Week 20 in One Word: Deal

March 20, 2022



an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit, especially in a business or political context

Similar: agreement, pact, contract, treaty, protocol, arrangement

take part in commercial trading of a particular commodity

Week 20 for the Montreal Canadiens featured three home games. Tuesday night saw them compete in the Basement Bowl with the Arizona Coyotes – they lost the game 6-3 but were winners in the Wright way. On Thursday the Dallas Stars were in town and had a lot more riding on the game than the Habs did. The Stars won 4-3 late in overtime, but not before the fans were truly entertained. Then on Saturday the Ottawa Senators were in town and the Habs were convincing in a 5-1 win.

Here’s how I saw Week 20 go down.

The Chiarot deal was worth waiting for.  

We’ve waited for weeks. Speculated about trades. Cringed with every awkward fall, every blocked shot.

On Wednesday night Kent Hughes traded Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers for a haul. It was almost a carbon copy of the Savard to Tampa deal. The Habs received a first round pick and a prospect drafted in the third round, where Columbus received the first and third. The Habs retained salary and landed the fourth-round pick that went to Detroit for being the third team and absorbing salary in the Savard transaction.

This is a deal that Habs fans should be very pleased with. HuGo demonstrated more restraint than most of us would have done, and it paid off.

A deal for a centre looks inevitable.

The Habs have a gaping hole down the middle of the ice since the departure of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault this past summer. It’s become apparent that HuGo intends to explore every option to strengthen their group of centremen.  

The Habs are rumoured to be linked with several centremen. In the Chiarot deal they added LW/C Ty Smilanic, but they’re reported to be kicking tires on others. Jack McBain is a Minnesota Wild prospect graduating from Boston College that the Wild feel they can’t sign. Pavel Zacha was drafted 6th overall by the New Jersey Devils as a C/LW and is inexplicably being discussed at the deadline. Vitali Kravtsov is a somewhat estranged New York Rangers asset playing in the KHL who has played both wing and centre. 

It looks very likely the Habs will draft in the top 3, where a good centre prospect will be available, and yet they are rumoured to be in the market for a centre. What does this mean for guys like Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling? 

It’s possible that HuGo worries about the durability of Evans and Poehling like many of us do. Last Sunday, Poehling suffered another upper body injury and was placed on the IR this week. He has a concussion history, and already had a season cut short for shoulder surgery. The kid is 23 and has amassed a significant medical file. Evans will turn 26 this off-season and has missed significant time due to concussions. Every time we see one of them head down the tunnel mid-game we get a little nauseous. The first goal for both kids is to stay healthy, and beyond that it’s to prove they can be more than a 4C on a good team.

Dvorak returned to action on Thursday and has looked good in his first two games under Martin St. Louis. Did you notice his intermission comments about the “more offence” approach of MSL? He’ll likely get some time to show whether he fits or not in the new identity.

Rem Pitlick fits the new identity, but it’s very debatable whether he fits at centre. Nonetheless, he’s seeing ice there… and that may be enough explanation as to why the Habs are trying to deal for a centre.

Several guys are making their mark right in time for a deadline deal.

St. Louis has this team looking good again, and not every player who has improved under him will be dealt. I am convinced, however, that deals will be made. Renaud Levoie reported on Saturday night that Vincent Lecavalier will be in town for the deadline, and the leadership group are not intending to catch up on Oscar contenders.

With the way Lehkonen and Kulak are playing, I will be surprised if smart GMs do not make very enticing offers. Hughes has said he has no intention to trade a goalie, but there is a considerable list of teams who might pay well for a goalie who looks like Jake Allen did on Thursday and Saturday.

Perhaps Dvorak sticks around for a longer look, but he’s looked good in front of several scouts. Jonathan Drouin will probably get that longer look, but it is curious that Hughes has not yet spoken to him about his future in Montreal. Add Edmundson and Byron to the guys seeing some action right before it all goes down, both players who step it up for the post-season.

Deals will be made. The team that takes the ice on Monday night will look a little different. Any other outcome would be surprising to me.

The deals being made right now have the future in mind.

Caufield from Suzuki. Suzuki from Caufield. That was the story on Thursday in Dallas. Can we have it on a loop for the next decade? Yes, yes, we can. But it won’t come for free. For those complaining about that Suzuki contract, feel free to get a grip any minute now… and when you do hold on tight because it won’t be long before Caufield needs a similar deal.

HuGo has a vision to shift the Habs to a consistent contender that is offensive-minded, and that can’t happen unless more guys like Suzuki and Caufield are added. Cup contenders spend their dollars on guys like Kucherov, Stamkos and Hedman… and then they add the role players – Brandon Hagel comes to mind – at the deadline. It’s a proven recipe for success. No matter who is dealt between now and Monday at 3 pm, we’d be wise to focus less on who is subtracted now, and more on who may be added in the future.

To quote my buddy Roland on Twitter, “I like Lehks. I liked Toffoli. They’re in 32nd place. That I don’t like. I’m good with whatever Gorton/Hughes do.”

In his deals so far, Kent Hughes has demonstrated he is a negotiator who gets what he wants.

We’re still getting to know Kent Hughes. We haven’t seen enough to predict his behaviour. It makes this deadline even more fun to watch. But there is a common thread in the two major deals so far.

In the immediate aftermath of the Toffoli deal we all wondered who the heck was Emil Heineman. Then we learned he was known to HuGo, and a piece they were insistent on in the trade, along with a first round pick. Leading up to the Chiarot trade we heard the Habs wanted the Savard package – and they got it. Following the Chiarot trade, we learned from Hughes himself that a 2023 first round pick specifically was the starting point of any deal for Chiarot. We also learned Ty Smilanic was a player known by and of interest to HuGo.

Kent Hughes gets what he wants, or he doesn’t deal.

It’s refreshing to see such intentionality and capacity to deliver in charge of the deals being made by the Montreal Canadiens. It feels like a very large upgrade from the days of hearing how trades are hard, or that the NHL is not PlayStation. It should also be a comfort to Habs fans – if your favourite guy is dealt, it was because the HuGo demands were met.

Let the fun begin. Let’s make a deal!

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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