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2017 NHL Trade Deadline Target: Mathieu Perreault could be an inexpensive left-wing solution

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Should the Canadiens look at the maligned Jets winger?

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Winnipeg Jets are back to the bottom of the playoff table in the Western Conference, there are forwards to be had from the Central Division team.

One forward of particular appeal is Mathieu Perreault. He was signed to a four-year extension before the start of the year carrying an average annual value of $4.125 million, so he doesn’t qualify as a rental player for this year’s palyoff run, but more of a long-term target for the Montreal Canadiens.

Perreault has been a sparkplug since signing with the Jets three seasons ago. While he has struggled to score goals the past two campaigns, his shooting percentage has been at half and one-third of his career average, respectively, in that time.

Cost

Perreault’s value is derived from his play-driving skills as his scoring has disappeared these past two seasons and he has been injured for long periods of time. Given the term on his contract extension, he will cost less than a rental because of salary cap implications for the team trading for him. The Jets are also facing the prospect of having to expose him in the expansion draft this summer, so it would be prudent for them to trade him now for something before losing him for nothing.

It is possible that all it would cost to acquire Perreault is a second-round pick. That is good value for a non-star player at the deadline in perhaps his final year with a team.

When looking at acquiring a player like Perreault, the Habs would have to consider the fact that the salary cap is not likely to rise next season. If that becomes a concern, there can be some work done with the Vegas Golden Knights to set up their selection of a player that can alleviate those concerns.

The player

Perreault’s time with the Jets has been hampered by injuries, but when he is healthy he is a consistent performer who drives play and acts as both a setup man and finisher who likes to be around the net. This year Perreault has seen time on the fourth line, which doesn’t suit his style of play whatsoever, while Andrew Copp and Drew Stafford have been elevated in the lineup.

Perreault is perennially one of the Jets’ best players. He can play both centre and wing, although he has played wing more frequently recently due to the emergence of Mark Scheifele and the steadiness of Bryan Little. The Jets’ lack of depth at wing also plays into this usage.

Perreault really struggled to start the year. He had bad numbers and was playing poorly both before and after a four-week absence that forced him to miss most of the month of November. Just before Christmas he seemed to fully regain his health and started playing much better.

The problem with evaluating Perreault is that the Jets do have some good players, but also a lot of dead weight on their roster. Some of the players who receive more playing time than Perreault are less effective than he is.

In the past Perreault has been able to produce offensively, with back-to-back 18-goal seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15, while also wrapping up a third consecutive 40-point campaign last season.

The two most recent seasons have been hard on Perreault and it shows in his offensive numbers. While his counting stats are down, his possession metrics remain quite high. Trading for him would be a risk because of the term on his contract, but he is a good player who can help the Habs.

Is Perreault a fit?

Mathieu Perreault is the type of player that fits in on any team with his up-tempo, tenacious style of play. He is skilled, speedy, and unafraid of going to the net. These attributes would help the Habs both this year and in the future as a solution on a relatively weak left side.

While there are risks, mostly tied to his injury history, the upside of Perreault’s play means he is a viable candidate for the Habs if he is available, and for a reasonable asking price.