November 19, 2022
With American Thanksgiving approaching, and the Montreal Canadiens performing well above expectations, some fans and pundits have been asking whether the Habs will be buyers or sellers when the trade deadline approaches.
That’s the wrong question.
The question we should all be considering is what trades are possible for the Canadiens that make sense in the present, but maintaining a future focus and improving the team for a long period of contention. While there is much hype around these young Habs – and for good reason – they’re still a .500 team that sits outside of the playoff picture. GM Kent Hughes will want them to stay competitive and maintain a winning culture, but he also knows there is still a lot of work to do.
Based on rumours we have heard throughout the league, here are some trade proposals that help the Habs now and in the future.
Joel Edmundson to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Justin Holl and a 1st round pick.
In my pre-season predictions, I had Joel Edmundson moved at the trade deadline to acquire another first round pick for this year’s draft. My view has not changed with the performance of young defenders – if anything, their play allows the Habs to move a veteran sooner.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will definitely be buyers, and the smart move would be to start now. The Leafs should probably make a much bigger deal for a right-shot defender, but dealing for Edmundson doesn’t eliminate that option. Holl and Jordie Benn are currently playing out of their depth. In the short term, the Leafs can add Edmundson for minimal increase on the cap and immediately improve their top-4.
The bigger deal the Leafs need to make for a top pair RHD will necessitate a bit of a roster shake-up that isn’t necessary to acquire Edmundson, and isn’t threatened by the acquisition. If it would be preferable for the Habs to take the 1st in 2024, Hughes can live with that. If another salary dump is necessary to make it work – Wayne Simmonds perhaps – the Habs can comply with that too as long as they walk away with a first round pick.
In the meanwhile, the Habs land a useful player, or perhaps two, that they can flip again at the deadline for another small asset. But the real prize is the pick and the roster flexibility to accommodate young D.
Josh Anderson to the Edmonton Oilers for Jesse Puljujarvi and a 1st round pick.
Here are two guys whose names have surfaced in trade rumours for some time. A match made in heaven?
The Oilers were reportedly looking for depth scoring before they lost Evander Kane to that ugly injury. Anderson fits that bill while also being able to slide into Kane’s role in the short term. The Habs like the deal because of that first rounder, the long-term cap flexibility it brings, and the possibility that Puljujarvi reaches his potential under Martin St. Louis.
The Habs could absorb another salary dump to make the deal work for the Oilers. The real question is whether Ken Holland will ever be ready to go all in to build around McDavid and Draisaitl. If not now, when?
Evgeni Dadanov to the Winnipeg Jets for Elias Salomonsson
The Winnipeg Jets needed depth forwards before the injury bug hit, and the Habs have a lot of them. Dadanov’s name could be replaced with Hoffman or Armia if the Jets prefer, but Hughes might entertain some salary retention on an expiring contract. Salomonsson is a right-handed defender developing in Sweden that projects to play third pair in the NHL. The Canadiens have little in development in the way of RHD.
Winnipeg has had a stronger start than expected by many, and Kevin Cheveldayoff would be wise to get his team some help that doesn’t break the bank. This deal fits the bill.
These are all imaginary trades, of course. But they paint a picture of the kinds of deals Kent Hughes might entertain. They keep the team competitive now, but with a clear eye on building for the future, and that’s exactly what the Montreal Canadiens should be doing.