It’s been a surprisingly successful season for the Montreal Canadiens to this point, but don’t expect that to translate to an active trade deadline. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has said all along that his team would not be interested in acquiring rentals this season and now another voice has echoed that sentiment. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, one of the top Montreal insiders, states that he has heard the “chances are high that nothing much will happen” when it comes to the Habs in this week leading up to the trade deadline.
The Canadiens have had a great 2018-19 season and have outperformed most expectations. However, their own success has to be considered relative to the success of teams around them. In the uber-competitive Atlantic Division, Montreal is in fourth place, six points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, and is unlikely to challenge for a divisional spot. The Eastern Conference wild card race has picked up as well and the Habs will have to outlast the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, and red-hot Carolina Hurricanes just to make the postseason. Dom Luszczyszyn’s model for The Athletic currently projects the Canadiens to finish with a very respectable 96 points for the year. However, that gives them an eighth-place finish and a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. In fact, their 96-point pace only provides a 67% chance of making the playoffs according to the model, with Carolina projected for 95 points and 64% postseason odds. The Hurricanes have the longest active playoff drought in the NHL and are desperate to simply make the playoffs. Can the Canadiens say the same?
Odds are Lavoie’s report of little to no trade action expected in Montreal stems from the team’s own contentedness with how the season has gone. The Canadiens were not expected to make this kind of jump and Bergevin and company can rest easy with their success this year without giving up futures at the deadline. The Habs are not a lock for the playoffs and, if they do make it, would be a round one underdog in almost any scenario. If the team can continue to defy expectations, then that is great for them, but no one can blame management for not wanting to buy in completely on a run this year. The Canadiens have massive amounts of salary cap space heading into the off-season and are expected to be active players on the free agent and trade markets then and have even been mentioned as an offer sheet threat. There’s no need to rush a re-tooling that is already ahead of schedule. Aside from a minor tweak or even a small sale, expect the deadline to come and go in Montreal this season without much to talk about.