5 Potential Win-Win Trades for NHL Playoff Contenders and the Montreal Canadiens

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2021

5 Potential Win-Win Trades for NHL Playoff Contenders and the Montreal Canadiens

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    Five months after the Montreal Canadiens reached the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, they find themselves near the bottom of the NHL standings. Injuries to core players Carey Price and Shea Weber, the departures of veteran leaders Phillip Danault and Corey Perry via free agency and a shortened offseason contributed to their disappointing performance thus far.

    General manager Marc Bergevin and assistant GM Trevor Timmins paid the price by being relieved of their duties in late November. Jeff Gorton, the new executive vice president of hockey operations, will take care of management duties until a new GM is hired.

    With the hope of reaching the 2022 playoffs all but dashed, the Canadiens could become sellers by the March 21 trade deadline. Pending unrestricted free agents such as Ben Chiarot could be shopped for draft picks or prospects. Veterans with time remaining on their contracts, such as Jonathan Drouin or Tyler Toffoli, could also be peddled if Gorton and his new general manager decide a rebuild is in order.

    Speculation could arise over whether core stars such as Price or Brendan Gallagher will also hit the trade block. The long, expensive contracts of these 30-or-older players could prove difficult to move during the season when teams have limited salary-cap space. Those types of deals tend to occur in the offseason when most teams have more cap room and flexibility.

    Talented young players such as Nick Suzuki and promising ones such as Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov could also draw interest from rival clubs. Those players, however, are unlikely to be moved, as they'll form the foundation of a roster retool or rebuild.

    So, which players could the Canadiens attempt to move before the deadline? What type of return could they get, and which playoff contenders might be interested? That's what we'll attempt to determine with this listing of possible win-win trade scenarios for the Canadiens and the clubs they could deal with. Feel free to express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

Jake Allen to the Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Acquired from the St. Louis Blues in September 2020, Jake Allen was brought in as the backup goaltender to Carey Price. He's done a solid job in that role—so much so that Price waived his no-movement clause to protect his understudy from being selected by the Seattle Kraken during their expansion draft last July.

    The 31-year-old Allen has done an admirable job in a difficult situation this season filling in for the sidelined Price. His record of five wins, 15 losses and two overtime losses with a 3.10 goals-against average is attributable to the porous team defense in front of him. His overall career stats (164 wins in 321 starts, 2.56 goals-against average, .911 save percentage, 23 shutouts) demonstrate his value as a solid netminder.

    Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins will come calling. Allen's reputation as a reliable backup with just a $2.9 million annual cap hit through 2022-23 should be enticing for clubs in need of goaltending depth. The extra year on Allen's contract would also make him a worthwhile pickup.

    Penguins starting goalie Tristan Jarry is enjoying a solid bounce-back performance from a difficult 2020-21 season with a 14-5-4 record in 23 games, 1.92 GAA, .933 SP and three shutouts. Backup Casey DeSmith, however, has just two wins in six appearances with a 3.04 GAA, .905 SP and one shutout. They need a more experienced netminder to ease some of Jarry's workload.

    Price is working his way back from offseason knee surgery. He's not expected to return before Christmas and seems more likely to make his season debut sometime in January.

    Once Price is back in the lineup, the Canadiens should give serious thought to shopping Allen. Even if Price returns to his usually stellar form, it won't be enough to overcome his club's deficit in the standings. They already have Samuel Montembeault backing up Allen, and he can remain in that role for the rest of the season.

    The Canadiens gave up a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder in the 2020 NHL draft for Allen, and they could request a third in the 2023 draft and a seventh in this year's draft. If that's not feasible, they could seek a second-rounder.

Ben Chiarot to the New York Rangers

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    Ben Chiarot's play is among the few bright spots for the Canadiens this season. He's been their most reliable defenseman thus far with a team-leading 23:30 of time on ice per game and 2:47 of shorthanded ice time per game. The 6'3", 234-pounder is also among their leaders in hits (65) and blocked shots (52).

    As an unrestricted free agent in July, Chiarot should attract interest from contenders as the trade deadline approaches. His size, defensive style and ability to log big minutes are attributes that come in handy during the postseason when the emphasis is on rugged shutdown hockey.

    On Dec. 2, TSN's Pierre LeBrun said he spoke with a few contending teams that value Chiarot, and he believes the 30-year-old defenseman could fetch a first-round pick given the limited number of playoff rental blueliners available. Chiarot carries an affordable $3.5 million cap hit but also a 10-team no-trade clause.

    The New York Rangers could be among the clubs with an interest in Chiarot, and they could be among his preferred destinations. They're an up-and-coming club currently jockeying with several others for first place in the Eastern Conference. They also have the projected cap space ($6.7 million) to take on Chiarot's cap hit.

    Already well-stocked with young talent such as Adam Fox, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, the Rangers could be willing to part with a first-round pick, especially as they also have two second-rounders in the 2022 draft. Chiarot would provide them with size and defensive experience to help them stage a deep playoff run, while the Canadiens would land an additional first-rounder for their rebuild.

