With the NHL trade deadline being this Monday and the Montreal Canadiens sitting comfortably outside of a playoff spot, perhaps it’s time to look at possible moves for the Bleu Blanc Rouge. I will take a look at the top three trade chips the Habs should move before the deadline expires.
- Ilya Kovalchuk: RW, LW – Cap Hit $700,000
Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL when he joined the Los Angeles King was a less than sub-optimal experience for both parties. Many believed Kovalchuk wasn’t the same player he was when he left the Devils in 2013. however, it was apparent early he was not going to live up to the three-year deal he signed with the Kings. In his first year, Kovalchuk saw his ice time drop and, at times, made regular appearances on the fourth line. Halfway into year two, both parties reached a mutual agreement for his time as a King to end and his contract was terminated on Dec. 17.
It took less than a month (Jan. 3) for the Habs to pick up the 36-year-old winger and since joining the team, he has quickly become a fan favorite. While only being with the Canadiens for 19 games, he has put up six goals and a total of 12 points; however, his best selling feature is probably his contract. One year at $700,000 makes attaining Kovalchuk an easier task for most teams who may be looking to add some scoring depth for the playoffs.
In terms of return, I would not expect Kovalchuk to fetch more than a second-round pick or a B level prospect. Given the market this year, though, I do not think I would be too shocked to see a team overpay for the veteran forward. Two of the best potential suitors I see for Ilya Kovalchuk are the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams have primary goal-scoring well figured out, now it is just time to add some secondary players.
2. Tomas Tatar: RW – Cap Hit $4.8 million
Tatar is the rich man’s Illya Kovalchuk when it comes to the Canadiens trade pieces. Since acquiring Tatar in a deal with Vegas that saw the Habs also land Nick Suzuki, he has gone on to become one of the habs best and consistent forwards — hard to believe he was considered a throw-in. Currently, Tatar leads the Canadiens in scoring having 53 total points. As well he seems to have put that whole disaster situation with the Golden Knights behind him.
Currently signed through the 2020-2021 season at a cap hit of $4.8 million, the teams looking to add would either need to have cap space already, work their hand or have the Canadiens retain. In terms of return, I think Habs fans could expect to see similar to what Blake Coleman got for the New Jersey Devils.
As for potential landing destinations for Tatar, three teams come to mind when thinking about good fits. These teams are; the Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Again all these teams have one thing in common, and that is knowing who your top goal scorers are. Tatar would be able to provide some reliable depth scoring come playoff time, a job he has proven he can do.
- Jeff Petry: RD – Cap Hit $5.5 million
As far as anyone is concerned over the past three years, Jeff Petry has been one of the Canadiens’ top players and consistently proves why any team would be smart to add him. Unfortunately for Petry, his five years have not played out like anyone had hoped they would, and the team as a whole has been rather lackluster. During this time, Petry has also been asked to carry out some pretty difficult tasks like lead an already weak defense while Shea Weber is down with an injury. With Weber back, Petry has not slowed his production down and is currently sixth on the team with 35 points.
The big obstacle in moving Petry is the dollar the price of his contract though I believe he would be worth the trouble. As well he is signed through 2020-2021, so you have two shots at the cup with him in your roster. Being at the top of my list, I see the most substantial return for the Canadiens here. Petry has proven to anyone watching that he can handle heavy minutes and leading a defense. If Bergevin deals Petry before the deadline expect him to receive at least a first-round pick and A level prospect in return.
I see one clear cut and likely destination for Petry and that is to a team that has already been mentioned on this list twice — Tampa Bay. The Lighting showed us last year they are not afraid to acquire a major player and Petry fits a significant hole they have on the right side. He would slot in nicely on the second pairing right next to Ryan McDonagh offering the best top 2D pairing in the league.