After dropping their first two games after the All-star break, the Montreal Canadiens playoff hopes are grim. Sitting nine points back of a playoff spot with only 31 games remaining, the Canadiens now have a 0.6% chance of making the post-season, according to sportsclubstats.com. With such low odds, the Canadiens are being forced to become trade deadline sellers.
Trade Deadline Sellers: The 2018 Habs
While this is a hard pill for most Habs fans to swallow, it is not all bad. The turn over in the NHL is a lot quicker then it used to be. The Colorado Avalanche finished last season with a record of 22-56-4 for a total of 48 points. This was dead last in the NHL. Just over halfway through this season they sit with a record of 27-18-4 for a total of 59 points which is good enough for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. It shows how close all the teams are in the NHL and how quickly a team, with the right moves, can flip the script and become competitive again.
The Canadiens do not need a full-on rebuild.They have a good core to build around with Carey Price, Shea Weber, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Victor Mete. What the Habs need to do is retool by trading off pending UFA’s for picks and/or prospects to start fresh next season. They have an obvious need at the centre position and it is something that they will need to focus on between now and next season to become a contender for the Stanley Cup.
Trade Max Pacioretty to a contender
The Habs captain has turned it up as of late scoring 11 points in his last 11 games. He is the leading scorer on the Canadiens but with the season lost, and him being due a huge raise when his contract ends at the end of next season, it may be time for the Habs to move on from Pacioretty. There will be a ton of teams looking to acquire his services, as he is a proven 30-goal scorer. He also has a very attractive contract, with a cap hit of $4.5 million per season until the end of the 2018-2019 campaign. The Canadiens would be looking to acquire a young centre in any deal for Pacioretty, so teams such as the Anaheim Ducks (Sam Steel), St. Louis Blues (Robert Thomas), or Winnipeg Jets (Jack Roslovic) could be teams who look to pursue the Habs sniper. The Nashville Predators may not have a young centre, but they do have a talented winger in Eeli Tolvanen, and defenceman in Dante Fabbro. The Canadiens could likely also ask for other prospects and/or a first-round draft pick to be included in any package here.
Trade Tomas Plekanec for a Draft Pick
With Plekanec becoming a UFA at seasons end, he would be the perfect rental player for any team looking for a 3rd line shutdown centre. Its fair for the Habs to seek a draft pick for a player like Plekanec. In previous seasons the Arizona Coyotes received first round picks for players like Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal, who both play a similar type of game. Those two players both had more offence than Plekanec is currently producing. While the Canadiens would be thrilled with a first round pick, it is more likely that Plekanec is worth a second rounder. A team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will be going for their 3rd straight cup, are in need of a third line centre and Plekanec would be the perfect option for them.
Trade Schlemko and/or Benn for draft picks
David Schlemko and Jordie Benn are two defencemen who could be on their way out of Montreal at the deadline. With a retool needing to happen and Habs having Noah Juulsen and Brett Lernout possibly ready to make the jump to the NHL next season, the Habs could elect to trade the two veterans to teams in need of help on the blueline. The Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, or San Jose Sharks who will be looking for depth defenceman for their playoff runs. A second or third round pick would be a fair asking price for each of these defenders, as teams are willing to pay a higher premium for a defenceman at the deadline.
With the trade deadline just over three weeks away, the Habs already have four picks in the top 60 and will be looking to acquire more as they sell off their assets. They could also look to other future assets, such as 2019 draft picks, and already drafted prospects.
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