Montreal Canadiens Still Looking to Trade Jeff Petry

The offseason is in full swing for the Montreal Canadiens. They won the NHL Draft Lottery, giving them the right to decide if Shane Wright will be the first overall pick in 2022. Knowing they have a pick that can help to address a team need and be the best player available makes one aspect of general manager Kent Hughes’ job easier. But the Jeff Petry saga is one that offers no certainty.

If Petry does get traded, that leaves big shoes to fill on the blue line. Despite his start to the 2021-22 season, he was a top-pair defenceman for the club, playing in all situations and eating a lot of minutes. With the youth coming up, asking one of them to step into that role is too much to ask. They will need a veteran defenseman to help mentor and insulate the youth, something that will be a factor in any Petry trade.

Petry Trade Request Still On

There’s an old saying, a happy wife makes for a happy life. Basically, when your partner is happy, life is easier. That holds especially true for a professional athlete who relies heavily on their partner. Due to the pandemic and the restrictions that were in place in the province of Quebec, Mrs. Petry had too much to handle without help, so as a family, they chose to have her return home to the USA with the kids to have that assistance, which weighed heavily on Petry, who missed his family and thus distracted his focus from his own play.

Jeff Petry Montreal Canadiens
Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Petry confirmed that in his season-ending press conference, saying, “And for my family, the decision to ultimately have them go back home was a very difficult decision. We both love this city. We’ve loved it for eight years. It’s such a good setup for my kids in school, and the biggest decision was because it was hard for my family and her family to come visit and help, which, you guys have seen videos of my kids, it’s a wild house.”

Hughes confirmed in an interview on May 5 on TSN that he was still looking to move Petry. Essentially, he repeated that he would make a deal that makes sense for Petry as well as the Canadiens. This means he won’t trade him just to trade him; he will get traded for value. That begs the question, what is his value?

Petry Helped his Trade Value

Under former head coach Dominique Ducharme, Petry’s play plummeted. As mentioned above, his home situation played a part, but a lack of communication was ultimately the downfall. 

“There was definitely doubt in my game, a lack of confidence. I knew I was capable of what I had done in previous years. I think Marty coming in, having several conversations with him, really helped”

Jeff Petry

It was a substantial difference statistically under Ducharme. He had lost himself, and his game became a shell of the player he had been in the five years previously in a Canadiens uniform. In 38 games played (GP), he scored only one goal and six points. At five-on-five, Petry had an on-ice goals for percentage (OIGF%) of 49 percent and an anemic points per 60 (P/60) of 0.36.

Related: Should the Canadiens Trade the First Overall Pick

But once interim head coach Martin St. Louis arrived, Petry rediscovered his game. In 30 GP, he scored 5 goals and 21 points, and his five-on-five OIGF% rose four points to 53.5 and his P/60 to 1.96, five times its previous value. Not only had his offensive game improved, but his defensive game also returned as well, showing the rest of the league that Petry was still a quality top-four puck-moving right-handed defender.

Possible Trade Destinations for Petry

Essentially, anywhere Petry will go, it won’t be in Canada. As mentioned above, the issues around his need for a change of scenery had to do with restrictions causing difficulty in getting his wife help day-to-day from their immediate family. With his wife from Texas and his family in Michigan, the United States is where he will end up. 

The first choice would have to be the Detroit Red Wings. Petry is from the area, and his family is well-liked there, as his father won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers. The Red Wings will have the cap flexibility and need for a veteran presence on defense to help insulate Calder Trophy finalist Moritz Seider. The issue is what the return will be. Will it be a second-round pick, a middling prospect, and will that be enough to convince Hughes to make a deal?

The Dallas Stars are another choice, as his wife is from Texas, and going there would bring them close to family as well. Dallas is likely to lose John Klingberg to free agency. Petry would almost perfectly slot into their second pair and provide the same playing style and level of production. Also, Petry’s $6.25 million salary cap hit for three more seasons will likely cost less money and term than Klingberg’s next contract demands. Again, the issue here is value in return. If Hughes isn’t retaining his salary, will he get more than what he could from Detroit, a second-round pick and low-level prospect? Maybe, maybe not.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

An interesting team that could be a fit for Petry is the New Jersey Devils. It wouldn’t be any further from his family’s homes than it was in Montreal, and the Devils are looking to take a step forward this offseason. With PK Subban likely leaving in free agency, an opening on the blue line for a veteran right-hander will be there. Petry could insulate their young defensive core as well as aid the unit offensively. 

One player that has been rumored to be of interest to Montreal is restricted free agent Pavel Zacha, represented by Hughes’ former agency, Quartexx. There could be a deal worked out there, as he would provide size and skill, while the Devils can replace him in their top-nine with either the second overall pick in 2022 or graduating Alexander Holtz from the American Hockey League (AHL).

It is highly likely that Petry has played his last game in a Canadiens uniform. Any deal would likely fall closer to the NHL Entry Draft. With Montreal hosting the draft this summer, it’s just another unfolding drama that adds to the tension and excitement the fan base is demonstrating as Hughes continues to re-shape the franchise.

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