Canadiens Mock Trade Deadline: Kravtsov Reunites with Gorton

With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline now just around the corner, it’s shaping up to be a quiet couple of weeks for the Montreal Canadiens as injuries to key assets and underperforming players have all but spoiled the plans of general manager Kent Hughes heading into Mar. 3.

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While the Habs may not be able to help their rebuild much by shipping some players out, they can still look towards the future by looking to acquire someone at low cost who can potentially be part of the team’s young core for at least the next few years. The player they should target at this time is a familiar face to Montreal’s executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton.

Another Redemption Project?

Vitali Kravtsov of the New York Rangers has been on the trade block for some time with general manager Chris Drury looking to give the former first-round pick who has gotten lost in the shuffle in the Big Apple and the Canadiens would be a good fit for the talented winger with much to prove.

Vitali Kravtsov New York Rangers
Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 23-year-old was selected ninth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft by Gorton when he was general manager of the Rangers, and Nick Bobrov, who now serves as the Habs’ co-director of amateur scouting alongside Martin Lapointe. Obviously, both men know Kravtsov well and everything he can bring to the table if put in the best position to succeed. He would add some much-needed talent and depth in the top-nine where New York wasn’t comfortable playing him. But that doesn’t mean his dynamic ability won’t be more valuable and evident on a rebuilding team that needs him right now more than the high-flying Rangers do. Even though he hasn’t yet shown much of a high ceiling during his limited NHL opportunities, maybe he just needs a chance in a role more suited for him.

He’s the kind of low-risk, possibly high-reward acquisition that the Canadiens are looking for to bring the roster transformation to the next stage. Just like Kirby Dach, Kravstov could be another young player full of promise who finally hits his stride in Montreal.

Let’s Make a Deal

So, what could Hughes offer Drury in exchange for Kravtsov? The asking price isn’t very high considering that the centrepiece of a potential trade was once a Top 10 pick. Essentially, the Rangers are looking for the highest draft pick or the best prospect they can get and it looks like the market has been set at a third-round pick.

Related: Canadiens Mock Trade Deadline: Anderson to Calgary Flames

Given that the Canadiens still own their third-round picks for the next three years, parting with one is absolutely feasible. However, perhaps Hughes could go another route and package one of his three fourth-round selections in this year’s draft along with a prospect to make the proposal more enticing to his counterpart.

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Since the Rangers sent defensive prospect Hunter Skinner to the St. Louis Blues in the Vladimir Tarasenko trade, Drury may be intrigued by Mattias Norlinder, who has fallen down the Habs’ depth chart on defence, or Jayden Struble, whose future in Montreal appears uncertain as he completes his fourth NCAA season with Northeastern University and who is eligible to become a free agent in August. Maybe a Struble, a 2019 second-round pick, for Kravtsov one-for-one deal would work while Norlinder or even Nicolas Beaudin, who was acquired earlier this season from the Chicago Blackhawks, could be coupled with the fourth-round choice. Regardless, Hughes has plenty of options to complete a trade and New York can use the extra cap space to continue bolstering their roster for a playoff run.  

Since being hired just over a year ago, many Habs fans and hockey experts around the leagues have been waiting for Gorton to bring one of his former charges from New York to Montreal. It seems that a perfect opportunity has emerged to make that happen.