades. Almost 20 trades swapped both picks and players for either current picks or futures.
In our evaluation of what Montreal did, we won’t include players for picks as this would skew things. Out of those 19 trades, Montreal was one of the most active teams, trading four times. Now it remains to be seen if the moves made by the front office will have lasting impacts on the franchise.
Did Montreal get good value from their trades?
Looking at the chart compiled by Michael Schuckers we can get a rough estimate on the values of draft picks in the NHL. With #1 being worth 1000 and 210 being worth 30. The drop off after #3 becomes apparent. Keep in mind that we’re basing this evaluation off a chart from 2016 but according to to it, though a few years old, it’s fair value. As my disclaimer, it is not a perfect way of judging pick value, but it is one of the few ways publicly available.
With that out of the way, here's a breakdown of Montreal's moves:
The first trade was to trade down from 50th to acquire picks 64th and 126th. This will probably be the one most people argue didn’t get full value. The closest comparables for this trade can be seen with the moves made by San Jose, New Jersey and Carolina. But, and stick with me here, if we use the chart above to calculate the value given and received, we may have a different perspective on the trade.
San Jose traded their pick #41 to Vegas for picks #48 and #82, dropping down seven spots. The Sharks still retained value in keeping their new pick within the first half of the second round while acquiring a low third. In other words, San Jose traded away 146 in value to get 134+74 for a grand total of 208. San Jose got quite a bit of extra value in the trade.
New Jersey traded their #55 pick to the Sharks for picks #82 and #91. They gave up altogether on picking in the second round while they got two low third rounders. The Devils sent 113 in value to get back 144 (74+70). Again, the team trading down got more value back than they gave away.
Carolina traded their pick #59 to the Wild for #73 and #99. Carolina was able to get a early third and early fourth for their low second. The Hurricanes gave up 107 to get back 147 (81+66). As the small size simple shows, the team trading down seems to be getting a little more value out of the trade.
The Canadiens traded #50, worth 130 in the chart. They got back #64 worth 99 and #126 worth 51 in value. Based on the charts, the Habs would be getting 140 back in draft value, compared to the 130 they sent away. It is a marginal increase compared to a few of the other trades we covered here.
The second trade of the day for the Canadiens was flipping their 108th in 2019 for a fourth in 2020. Instead of getting value right away, the Habs preferred to get back a pick for next year. From what we’ve been hearing, the draft of 2020 should be stronger in its depth players.
The Habs then proceeded to trade the 136th overall pick for another pick in 2020. The pick being worth 49 in value but keeping in mind the depth of next year's pool. Again, the front office appears to be stocking up on picks for next year’s draft.
And lastly, Montreal acquired the 201st pick this year in exchange for a seventh in 2020. In the trade they acquired a pick roughly worth 34-35 in value this year to grab a local talent. This move seemed to have been made to secure an over-ager in his last entry in the draft.
Eyes on the Future
We’ve heard from different sources that scouts appear to agree that next year will be a stronger talent pool. They most likely had a few players they really wanted on their board à la Jayden Struble, whom they would have picked no matter what. Even so, it feels like the Habs didn’t fully maximize the potential return they could have gotten.
They did get value back from their trades, that is factual. Still, it seems to me that the Habs left some talented and intriguing prospects on the board in order to make them. It could be that through their own combines, the Habs have found a different niche to exploit, and thus were comfortable enough to take their picks and then prepare for next draft. Quite a few players do play in more obscured or less covered leagues compared to the CHL or NCAA. For the Habs, being able to use their financial power to extract even more value from their picks is excellent news.
Obviously, the potential of this draft class will only be realized down the road. If you get two and more NHL players out of a draft, you did great. And sometimes swinging for the fences on prospects who should potential or have elements in their game that really stand out can be a smart strategy.
Most pundits are pegging the Habs draft as a relative success. Cole Caufield seems like a surefire bet to make the NHL and have a real impact. Jayden Struble is quite the athlete and has intriguing tools. Mattias Norlinder played against men and showed great potential. Gianni Fairbrother is a safety-first defender with a well rounded game, while Jacob LeGuerrier has reach. Frederik Nissen Dichow is a big Dane who shows potential who will play in Sweden this coming year, Arsen Khisamutdinov more than acquitted himself in a nine-game KHL stint, Raphaël Harvey-Pinard had a great year, showing a ton of leadership with the Huskies, and finally Kieran Ruscheinski was a late round pick from an AAA midget league.
As Jared mentioned in his article, it truly feels like the Canadiens are changing the way they are drafting, understanding when they maximize their draft pick value, who other teams may not have as much information as them and keeping in mind the strength of the draft. Time will tell if the approach works.