The Montreal Canadiens are faced with a hard decision just a day from the trade deadline. In the face of the trade that brought Shea Weber to Montreal this past summer, as well as the dwindling term on the contracts of Carey Price and Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens have a short opportunity to make a run for the Stanley Cup, aka “The Window”, this season and next, without a major reconstruction to their core roster.
As the trade deadline looms, General Manager Marc Bergevin will be looking to fill a few needs should he decide to go all-in this year, notably a top-six forward and a top-four defenceman.
Not surprisingly this is what every serious contender is looking for as well, and if the Martin Hanzal trade is any indication, the price for such players is quite steep. In the past Bergevin has shied away from any trades that severely impacted the future of the club, but this year could be different if he is able to find the right deal.
With the assumption that very few current roster players would be on the move should Bergevin decide to move ahead on a trade to help him win right now, here is a list of assets he has as his disposal.
Every seller’s favourite return is a high draft pick. First-round selections are sought-after assets in deadline trades, however this year’s draft class is expected to be weak, and with the Habs likely looking at drafting no higher than about 20th overall, their first-round pick isn’t the most exciting commodity on its own. Where the Canadiens have an advantage over other buyers is in their abundance of second-round picks: six over the next three drafts. By sheer volume they can offer a rebuilding team a plethora of picks.
Former first-round choices
Whether correct or not, players selected with first-round picks always hold more value than later-round players. Assuming that the Canadiens are not willing to part with their latest first-rounder, Mikhail Sergachev, they still have a good amount of other firsts who have not reached their developmental potential yet, and could offer a bit of spice to any trade conversation. These players are Noah Juulsen, Nikita Scherbak, and Michael McCarron. Each player has a distinct skillset to offer.
The Canadiens don’t have many high-end non-first-round prospects, but players like Charles Hudon and Victor Mete could potentially offer enough incentive. Hudon is currently one of the top goal-scorers in the AHL, and the Canadiens don’t really seem interested in giving him a shot due to their perceived depth chart preferences, but a rebuilding team might be interested. The same goes for the young Mete, who is showing some great things in the OHL with the London Knights.
One has to wonder whether the rights to Magnus Nygren have any value to tip the scale of a trade. Nygren returned to Sweden after his entry-level contract expired, but remains property of the Canadiens until June 30. Nygren has a booming slapshot and is one of the top defencemen in the SHL; third in defensive scoring. He has expressed interest to return to North America to give the NHL another shot, but not necessarily with the Canadiens. He can be used as a final topper for a trade package as a low-risk, high-potential acquisition.
Chris Terry doesn’t look to have a place on the Canadiens either, but is tearing it up in the AHL. There may be a non-playoff team out there that would want to upgrade their AHL club to give some of their younger players some playoff experience. Terry would definitely be a boon to any AHL team looking for a top-line scorer.
This all being said, the Canadiens do not have a whole lot of high-value individual pieces to offer in a trade. But the sum of some of these parts definitely has the potential to make up for it.
This viewpoint could be a bit controversial with people who are clamouring for the trade of Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin: these players are probably not highly regarded at this point. Expensive, declining, and non-productive players are not in high demand by a team looking towards the future to rebuild.
However younger players on affordable contracts are. Assuming again that Bergevin won’t move his core players, some roster players who could be interesting trade pieces are Paul Byron and Nathan Beaulieu. Both still young, producing, and affordable. In addition, from Bergevin’s vantage point, those are two players who potentially will be exposed at the expansion draft, so might as well shop them around to see if you can upgrade on any of the protected spots.
Shea Weber and Jeff Petry will be protected for sure, but the third defensive protection spot comes down to Benn, Emelin and Beaulieu. The same logic applies to the forwards, with Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Philip Danault, Andrew Shaw, and potentially Alexander Radulov needing protection, with the seventh forward position being occupied by a player like Byron, therefore there is room for improvement in that regard.
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