With the trade deadline now less than a month away, we will be taking a closer look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? Next up is a look at the Montreal Canadiens.
The Montreal Canadiens looked to be a team on the rise with many thinking that they might challenge for a playoff spot this year after finishing two points out of a playoff spot last year. Instead, the team has had an inconsistent that has shown some glimpses of the future, but has also saw the team struggled on numerous occasions. There is still time for the Canadiens to make up some ground, but down six points in a deep Eastern Conference could alter the way that general manager Marc Bergevin looks at the upcoming trade deadline.
26-23-7, fifth in the Atlantic Division
Deadline Cap Space
$17.45MM in a full-season cap hit (using LTIR), 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 49/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
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The most publicized trade chip that the Candiens have is forward Ilya Kovalchuk. The team signed the 36-year-old to a minimum-salary deal on Jan. 3rd after Kovalchuk was released from his contract with the Los Angeles Kings after one and a half disappointing seasons. Montreal took a chance, hoping that his skills hadn’t depleted as much as many had thought. Kovalchuk, however, has had a resurgence, posting five goals and 11 points in 14 games and is a top candidate to be dealt. With a salary of just $700K, plenty of teams with salary cap troubles wouldn’t complain to add someone of Kovalchuk’s talent and leadership abilities in the locker room. The Canadiens were rumored to be interested in a second-round pick for the veteran, but rumors have surfaced that no team is willing to give more than a middle-round pick. That could change as we get closer to the deadline, however.
While Tomas Tatar has been putting up nice numbers in Montreal, the forward might also be a valuable trade chip. The 25-year-old is on the way towards a career-year in goals as he has already hit the 20-goal in just 56 games. However, teams might pay a premium if Bergevin is ready to move on from him. He has just one year remaining on his deal after this one at just $4.8MM, but would be a valued addition if the team was ready to acquire him.
Another interesting option is also a possibility. Although there is no guarantee that the team might move him, there have been rumblings that Bergevin might consider trading defenseman Jeff Petry, who could be a valuable commodity for any team. The 32-year-old has one more year after this one on his contract at a reasonable $5.5MM. On top of that, Petry is playing some of his best hockey. He is playing 23:25 ATOI and has shown a flare for offense the past few years.
The Canadiens also have several players who will be unrestricted free agents next summer, including solid depth option in veteran Nate Thompson. The team also wouldn’t mind it if they could find a taker for Marco Scandella, who the team acquired recently from Buffalo.
1) Young NHL-Ready Players: Montreal can see the light at the end of the tunnel and could get to the playoffs this year with a little success in the final third of the season, but one thing it needs more of are young players, who can step in quickly and contribute immediately. They have quite a youth movement going on, but the team is just about ready to re-establish themselves as a playoff team within the next year or two, but the more talent that can come their way would be invaluable.
2) Draft Picks: If you look at the team’s draft picks above, it’s obvious that Bergevin has been stockpiling picks and is still interested in adding more of them. Not only does the team want young players to step right in, but he is looking to create a pipeline that will have the team be competitive for a long time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.