The Montreal Canadiens have not gotten off to the start they would have liked after shocking the hockey world and making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Key injuries have really forced them to go off the rails, setting new franchise records for the least amount of wins in their first 17 games of the season with four.
Not only have key players missed the entire season to this point, but they also have a number of other injuries that have caused them to pull a bunch of players from their American Hockey League affiliate. If this trend continues and there is no quick fix to their problems, I believe that the Canadiens will have to try and start a rebuild.
A stroke of luck is that the Canadiens traded their first-round pick this season in what might turn out to be a top-five selection in a strong draft. If the pick is a top-10 selection in the 2022 draft, they do still hold the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-round selection, and that transfers over to the Arizona Coyotes instead.
The Canadiens have a number of more significant players signed with multiple years remaining, so that may hurt their rebuild if they choose that path. One player that could add much-needed grit and some goal-scoring to teams is Brendan Gallagher. With five years remaining on his deal after this season, teams interested would know exactly what they’re getting in terms of the length they will have him on their team and what he brings on the ice. In a rebuild, the Canadiens could realistically retain some salary to help receive more assets like some of the other rebuilding teams have done to speed up the process.
There are three teams that make sense to add to their team in terms of space, need, and cap capabilities. All of them just happen to be in the Metropolitan Division. The cost for Gallagher could be tricky. His cap hit isn’t the most enticing, but he’s a proven goal-scorer and competes. At his age and the projected decline, we could see a high pick and a good prospect returned to the Canadiens. Some teams may not want to commit to five more years, but some teams may like the security of not having to deal with another contract negotiation or a player leaving.
Hurricanes Can Add Grit for Deep Playoff Run
The player landscape in Carolina seems to always be changing. Maybe adding another piece that is there to stay for a while would benefit them. Though they may be a little crunched for cap space this season, teams have worked with less to add key pieces for Cup runs.
The cap problems would be a lot better next season, as the Hurricanes have five upcoming UFAs and five upcoming RFAs. Of course, a handful of these players will more than likely be returning, some for more money and some for less. It would also give them that extra bump at forward for what seems like another year when they are legitimate contenders.
One player that’s interesting is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Hurricanes offer sheeted him from the Canadiens, and the teams seem to have a little rivalry going. But will that get in the way of making any deals? Especially if they aren’t actually in the same division? Kotkaniemi hasn’t performed up to the standard of his $6.1 million dollar contract. Lucky for the Hurricanes, they only signed him for one year and still have his rights. They could trade those rights away after this season if they don’t see him as part of their future. Coming in at almost the same price would be Gallagher, who is a more experienced and proven player.
Two other key Hurricanes forwards that may be departing after the season are Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck. This is what brings up the idea of planning for the future in Carolina. Things could go south for them, and they would lose multiple pieces upfront with no plan in place. The biggest obstacle for a deal to be struck between these teams is recent history.
Devils Should Look To Bring In Experience
With some hope left this season in a tough Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils could use a player like Gallagher to help them along and get comfortable for when their chances of being more of a force in the NHL becomes more clear in the near future. He would fit in nicely in a middle-six role and provide goals, aggressive play, and leadership to a younger and more skilled team.
The Devils don’t have many veterans, and bringing in someone who has been deep into the playoffs and knows how to grind through a season could be just what the team needs to get over the hump.
Right now, the third line could use a boost in production on either wing. While Tomas Tatar could be playing better, and if they feel he doesn’t improve, Gallagher could be a good replacement on that line and slide Tatar down. They would have lots of options and the cap space to do it with P.K. Subban’s $9 million AAV (average annual value) ending after this season. There are lots of RFAs that need to be signed, so that is the only potential issue with the Devils pulling the trigger on a deal like this.
Blue Jackets May Look to Replace Upcoming Free Agents
The Columbus Blue Jackets are more competitive than many would’ve thought before the season started. I still don’t believe they have enough to sustain this success for the entire season, but that’s only the opinion of one writer. If the Blue Jackets stay competitive, they could be looking to not only add a player to contribute this season but for the future as well.
They have two contracts ending after this season that make you wonder if either will be returning. Patrik Laine is a wild card, but he is an RFA, so the Blue Jackets hold some of the cards. The other man is Max Domi. He is a UFA who plays a similar style of game to Gallagher. If they feel like Domi won’t be returning next season, or they just don’t want to bring him back, Gallagher would be a seamless transition.
A bonus for the Blue Jackets is that they would have Gallagher signed for five more seasons. They have the cap space to take on the entire contract, just like how they had no issues acquiring Jakub Voracek in his entirety for a couple million more than Cam Atkinson. Gallagher would be a nice piece to add to the middle-six of this team and again would provide leadership and experience on a very young and inexperienced team that only projects to get younger in the near future.
It is all just speculation, as we’ve seen teams start worse and turn it around. But possibly stuck in no man’s land between being a competitive team and stocking up high draft picks, long contracts that aren’t living up to expectations could cause for a rebuild/retooling of the Canadiens. Gallagher has a six-team modified no-trade clause, plus a no-move clause, so it doesn’t create too much of a restriction on destinations where the Canadiens can deal him to. If the Canadiens don’t turn things around in a hurry, keep an eye out for his name in the rumour mill.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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