When the Montreal Canadiens first starting showing signs of a slump I don’t think anyone predicted it would get this bad. It is still way too early to make any sort of conclusions about Ducharme and he needs a bit of time to get the team used to his way of doing things. The problem is that time is not on anyone’s side this season.
Bergevin has always been an aggressive General Manager for better or for worse. Whether you like him or not, he is excellent at making trades. This year’s trade deadline is set for April 12th, which for the Habs is perfectly schedules after the NCAA Finals. This gives Bergevin time to see what the situation is with his highly touted prospect come trade deadline.
Another important aspect to consider is quarantine. Any player involved in a trade who must cross the US border must quarantine for two weeks. We saw it with Pierre-Luc Dubois, and this has to be on the mind of all Canadian GMs as they prepare for Trade Deadline.
Keeping all of this in mind, here are a few trade deadline targets who could be on the Habs radar:
1. Mattias Ekholm / Filip Forsberg
You really can’t go wrong with either, but they will certainly not come cheap. Mattias Ekholm will likely be the most sought after Free Agent if (more like when) the Predators become sellers. I believe the writing was on the wall when they chose Askarov, but the team is going no where fast.
It goes without question that Ekholm would be a perfect fit on this team and we would still have the room to protect him in the expansion draft. We were bound to lose Chiarot or Edmundsson anyways so why try to improve on one of them. Ekholm comes with a very affordable $3.75M Cap hit this year and next, making him a top pairing defenseman with a fringe middle pairing price tag.
Forsberg would probably add the most value to the Canadiens because of what the team is missing. This Club essentially has 3 very good 2nd Lines, and despite all the team’s depth we lack game breaking talent (excluding Carey, say what you will). He is a consistent threat to put up 30 goals, reaching this mark in back to back seasons.
I’m not going to get into the pieces that would be required to acquire either player. It goes without saying that they will ask for pretty much every prospect we don’t want to trade.
2. Dylan Strome
Strome is a very young and valuable player. By all account the Blackhawks do not seem to be actively shopping him, however, you could argue where there’s smoke there’s fire. Not to mention that Bergevin and Bowman have a long trade history.
Bowman would probably be better served hanging up the phone on Bergevin given this trade history. However, given their relationship and the position that the two teams are in, a real hockey trade could make sense. Maybe Bowman wants the player that got away back in Phillip Danault, who could really use a change of scenery.
3. Eric Staal / Taylor Hall / Jack Eichel
These three are listed in order of the likelihood of them being traded to the Habs. The Sabres have 10 players under contract next season. Not that I really think the Habs needs Eric Staal, but if they were looking to move Danault for a current player plus future assets, this trade would make sense.
Montreal was rumoured to be one of the teams in on Hall during the off-season but I have a hard time believing that. Buffalo would certainly need to hold onto some Cap or we would have to send a few players the other way to make this work. The latter is not so crazy when you consider that the Habs would likely want to bring in Caufield if they deem him to be ready for the NHL.
Jack Eichel is sure to find his name on 30 NHL trade boards. I have a hard time believing that the Habs wouldn’t pay up to get Eichel if the opportunity arose, but to what point. In a vacuum Eichel would be stupid expensive, now imagine that you have to outbid everyone else in the league.
BONUS: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Let’s start with the obvious, he is in the bonus category because it would be stupid to think that the Oilers would not do everything in their power to keep him. With that being said, the Oilers are in a precarious position with RNH from a financial standpoint. As it stands, the team has $24.6M in Cap Space next season, but they are losing a significant amount of players. More than half their roster to be exact.
With the season he is having you have to imagine that RNH is in for a pay day next season. To complicate matters for the Oilers, he is a Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) next season. Both sides have expressed an interest in each other, but does it actually make sense for the Oilers?
The team has two major issues going against them in this negotiation. The first is obvious, the flat cap, two, Jeff Skinner. Hockey loves their comparable contracts and it’s really hard to argue that RNH does not deserve a similar contract. He has reached the age where is ready to cash in, and who can blame him.
For the Oilers this poses a major issue because I do not see him taking a discount on the value or term. A small discount? Sure, but he will likely fetch something in the range of $8M AAV with significant term which would leave the Oilers with roughly $15M to sign literally half a roster.
What happens if the worst case scenario occurs and the Habs become sellers? Here are a couple teams that could be logical trade partners.
1. The Florida Panthers
The Panthers are a wagon this year! I don’t know how Quenneville is doing it, but he has that team buzzing and they look like a legit contender. Their top line are playing out of their minds, but this team will need more secondary scoring from the bottom 3/4 of their forward lines.
The Panthers have an abundance of Cap space. If they continue this pace, they would likely be willing to part ways with a couple prospects to make a run at the cup. The Panthers are in a difficult division and risk a war of attrition with Carolina who has a similar Cap situation as them.
2. Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are probably the envy of most NHL teams given their current situation. They have a roster built to win now, their prospect pool is incredible and they have some Cap flexibility. If the Avalanche decided to go all in on this season, there’s no way they do not give the Habs a call.
There were multiple reports of Bergevin and Sakic meeting during last year’s trade deadline. You would have to assume that if the Habs find themselves in a similar situation, the two will surely rekindle those lost nights.
BONUS: Washington Capitals
Could this be Ovie’s last season in Washington?
As inconceivable as that thought may be, there is a chance that it is true. The team has the majority of their roster in place, but they have a few areas of concern with very little money to play with. Jakub Vrana will be a Restricted Free Agent and could easily sign an Offer Sheet when the Vultures come circling.
Next, what will they do in nets? Samsonov and Vanecek are both on their Entry Level deals with Samsonov’s contract expiring at the end of the season. Not that he will have a huge asking price, but whatever increase in pay he asks for, is money the Caps do not have.
It is not out of the question to see Ovie take a pay cut to make things work in DC. However, if there is even the slightest murmur that Ovie may walk, you have to imagine that the Caps would do everything to make one more push this season.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Sports family! Spencer, Kristian and Tyler just dropped the latest episode of their Healthy Skratch podcast. The boys talk Panarin, Edmonton’s hot streak, the Winnigpeg Jets and the latest coaching change in Montreal.
All Cap numbers and dollar amounts taken from Capfriendly.com