The Montreal Canadiens will be the center of the hockey world at the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft. The Bell Centre is set to host the event that is expected to have an amazing atmosphere.
Not only do the Canadiens own the first-overall pick in the draft, they own a total of 10 picks in the first four rounds and 14 picks overall. Couple that with the current state of their roster and you have a team that is open for business.
Since the Canadiens are the hosts, what better way to treat your fans to an unforgettable night than to make one of the most impactful trades in recent draft memory? Given what they have assets wise, not only could they pull off a huge trade, they have the assets available in order to make a strong play at the second-overall pick held by the New Jersey Devils. There’s no question GM Kent Hughes is looking for something big to happen if possible.
Setting the Scene
This requires us to set the scene for you. In normal circumstances, the team holding the first pick usually isn’t in a position to acquire the second pick. That would involve a huge package of top-end NHL ready players coupled with a top prospect and meaningful draft picks.
In addition, the team holding the second pick has to show that they’re willing to trade the second pick. The odds usually favor the team making the pick in that spot. But this one is different. The Devils are willing to listen to offers for the second pick. The question is why.
For the Devils, it’s pretty simple. They have top high-end centers in Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier to build around. They need now help. While drafting a great player second-overall could provide that help, they at least have to listen to see what’s out on the market. There exists a chance that a trade package comes together that would be enough to get them to trade the pick.
Because the Canadiens have a lot of assets at their disposal, they can make this happen. In fact, there are two paths they could try to go down with the Devils. The question ultimately will be would the Devils say yes. Let’s look at those two options.
The Canadiens acquire the second-overall pick from the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils acquire Cole Caufield and Montreal’s other first-round pick in 2022, 26th overall formerly held by the Calgary Flames.
Analysis: I know what you’re thinking Canadiens’ fans. No way! Not in a million years would you want your team to trade Caufield given how big a part of their future he is. You’re right. The Canadiens have a long road ahead but Caufield would help get you back to where you want to be. The question we need to evaluate here is what player would you get second overall.
Assuming the Canadiens take a center with the first pick, it would be reasonable to assume they would want either an impact winger or defenseman. That comes down to three names. Juraj Slafkovsky. David Jiricek. Simon Nemec.
First, which player would you rather have between Caufield and Slafkovsky? It’s a really good question considering how good both players are. If you consider that some folks in the scouting world believe Slafkovsky will be better than Wright and Logan Cooley, then why wouldn’t you consider that? In their minds, that’s an upgrade. How good would the Canadiens look if they landed both Slafkovsky and Wright? How insane would the Bell Centre be?
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I personally wouldn’t trade for the second pick if it’s defense they want. They should call other teams at that point to see if there’s a trade to be had.
Of course, there are two sides to the story. Would the Devils make this move? Landing Caufield would re-unite him with his US Development teammate Jack Hughes. How dynamic a duo would that be? They also get a first-round pick in this year’s draft but later. They would be able to address defense with the pick if they so choose.
My take is that both sides would say no considering the Canadiens love Caufield and the Devils would love Slafkovsky to add to the core they have. But it’s an interesting question to ponder. It’s a fair trade in my mind since Slafkovsky’s upside is higher than Caufield’s but then the Devils get Hughes’ teammate and an extra first-rounder. Why would you say yes or no to this trade? Let me know.
The Canadiens acquire the second-overall pick from the Devils.
The Devils acquire Josh Anderson, Jeff Petry, Kaiden Guhle and the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Analysis: I wonder if this is what the Canadiens would try to offer the Devils in this kind of trade. Anderson has been in recent rumors given how much term is left on his contract. There’s no question teams are calling about him. The same goes with Petry. From a Devils’ standpoint, there’s your now help.
They would get a power forward in Anderson that is rare in today’s game. They would also land Petry to help on their blue line who has term left on his deal. But then to make the Devils really think about it, they’d also land a prospect in Kaiden Guhle and the 26th overall pick.
I think this is a fair trade. The Canadiens are thinking future and drafting Slafkovsky would help their future tremendously. By the time the Canadiens are ready to compete, Anderson’s and Petry’s contracts would be up or nearly up. Plus they can get rid of that salary off the books to help them possibly avoid using LTIR money.
This is good for the Devils too. They get a power forward with term and cost certainty, they get a defenseman to help stabilize the blue line and help the other young players along. Plus they get a good defensive prospect and a first-round pick. Whether each side would actually do this is another matter. But both sides would benefit in this kind of trade.
While the conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the Devils will hold on to the second pick, they’re willing to listen to offers. The Canadiens have the assets available to make this kind of impactful trade happen.
There’s no question the Canadiens will explore every opportunity to move up in the draft on home turf. If not for the second pick, watch the entire first round in general. The Devils would have to have a big haul to move from the second pick, but it’s not impossible. Mention Caufield and they’d at least have to think about it.
I ultimately think the Devils stay at two. But never say never.
No matter how it shakes out, the Canadiens will have the spotlight on them throughout the course of the draft. If they get their way, it will be a night the franchise won’t soon forget.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.