With Mike Matheson returning to the lineup, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves with too many players on their team. They have put Rem Pitlick back with the Laval Rocket to make room on the roster but at some point, they will have to clear up a permanent spot so players like him get NHL time. They also have the issue with the young defensemen playing so well that they don’t want to send any to the minors, and now have eight defensemen on the main roster.
For the Canadiens to clear cap space and fix ongoing roster issues, especially when Joel Armia and Jonathan Drouin return to the lineup, they will have to make a move or two to make room, which might have to come sooner than later. Here are three teams for the Habs to target to clear space and get a possible decent return in the process.
The Edmonton Oilers recently lost high-scoring winger Evander Kane to a wrist injury, and he is expected to miss three to four months recovering. This is a considerable loss offensively for a supposed contending team and hurts their secondary scoring, putting more pressure on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to carry the offensive load. However, scoring isn’t the main issue in Edmonton. They stand sixth in the league in goals with 3.53 per game, but with the loss of Kane, that could drop, and with the Oilers’ defensive issues, that could hurt the already mediocre team.
The Canadiens have a few players that could help the Oilers and provide more secondary scoring until Kane returns for the playoffs. Josh Anderson, Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, and Evgeny Dadonov could all be available in a trade. All four could be a good fit in Edmonton playing on the second or third lines. Anderson and Hoffman would be the more valuable and easier to fit into the top nine on a team like the Oilers and could thrive in a higher-scoring environment.
Drouin and Dadonov would be cheaper for them to acquire but have yet to prove they are worth trading for, plus Drouin is also dealing with injuries. The Oilers are searching for a winger but could be patient and wait until after Christmas to make any moves, but if their 9-8 record doesn’t improve soon, they could strike before then.
It’s no secret the Calgary Flames are in search of a scoring winger to add to their team. Like the Oilers, they were supposed to be a team contending for the Stanley Cup, especially after the moves they made in the offseason. They acquired Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar when they traded Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers, then signed Nazim Kadri in free agency. At 7-7-2 on the season and winning only two games in their last ten, they will be lucky to be battling for a playoff spot, let alone the Cup, if they don’t improve soon. Anderson has been rumoured to be a target of the Flames and would be a good fit for the team, especially in their top six. He is a strong power forward who can score 20-30 goals if he can stay consistent; he uses his speed and ability to out-muscle defenders and drive to the net.
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With Huberdeau and Andrew Mangiapane slumping, Anderson could also inject some competition and help get those two back on a roll; Huberdeau, after all, is coming off a 100-point season. His contract would be an issue for the Flames because they only have a little under $700,000 in cap space left, so if any trade were to be made between these two teams, money would have to come back to the Canadiens, or they would need to retain some cash on Anderson’s contract. Milan Lucic could come back in a deal for Anderson, as his expiring contract would give the Flames more than enough space to acquire him, and Montreal could turn around and move Lucic at the deadline.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Yes, you are reading that the Toronto Maple Leafs could be a good trade target for the Canadiens. The Habs have an overabundance of left-handed defencemen – and defencemen overall. With the rookies playing so well, they might want to move one of their veteran defencemen like Joel Edmundson, Chris Wideman, or David Savard to make room for their young guys. The Leafs have two important defencemen injured in TJ Brodie and Jake Muzzin; Brodie is on injured reserve (IR) but could be out at least two weeks with an oblique injury. Muzzin was placed on long-term injury reserve (LTIR) with a cervical spine injury and could be done for the season.
With their plethora of defencemen and most being left-handed, the Canadiens could consider trading Edmundson, and he could be the perfect fit for Toronto. The Leafs need tough, solid defensive defencemen that can clear the front of the net and play hard-nosed playoff-style hockey. Edmundson has a ton of playoff experience, winning the Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019 and then reaching the Cup Final again in 2021 with Montreal. There is no doubt the Maple Leafs will make the playoffs, but it’s getting past the first round that they have an issue with. Losing Muzzin takes some back-end grit away, and a player like Edmundson could be the perfect filler that could give them an extra push when it counts.
All of the moves, of course, would come down to money, and if anyone knows Canadiens general manager (GM), Kent Hughes, he doesn’t make a deal just for the sake of it. Although he is a bit behind the eight ball with his roster issues, there is not a lot of pressure for him to make a move; he seems perfectly okay with having eight defencemen and isn’t afraid to put a veteran on waivers if need be. When Armia returns, however, he will have to move someone a little more critical than Pitlick, and that could force his hand to do something bigger than a waiver move.
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com. Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on CTV news and ESPN Radio; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.