Potential Destinations for the Habs Pending Unrestricted Free Agents

February 2, 2023

The NHL trade deadline is now just four weeks away and, with the recent trade of Bo Horvat, it appears the market is starting to heat up. So far this season, there have been minimal transactions as a significant number of teams are grappling with the salary cap. Nonetheless, as the deadline approaches we can expect GMs to get more creative and determined to improve their rosters for the post-season.

Pending Unrestricted Free Agents

The Habs have four players on expiring contracts that will be available. Sean Monahan, acquired from Calgary in the summer, has always led that group. Evgenii Dadanov and Jonathan Drouin have been available all season without apparent suitors. The final chap in the class is Paul Byron – based on his injury status, he is not a realistic option to move at the deadline. In fact, health issues surround all but Dadanov in the UFA group.

Hughes potentially has three UFAs to move, and three available salary retention slots for this season. We can expect that this is where he would prefer to use his retention, rather than carrying over to next season. In the proposed deals that follow, they will all include salary retention and perhaps a salary dump to increase the likelihood of obtaining a solid asset in return.

Moving Monahan

A versatile centre who can be effective on the wing. An upgrade on the second-line centre currently being iced by several teams. Solid in the circle, on the power play, covering 200 feet. A true contender will absolutely need a solid one-two punch down the middle.

But here is the kicker. Monahan has been out longer than anyone hoped, and an announcement about his health is expected by end of week. Any deal involving Monahan assumes he can get healthy in time, and string a few games together where he is as effective as he was before breaking his foot. If he can do that, a playoff contender would be wise to come knocking. But even if he can, it’s possible his value has already been diminished by the time he has missed.

For the Montreal Canadiens, they have already reaped the benefits of acquiring Monahan since they received a first round pick to take on his contract. They don’t need to kill it in this deal.

Colorado has never replaced Nazem Kadri, and Alex Newhook has not laid claim to the 2C role. Monahan improves their top-6, and would cost less than many of the pivot options that are available. In return, the Habs get that first round pick Hughes covets and a B prospect, a reasonable return based on the circumstances.

The Avalanche are not the only team who could use an upgrade in the second line centre position.

The Canes are a legitimate cup contender, but they are without a clear option in the second line centre role. A healthy Monahan improves their options significantly for the reasonable price tag he will fetch.

Dealing Dadanov

Like the Monahan situation, the Habs have already reaped benefits where Dadanov is concerned. They were able to offload the albatross that was Shea Weber’s contract and a year of Dadanov was the price they paid. They could simply let his contract expire and be fine with the outcome. If they can fetch a small return, that’s a bonus.

In this deal, the Washington Capitals are able to upgrade their forward group a little and obtain inexpensive depth scoring. The Habs get something in return, including an expiring contract to help fill the roster for the rest of the season.

Discharging Drouin

Kent Hughes inherited the Jonathan Drouin contract – he didn’t create it. Marc Bergevin was desperate for goal scoring, and perhaps hopeful to land a local talent, and he paid a very dear price to get it. But it didn’t work out. At this point, expectations of a return are very low, and it may just be time to free Drouin to any opportunity that arises and bring an end to this sad saga.

This deal swaps two high picks that didn’t work out with their current teams. Salary retention means the Oilers can actually save money in the deal and land some scoring depth. Since they get the younger player, the Habs could throw in a mid-round pick if it would make Holland feel better, and there is very little risk to anyone in this deal. Who knows? Maybe one or both benefit from a change of scenery. If not, everyone moves on at the end of the season.

Fans and pundits are hoping the Montreal Canadiens make a splash at the trade deadline, but that is unlikely to happen through deals for their group of UFAs. Hughes may be able to salvage a return on all three if he can connect with the right GM and get creative.

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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