Jonathan Drouin to the Los Angeles Kings

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    Jonathan Drouin's tenure with the Canadiens has at times been a difficult one. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017, he reached 46 points in 2017-18 and 53 the following season. Injuries, however, limited the winger to 15 points in 27 games in 2019-20. He also took a leave of absence late last season for mental health reasons.

    Drouin sits third this season among Canadiens scorers with 16 points in 25 games. With this season a lost cause and only a year remaining on the 26-year-old left winger's contract, it could be time for him to meet with management to discuss his future.

    Moving to a less pressure-packed environment could do Drouin some good. A trade to a postseason contender in a city where the hockey spotlight isn't as bright, like the Los Angeles Kings, could help him get his career on track.

    The Kings have been rebuilding for the past three years and have shown promise this season. With 31 points, they're just three shy of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They're also among the best defensive teams, with a goals-against per game and shots-against among the league's lowest. However, they're also among the lowest-scoring clubs.

    Drouin's playmaking skills could provide a much-needed boost to the Kings offense. Signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $5.5 million, he could also help them through next season. With $5.9 million in projected trade-deadline space, they can afford him provided they're not on his three-team no-trade list. They could also ship the Canadiens a salaried player to make the money work.

    If Drouin fits in well with the Kings, they could re-sign him before his eligibility for unrestricted free agency in 2023. The Canadiens could seek a first-round pick, but Kings GM Rob Blake might be unwilling to meet that price. Perhaps a second-round pick and young forward Gabriel Vilardi would get it done. Like Drouin, Vilardi might need a change of scenery to get his NHL career on track.

Jeff Petry to the Detroit Red Wings

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    Like many of his teammates, Jeff Petry is enduring a miserable season. The 34-year-old defenseman has just two assists in 27 games and recently missed four games with an upper-body injury.

    Despite Petry's difficulties, he's an experienced puck-moving defenseman who tallied 40-plus points for the fourth consecutive year last season. He's also a minute-munching rearguard, averaging 23:10 of time on ice per game this season.

    The Canadiens' injury-ravaged blue line is a significant reason for the downturn in his production, and those stats should improve with a better lineup. His offensive skills and right-handed shot could be beneficial to a rising young club jostling for a playoff berth like the Detroit Red Wings.

    A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Petry played his college hockey at Michigan State University. While he carries a 15-team no-trade clause, he could waive it to return to his home state and a promising Red Wings squad if the Canadiens decide to rebuild.

    Petry could provide additional experience and puck-moving skills to the Red Wings' defense corps. With Nick Leddy and Marc Staal slated to become unrestricted free agents, Petry could fill that leadership void on their blue line, mentoring younger defensemen such as Moritz Seider.

    A sticking point would be Petry's $6.3 million annual cap hit through 2024-25. The Red Wings' $10 million in projected cap space would make it easy for them to take on his full cap hit, but GM Steve Yzerman could insist on the Canadiens absorbing part of it. The Wings could also be unwilling to part with their first-round pick.

    The Canadiens could seek Filip Hronek in return, as the 24-year-old has been pulling second-pairing duty given the rise of the promising Seider this season. If the Wings are reluctant to move him, the Habs could ask for a package of one of the Wings' two second-rounders and one of their fourth-rounders in the 2022 draft or one of those picks and a prospect defenseman such as Albert Johansson or William Wallinder.

Tyler Toffoli to the Columbus Blue Jackets

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    The Canadiens signed Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $17 million contract in October 2020 as part of a series of additions made by then-general manager Marc Bergevin. The skillful two-way winger led the Canadiens last season with 44 points in 52 games, and he was also second among their postseason scorers.

    This season, however, hasn't been as kind to Toffoli or his club. The 29-year-old winger is second among the low-scoring Habs with 17 points in 26 games, well off last season's pace. He's also been out since Dec. 4, and he may miss around eight weeks after undergoing hand surgery.

    On Dec. 9, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek included Toffoli among his list of trade candidates, speculating over whether he'd want to be part of a rebuild at this stage of his career if the Canadiens decide to go that route. He lacks no-trade protection and carries a reasonable $4.3 million cap hit through 2023-24.

    Toffoli could be a good fit with a retooling club like the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are battling with the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. Capable of playing left or right wing, he could provide invaluable depth and versatility on their second or third line as they push for a playoff berth.

    With $10.8 million in projected cap space, the Jackets can afford to add Toffoli this season. The additional two years on his contract give them some insurance in case Max Domi departs via free agency or if they're forced to trade Patrik Laine if they're unable to re-sign the pending restricted free agent.

    The Canadiens could seek the Jackets' second-rounder in 2022 and could also ask for a promising prospect. The Jackets won't part with Kent Johnson or Cole Sillinger, with the latter already part of their lineup this season, but perhaps they'll be willing to deal young forward Liam Foudy.


    Stats via NHL.com, with additional info via Cap Friendly, Puck Pedia and Elite Prospects.