The NHL’s Trade Deadline is fast approaching. However, this year is a year like no other. Unless there are some drastic changes to the quarantine rules, we shouldn’t expect there to be a flurry of trades on deadline day. This is especially true for the Canadiens. Any player who gets traded from an American team to a Canadian team will have to quarantine for 14 days. With the trade deadline being on April 12th, that would mean the player would not be available until April 26th for the Montreal Canadiens.
As it stands, the regular season is scheduled to end on May 10th. However, the Canadiens’ last game is scheduled for May 8th. Of course, that depends on when the league reschedules the set of games that are postponed against the Edmonton Oilers due to COVID-19. That only leaves seven to ten games that the Canadiens would have remaining for any new players to play in if they were to wait until the deadline to make a deal. By that time, the Canadiens could be out of a playoff position. If Marc Bergevin wants to bolster his lineup to make a push for the playoffs and become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, he should make a deal sooner rather than later.
With that being said, here is a list of players who should be targetted by the Montreal Canadiens prior to the trade deadline.
Trade Deadline targets for the Montreal Canadiens
Before we get started, we should address the salary cap. The Canadiens are tight against the cap. So any deal would most likely either require a team retaining some salary or the Canadiens moving some cap back to the team they are making a trade with. We should also note, Marc Bergevin doesn’t normally like making deals for pending unrestricted free agents. He usually likes to get players with term so he can better his team for the present and the future. However, with the expansion draft this offseason, Bergevin’s outlook on trades may be adjusted for this season.
The most obvious target for the Canadiens is defenceman Mattias Ekholm. Considering the need for a puck-moving defenceman, and how the team has struggled on the penalty kill, Mattias Ekholm would be a solid addition to the lineup. As mentioned, Ekholm possesses solid puck-moving ability and has a large frame at 6-ft-4 215 lbs. He is capable of playing both special teams and is a minute-eater on the point. Ekholm would be an excellent complement to captain Shea Weber. Given his cap-friendly contract that brings a cap hit of just $3.75 million, he is a prime target for Bergevin. Especially considering he has an extra year left on his deal. Ekholm is not a pure rental player. The Habs will need to move out some cap in the deal, however, for a player of Ekholm’s calibre, it’s definitely worth it.
The Predators rumoured asking price is a first-round pick, top-level prospect and another piece. While it’s very doubtful the Canadiens will be giving up players like Cole Caufield, Cayden Primeau or even Mattias Norlinder, they have plenty of solid young prospects and a ton of picks to get a deal done with the Predators.
If the Habs don’t acquire Ekholm, they could target another Predators defenceman in Ryan Ellis. In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts article, he discusses whether Ryan Ellis would be available instead of Ekholm. Teams would certainly have a major interest in Ellis. He is locked up long-term with a cap hit of $6.25 million per season. Very reasonable for a player of his calibre. However, because of that term, Nashville likely won’t retain much in salary in any deal. This cap-hit would of course be a lot harder for Bergevin to fit into his roster. However, having the player locked up has to be intriguing.
Ellis is a gifted defenceman. While he doesn’t possess the size that Ekholm does, what he lacks in size he makes up for with speed. Ellis is another solid puck-moving defenceman, capable of quarterbacking a team’s powerplay. He can also be trusted on the penalty kill as well. While it would be extremely difficult to acquire Ellis given his cap hit, you have to bet Bergevin will at least ask about the veteran defender.
Alex Goligoski is a name that Pierre LeBrun threw out there during a recent edition of Insider Trading. Goligoski is in the final year of his contract which brings a cap hit of $5.475 million. The Coyotes would definitely be willing the retain some salary on Goligoski which would certainly help the Habs. However, he is a true rental. His best days are also behind him, registering just one goal and three assists in 33 games so far this season.
Despite his best days being behind him, Goligoski could bring some veteran leadership to the Habs locker room. He has excellent vision and hockey IQ and is still very sound defensively. He also has his name already engraved on the Stanley Cup. Goligoski knows what it takes to get there and might be the cheapest option in terms of assets for the Habs.
Turning to the forwards, the first we’ll look at is Eric Staal. Another player with his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, Staal is one of the top forwards available at the deadline. Much like Goligoski, Staal would bring some veteran leadership, which would be huge for the Habs young centres. Three of the Habs four centres are 24 or under. So bringing in a player like Staal to mentor this young group entering what could be their second playoff appearance would be huge for their development.
Despite struggling this season in the points department (three goals and seven assists in 30 games) Staal is still an effective scorer. A lot of his struggles can be pinned on the team he is on, the woeful Buffalo Sabres. Staal is just a season removed from a 47 points in 66 games campaign. Staal would bring more than scoring depth to the Canadiens. He is a big reliable centreman who can help in the faceoff circle, which is an area the Canadiens have struggled this season. The Canadiens sit 24th in the league in faceoff win percentage at 48 percent.
Rakell is an interesting name to add to the list. Rickard Rakell has proven the ability to be a 30 goal scorer in the NHL. However, he hasn’t been able to hit those numbers since the 2017-18 season. However, that could be the product of a bad Anaheim Ducks team. Rakell could be an interesting scoring option for the Canadiens and another weapon on the powerplay. He has 28 powerplay goals over his career to go along with 26 game-winners. Although he is a right shot, something the Canadiens have an abundance of, Rakell is certainly a player that would help the Canadiens secure a playoff spot and could prove very valuable during a Stanley Cup run. Not to mention a friendly cap-hit of $3.789 million which carries him through the 2021-22 season.
The last name that we will look at is Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening. While not as prolific as the other names mentioned, Glendening is a solid bottom line presence who is a strong penalty killer and excellent on the draw. Glendenning is currently leading the league in faceoff percentage at a whopping 64.2 success rate. Considering Glendening excels in two aspects of the game where the Canadiens struggle and his contract carries a cap hit of just $1.8 million, Glendening could be a solid veteran addition to help the Canadiens young centres and bolster the team’s faceoff percentage and ability to kill off penalties. He would be a very underrated add for the Canadiens prior to the trade deadline.
Tons of Options for the Canadiens
While these are just a few names, the Montreal Canadiens have a ton of options leading into the trade deadline. However, essentially everyone they would bring in would require to move some cap out as well. So if the Canadiens do make a trade, expect a roster player to be heading the other way.
For Marc Bergevin, he has to feel that making the playoffs this season is a must. Especially considering the money he spent in the offseason. The firing of three different coaches is also a sign that he’s feeling the heat from ownership to get the job done. With Carey Price and Shea Weber not getting any younger, the time is now for the Canadiens to make a move to try to make a push for the Stanley Cup. You can bet Bergevin will be looking to pull the trigger on a deal to improve his club prior to the deadline.