Potential Canadiens Trade Partners for 2022 Trade Deadline

It’s been firmly established the Montreal Canadiens should be sellers before this 2021-22 season’s trade deadline. However, it takes two to tango. Who will be the buyers?

There are a lot of factors to consider, including cap space, current NHL standings and, of course, the needs of teams potentially looking to go on a long playoff run. There’s no better time to play mix and match with Canadiens players who are potentially available, like pending-unrestricted free agent Ben Chiarot, for example.

Ben Chiarot Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At 6-21-3, last in the Eastern Conference and 16 points out of the second wild-card spot, the Habs are probably game, anyway. So, who are their likeliest partners?

5. Anaheim Ducks

With nearly $12 million in cap space, the Anaheim Ducks are likely salivating at the beak at the possibilities. Few imagined them leading the Pacific Division at this stage of this season or possibly even in a playoff spot after three straight non-postseason campaigns. You’d have to go back another, to 2016-17, for the last time they so much as won a playoff game. Needless to say, the Ducks are feeling good about themselves.

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To play devil’s advocate though, Ducks management (sans Bob Murray) is probably looking at the season as a stepping stone to future success and interim general manager Jeff Solomon may not be eyeing a big move. That means the chances of Maxime Comtois becoming a Hab aren’t as high as some would like… although it would conceivably be far easier to trade for him this non-productive season of his, relative to last (once he returns from injury anyway).

4. Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche have made it to Round 2 at least in each of the last three seasons. Many had them as Stanley Cup favorites heading into 2021-22, and yet they’re precariously close to finding themselves out of the playoff picture, in the Central Division’s third spot. What gives?

It turns out their goaltending gives… up a lot of goals. It’s clearly the weak link, with a 26th-ranked 3.31 goals allowed per game. In other words, the Avalanche need an upgrade, and the Habs could potentially be inching into full-on rebuild territory, which may call for goalie Carey Price to be traded.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Remember, in the eyes of everyone around the league, Price is an elite goalie, one who effectively carried the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final last summer. He could be exactly what the Avalanche need to reach the promised land. There are hiccups though. For starters, he has yet to return to action after leaving the NHL’s player assistance program. The Avalanche are unlikely to make a trade blind.

Then there’s the matter of Price’s contract. Even if you ignore the no-movement clause, which Price waived to be left unprotected at the NHL Expansion Draft last summer, there’s still the matter of the $10.5 million cap hit and four seasons left under contract. If a deal were to get done, it would have to take some creative problem solving on both parts.

The Avalanche are in no condition to pay a 34-year-old goalie that much for that long, with Nathan MacKinnon headed to unrestricted free agency in 2023. They’d sooner address their goaltending this offseason, with Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz both hitting the open market themselves. Of course, the other way to look at it is, they’ll be needing a goalie. Price is better than anyone projected to be available. Just a lot more expensive.

3. New York Rangers

The Atlantic Division is off limits for all intents and purposes. Even though the Canadiens wouldn’t necessarily mind trading an expiring contract within the division, a rival might not be so keen to trade prospects the other way. So, that just leaves the Metropolitan, which has only three clear-cut playoff teams, in the East.

The Washington Capitals have the least amount of cap space of the three. Plus, with Nicklas Backstrom coming back after a lengthy absence, the Capitals are probably keener to assess his impact as a theoretical mid-season acquisition.

You can also scratch the Carolina Hurricanes off the list. After all, the Canadiens reportedly didn’t want to trade with them even with the risk of an offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi looming overhead (from ‘Carolina GM insists revenge wasn’t part of Jesperi Kotkaniemi deal,’ Montreal Gazette, September 6, 2021). Ultimately, there’s probably too much bad blood there, even with the ex-general manager Marc Bergevin having been let go.

That brings us to the Canadiens’ new vice president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton and his ex-team, the New York Rangers. Sure, Gorton may not have appreciated having been fired by the Rangers a few months ago, but this is a man who has relatively intimate knowledge of the team in its current incarnation, as he built the thing for crying out loud.

Jeff Gorton
Ex-New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton – (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Furthermore, the Rangers put on net the fifth-least amount of shots on net per game (28.7, less than even the Habs, for some context). With a fair amount of cap space on tap, they could probably be convinced to add some extra offense, one point out of first place overall. Make the call, Jeff. You may not want to, but, in the absence of a new GM, you’re the one who has to.

2. Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are in playoff contention right now, but nothing is guaranteed. A big part of the reason nothing is guaranteed? Their 31st-ranked penalty kill at 68.8%. The Canadiens are at 71.0% for the record. So, no need to laugh out loud or anything (just chuckle quietly).

Rather, it’s the perfect opportunity to extend an olive branch, in the form of one Ben Chiarot, maybe? Remember, Chiarot played for the Jets from 2013-2019, so there’s an undeniable degree of familiarity there.

Related: Canadiens Can Theoretically Trade Chiarot for First-Round Pick

Sure, Chiarot eventually left for the Canadiens, but there’s little indication he did so for anything other than money (which was undisputedly his right, to be clear). In any case, while with the Jets, Chiarot was given regular time with Dustin Byfuglien for example. The Jets even tried to resign him before he inked a deal with the Habs (from ‘Friesen: Jets lose more grit as Chiarot bolts for Habs,’ Winnipeg Sun, July 4, 2019). This could be a marriage made in heaven.

Ben Chiarot - Winnipeg Jets
Chiarot with the Winnipeg Jets – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

True, Chiarot is a big part of the Canadiens’ horrible penalty kill (a team-leading 2:50 of ice time on it). However, he was also a big part of the PK last playoffs, when it led the league with a 91.8% success rate. Things like that tend to stick out more to potential suitors, of which the Canadiens are likely to have many for Chiarot…

1. Edmonton Oilers

With six straight losses, the Edmonton Oilers are struggling right now and the usual suspects are largely to blame: lack of secondary scoring beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, defensive shortcomings and lack of reliable goaltending. The Canadiens could theoretically alleviate the pressure on all three fronts, although Price would be a hard sell based on his contract and the Oilers’ lack of space.

If the Canadiens are looking to tear it all down, Brendan Gallagher would be a contract to at least consider moving. He may even waive his  no-trade clause to move out West. For the record, he’s originally from Edmonton, but grew up in British Columbia. However, his contract, with a hit of $6.5 million, is hardly a breeze to fit under the ceiling either.

Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher
Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher – (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chiarot meanwhile is a decent fit, even if simply due to the 27th-ranked 33.3 shots against the Oilers give up each game. He fits the bill of what the Oilers would want, especially right now, with Kris Russell on injured reserve. The way the Oilers have valued Russell’s grit too, Chiarot seemingly would fit right in, the earlier the better, in fact.

Why wait until the trade deadline, in other words? All due respect to the Habs, they’re not getting any better. Time to steer the tank into the skid.

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