The Montreal Canadiens are coming off another loss, this time at the hands of the New Jersey Devils who scored five goals in the first two periods. Montreal now sits fifth in the Atlantic Division with 26 points and a -3 goal differential. That’s not very impressive, but it does at least keep them in the playoff race as they await the return of their captain. Shea Weber is ahead of schedule and could be back on the ice before long, which while obviously good news also likely means the end of someone else’s tenure on the NHL roster. That’s what Eric Engels details in his latest for Sportsnet, breaking down the various options that the Canadiens have to make room for Weber.
The most startling of these options may be the idea that the Canadiens could waive Karl Alzner, less than 18 months after signing him to a five-year contract worth more than $23MM. The team has already sat the veteran defenseman in the press box for most of the season, getting him into just six games over their first 22. Importantly though, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet adds in his latest 31 Thoughts column that the Canadiens have been looking to trade a defenseman instead of risking them on waivers. In Alzner’s case it doesn’t seem like much of a risk given his high salary, but for some of the others—Jordie Benn, David Schlemko and Xavier Ouellet are mentioned as trade options in Engels’ piece—there would certainly be teams willing to take a shot.
Montreal is not in a place to be giving away assets for free, given their current balancing act on the line between competitiveness and concern. The team has played well this season to say in the mix and has some promising chemistry forming up front between Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Still, even with the emergence of Jesperi Kotkaniemi the team is lacking real impact prospects and could need to try and retool over the next few seasons.
So a trade, given the circumstances, seems the most beneficial option. Whether that will come to pass is still to be seen, especially given the fact that the rest of the league can see the situation that GM Marc Bergevin is in. Noah Juulsen’s injury may buy him a bit more time, but at some point something will have to happen on the Montreal blue line. Defense-needy teams will be watching closely.