In this Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, we’ll look ahead to the trade deadline approaching on Monday, March 21. Despite the team’s recent success under interim head coach Martin St. Louis, there will be no change to general manager Kent Hughes’ plan or the rumor mill, with several trade rumors swirling around some Canadiens veterans. The market will ultimately dictate what he decides, which places him in an advantageous position.
Canadiens’ Defencemen Gaining Interest
According to Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period, Brett Kulak will be gone by deadline day. During the discussion on TSN 690 on March 16, when asked about the chances that Kulak would be retained by the Canadiens, he placed the odds at zero.
Related: Insider: Montreal Canadiens Looking to Add Centers
Hughes spoke about Kulak during his press conference after trading Ben Chiarot, “We like Brett Kulak, we don’t have an interest in moving the player. If there’s an offer we can’t refuse, we’ll consider it. But I can tell you we aren’t actively calling teams to move Kulak.”
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
With the need to keep a veteran defenceman or two as a buffer to allow the young defensive prospects to develop patiently, Hughes will not be pressed to deal the pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) so long as he can reasonably re-sign Kulak as an inexpensive option without a raise on his expiring deal that currently pays him $1.85 million. Contract term would also be necessary to be kept to two years or less, if not, then the door will be open to dealing Kulak for some value, especially as the Edmonton Oilers are now rumored to be interested in his services.
Hughes has so far been steadfast in his demands for the full value in any trade, however, with the deadline approaching, and a lack of an extension in hand, he may move Kulak for the best possible offer.
In the same post-trade press conference on March 18, Hughes was clear, he isn’t giving away any secrets saying, “I don’t know that I want to announce publicly to the whole world what our objective is, we’re not looking to make a fire sale here.” However, he did specify that Jeff Petry is certainly available. “We’ll trade Jeff Petry if we can, given the family situation, but we’re only going to do that if it’s a deal that makes sense for us.”
During the trade deadline episode for THW Podcast affiliate HabsUnfiltered, Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey shared that any trade will be made in the summer, due to the salary cap implications. He did leave some wiggle room for the possibility that a team incurs an injury that necessitates the addition of a top-pairing defenceman to compete now.
Will Canadiens Keep or Trade Lehkonen?
Eric Engels of Sportsnet named Artturi Lehkonen a hot commodity on the trade market. Hughes doesn’t have to trade him, and he can set a high trade value and make a deal now while his trade value is highest.
Since the Chicago Blackhawks traded Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning and received a princely sum, the rumored return Hughes was seeking for Artturi Lehkonen, a first-round pick, isn’t that far fetched anymore.
With the added interest, and contending teams looking to add depth to compete for a Stanley Cup, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team pay the asking price to acquire a quality, 26-year-old defensive forward who is a proven playoff performer. Especially as Lehkonen is still inexpensive at only $2.3 million this season, and any team acquiring him retains his restricted free agent rights for next season as well, meaning they could add him to the lineup for two playoff runs.
Canadiens Moving Weber’s Contract?
In a recent episode of the Jeff Marek Show, Elliotte Friedman spoke about the possibility of the Arizona Coyotes trading for Shea Weber’s contract prior to the deadline. With four more years at $7.875 million on the cap, and only $6 million in actual dollars spent, that should be an extremely attractive contract for the Coyotes to add.
Arizona is getting ready to move into Arizona State University’s Sun Devils Arena, which is expected to hold only five thousand fans and have very limited income possibilities with parking and concessions. Because of this financial reality, they will need to find any way possible to lower operational costs while still being able to reach the salary cap floor next season.
Moving Weber’s contract is also helpful to the Canadiens so the price shouldn’t be all that elevated to make a deal happen, perhaps the Habs add a mid-round draft pick to the contract in return for a seventh-round pick from Arizona to make things seem more legitimate.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Canadiens’ roster will be facing an upheaval, so keep an eye on our THW Podcast Network for all your hockey needs, as well as THW’s affiliated podcast Habs Unfiltered for the latest Canadiens news, notes, and rumors.