The Montreal Canadiens have added a defenseman that can potentially replace the recently-waived Victor Mete, acquiring Jon Merrill from the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadiens will send a 2021 fifth-round pick (OTT) and minor league forward Hayden Verbeek.
While the Canadiens obviously hope Mete clears waivers, they’ll add another depth defenseman to the group in Merrill, who was held out of the lineup by the Red Wings last night as a trade came together. The 29-year-old has played nearly 400 games in his career, and though Merrill isn’t much of an offensive producer, he does add some more size and experience to Montreal’s back end for a playoff run.
A pending unrestricted free agent, Merrill also comes with just a $925K cap hit (which Detroit did not retain any of), making him one of the more affordable options on the defense market. He could potentially be extended by Montreal, but this move is more about the upcoming North Division postseason run than anything else.
The Canadiens certainly looked like they needed some defensive help last night. The Winnipeg Jets picked them apart with a 5-0 victory, pushing Montreal to 17-12-9 on the season and just six points ahead of the Calgary Flames for the last playoff spot. Mete wasn’t even part of that game, watching Otto Leskinen skate just over 16 minutes instead. It’s that sixth spot that Merrill projects to fit into, though the team could still work with a rotation through the bottom pairing to find the right fit.
Adding defensive depth at the deadline is never a mistake, especially when it comes at the low cost of a fifth-round pick. But many will question the move if Mete ends up claimed off waivers. Still, Merrill definitely adds a better defensive presence and it’s clear that Mete isn’t a favorite of the current coaching staff after suiting up just 14 times this season.
In terms of the return, the Red Wings seem happy to collect as many mid-round picks as possible in a rebuilding season, but the deal also comes with a bit of fun. Verbeek is the nephew of former NHL forward Pat Verbeek, who just so happens to be the Red Wings assistant general manager.