With the NHL’s trade deadline exactly two weeks away it would be easy to assume that the Bergevin and the Canadiens are done making moves. Especially considering that the Habs are against the cap and Bergevin said they were done. We can trust him right? Unless you know what Bergy’s tell is, you might as well assume that anything is possible.
The Canadiens current cap situation makes any potential move a little more difficult. Making space to fit Caufield complicates matters further. If you need a full breakdown of the Habs cap situation you can find our full analysis here along with when Habs fans can expect to see Caufield in the Blue, Blanc et Rouge!
Speaking of our analysis, remember when it was said that the Canadiens would continue to rotate Suzuki/KK/Romanov/Evans on the Taxi Squad? Looks like Suzuki and Evans pulled a little switch-a-roo…. as predicted?
According to Eric Engels, Caufield is expected to arrive in Montreal tonight and as we know by now, he will be reporting to Laval. This should not come as a complete surprise, the jump from the NCAA to the NHL is massive so give him a chance to adjust before throwing him to the wolves. Just for context purposes, a player that Caufield is constantly compared to, Kyle Connor, spent the better part of a year in the AHL one year removed from a 71 point season (in 38 games) in the NCAA.
This of course is ignoring the fact that the team cannot afford to fit Caufield under the cap just yet, which begs the question. If the team can’t fit an Entry Level Contract, what trade options does this team have? As far as I am concerned, Bergevin and the Habs have three options:
- Three team trades to retain and spread salary
- Money In/Money Out
- Bargain Bin Hunting
Let’s start at the top, Cap Space is a luxury in the NHL these days and some teams have an abundance of it. Habs fans need to look no further than their own team as an example of a GM taking advantage of their cap space in this Flat Cap market. There is one team in particular that would appear to be shopping their cap space, at least according to TSN’s latest Trade Bait Board. TSN currently has the Chicago Blackhawks Cap Space in the 13 spot on their board.
It is also a good time to mention that Bergevin is a former Blackhawk’s Assistant GM and maintains a healthy trading relationship with Stan Bowman. Bergevin is a notoriously active GM and I would be surprised if he has not at the very least kicked the tires on this one to see what the asking price would be. Even after the Staal trade the Habs are still loaded with picks. They have two picks in the second, third and fifth rounds and another three in the fourth. Oh and they still have their first round pick. (Source: Capfriendly.com)
This strategy in theory would expand the possible targets for the Canadiens. Keep in mind that even in this scenario a player will need to be included in the trade, not just for the cap space, but to keep the team’s roster below the 23 player upper limit. Of course in this scenario the prime name would be Mattias Ekholm, however a second name (who is not being rumored) that was mentioned on the Healthy Skratch Podcast is Hampus Lindholm.
This is a bit (well a lot) of a pipe dream but it’s feasible with the help of a third team like the Chicago Blackhawks. Lindholm carries a pretty heavy cap of ~$5.2M with an additional year remaining on his contract. You may think that I am crazy, but when you consider that he is on the LTIR for possibly another four weeks, there is a world where this trade could happen. From the Ducks perspective, they need the LTIR help not to mention that no team is rushing to ship out their top defenseman. So like a said, a bit of a stretch but this would be a blockbuster.
The second option is the most common and probable type of trade, Money In/Money Out. The theory is pretty straight forward, the Canadiens will need to trade money away to bring money in. Of course with this plan of action, the world is your oyster and Bergevin can go out and acquire anyone he wants, based on what he is prepared to part with. One team that Bergevin should take a look at, despite the fact they will likely be buyers are the Minnesota Wild, more specifically one of my favourite players, Jordan Greenway.
This is probably confusing, but this is in part, based on an article by The Athletic’s Seattle Kraken reporter, Ryan Clark. Clark takes a look across the NHL at every team’s likely casualty in the upcoming expansion draft. He outlines the precarious situation the Wild are in. They have five players on No Movement Clauses (NMC) in Parise, Zucharello, Suter, Spurgeon and Brodin. The team still needs to find a way to keep players like Greenway, Fiala, Eriksson Ek, Rask, Dumba or Soucy. No matter which strategy the team decides to go with to protect their roster, they will leave a very good player exposed.
Each team can either protect seven forwards and three defenseman or eight skaters total. Option one would keep their core up front in tact but would expose Dumba and Soucy. With option two, half of the remaining players will be left exposed. Does Greenway make the cut at that point? Not to say it’s a foregone conclusion, quite the opposite since there have been rumors all year that the Wild are trying to move Dumba.
The last option is to go bargain bin hunting. This is something that Bergevin thrives at, which is not an insult. Bergevin has always been great at finding value where others don’t see it and it is easily within the realm of possibilities come the Trade Deadline. If Bergevin were to add a depth piece it would have to be on defence, and a name that is quietly available is former Drummondville Voltigeurs, Dmitry Kulikov.
The Devils are in easily the toughest division in the NHL and their playoffs hopes are dwindling by the day. Looking to next year, the team only has 11 players under contract and Kulikov is one of the players that will be a UFA at the end of the season. He is a solid depth defenseman that will help offset the loss of Chiarot in the short term and could fit next to anyone on the Canadiens defense core. His cap hit is only $1.15M and the Devils can easily retain some salary to make the numbers work under the cap for the Habs. (Source – capfriendly.com)
Now seems like an important time to mention that all of these names and trade speculations were created in my head. They were mainly used as examples, but I would be lying if I said that part of me was not saying a little prayer every night for Lindholm and definitely Greenway. While I set myself up for disappointment, I still believe that Bergevin has a trick of two up his sleeve and I am excited to see what he does before the Trade Deadline.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce Family! In this week’s episode of Healthy Skratch the boys discuss Tim Peel, Eric Staal, the Habs COVID shutdown and the NWHL playoffs!