Canadiens’ Edmundson a Desirable Trade Target

It’s no secret, the Montreal Canadiens are rebuilding, and general manager (GM) Kent Hughes is open for business. Outside his young core, he will entertain trade offers. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t keep prices high on certain players.

Recently, Hughes made it known he is in search of another first-round pick in 2023 to add to the two he already holds. The play of Sean Monahan and his expiring contract has made him a possible trade asset that could fetch that high of a value from a contending team. However, there is another veteran who may have a surprisingly high value. That player is defenseman Joel Edmundson.  

Canadiens Trade Rumors  

Recently, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug had Montreal-based reporter Arpon Basu on his podcast to discuss the Edmonton Oilers’ potential interest in Edmundson. A defender who fits the mold GM Ken Holland is looking to add to his lineup for the playoffs.  

Joel Edmundson
Joel Edmundson, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

So far, the Oilers haven’t gotten even a sniff of the Stanley Cup Final during the eight years spent in the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl Era. Clearly, the supporting cast needs an upgrade and finding proven veterans willing to play the tough defensive minutes without worrying about their offensive stats. 
Edmundson is a player like that, having won a Cup in 2019 and helped the Canadiens reach the Final in 2021. When he was acquired, former GM Marc Bergevin was looking to add size to the blue line to mimic the approach of the St Louis Blues. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he has the size GMs covet in a shutdown defenseman. He plays a physical style, especially in his zone, an aspect of the game that the Oilers’ defense lacks. Yet Edmundson is also mobile for a large defender, can move the puck acceptably well into transition, and can play heavy minutes in any situation asked of him. That versatility provides any head coach options, especially as he can play on both the left and right sides and is the perfect partner for an offensively-minded defender.  

The Cost to the Oilers 

As mentioned above, Hughes is still in search of another first-round pick, he said as much to TVA Sports reporters (in French). Using his past trades as a blueprint, it isn’t hard to see that he will have a high asking price for a veteran defender. His trade at the 2022 Trade Deadline involving Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers could act as the blueprint, a first-round pick plus a prospect was the return there and could be the asking price. Also, the play of the Canadiens’ young blueliners helps make the decision to move on from Edmundson easier. 

Related: Canadiens Rookie Defensemen Taker Over 

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The difference in this deal, however, is twofold. First, the Oilers lack the salary cap space the Panthers did to take on a $3.5 million cap hit. The second is that Edmundson isn’t a rental as Chiarot was. Instead, Edmundson is under contract for one more season at $3.5 million. Therefore, Hughes will have to either retain salary, which is unlikely or take a contract in return to allow Edmonton to fit their new acquisition under the cap, which is far more likely.  

The contract Hughes would need to take in return won’t be a “negative value” or undesirable player either, as acquiring Edmundson isn’t a rental but provides the Oilers with help over two playoff runs on a reasonable contract. Jesse Puljujarvi and his $3 million cap hit could fit that description.  

The Return for Montreal 

Beyond an NHL contract in return, what else could be possible? A 2023 first-round pick could be in play, even though the 2023 Draft class is seen as highly coveted by league management teams. If their first is packaged in return, the Oilers would be gambling that they would make a deep playoff run to at least the Cup Final. Therefore, their pick would be very late. If they would rather avoid that chance, they could instead add a name that Rishaug had mentioned, Xavier Bourgault. 

As a Quebec-born and raised prospect, that background does hold value. As the Oilers’ 2021 first-round selection at 22nd overall, he would meet Hughes’ requirement as a first-round pick. Currently, he is playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors. He is performing well, having scored seven goals in 20 games, putting him on pace for a 25-goal season as a rookie professional. While Bourgeault has been listed as a center and played that position for some time in junior hockey, he projects more as a winger, and one who does equally as well playing on the left side, his off wing. 

Some have compared his style of play to that of Canadiens veteran Brendan Gallagher, and he does add some playmaking skills like Jonathan Drouin. Bourgeault is a north-south style skater who likes to make direct attacks, using a chip-and-chase style so as not to allow defenders an opportunity to strip him of possession or interfere with his path as he gains speed in the neutral zone. This also helps make him highly effective on the forecheck. Also, when in offensive mode, he takes advantage of his heavy, yet accurate shot. 

Since his draft year, he has improved on his hip strength and edgework, which helps his quick pivots allowing him to be more effective in one-on-one battles along the boards. Also, it adds some deceptive movements in open ice to create space. 

The price for Edmundson seems steep at the moment, however, the cost to acquire veteran defensemen with his pedigree is rarely a minor one. While no trade is likely to happen before the New Year’s holiday, there is enough smoke on the horizon to think this type of trade between these two teams is possible. Both sides have assets each one wants and need moving forward.  

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