With the Montreal Canadiens hosting the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and holding the first overall pick, they should be poised to launch their rebuild with a key asset in whoever they select.
The debate over whether they should select Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky rages on, however, if they can add this pick as well, that debate ends. Also, the fireworks that would go off if the Canadiens were able to pick first and second while hosting the draft would be impressive.
But what if they had both the first and second pick? They can choose both players and silence all the naysayers, except for those who want to select Logan Cooley. Seriously though, having the one-two punch of the top center and top winger in this draft class added to your prospect pool instantly jumps the rebuild into high gear. But it will no doubt cost a heavy price.
The Devils Move Up
The New Jersey Devils’ lottery luck has continued into 2022. They won the second of two lottery drawings to move up from fifth to the second slot. It’s the fourth time the Devils have been draft lottery winners since 2011, when they won the top pick in both the 2017 and 2019 Drafts.
Those two lottery wins added centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, which likely means they will likely not choose either of the top two centers available at the 2022 draft in Wright or Cooley but will lean towards adding Slafkovsky. So if they do decide to trade that pick, it would have to be for a player that can make the impact he would be projected to make.
New Jersey Devils Open to Trade
The Devils are nearing the end of their rebuild period and have made it known that they are willing to trade their top pick in 2022. They want to compete for the playoffs immediately, which means they have needs that must be filled with known, fully developed players who can meet those needs.
They require added scoring on the wings, a puck-moving defenceman for their system, and some veteran leadership as well. The Devils are going to make a list of players they’d be willing to have in return which could make things interesting. Keeping in mind again that at second overall, the Devils can select a true power forward, Slafkovsky. This is a rare commodity to have available in the NHL today.
At What Cost?
This is an opportunity for Hughes to turbocharge the rebuild with high-quality prospects. Until now, the Canadiens have used the quantity approach, selecting 38 prospects, with 14 more picks available this draft, in the hopes that a handful surpasses their projected ceilings. But to do so would take far more than spare parts added to a Jonathan Drouin package to make that happen.
The expectation is that the Devils, like any other team, would want multiple assets that fit their needs. A roster player, a high pick, and/or a highly-touted prospect could be a package they would entertain. Especially if that roster player brings what they require.
It wouldn’t be a surprise that the name of Josh Anderson, a productive power forward, could be on that list the Devils are assembling. He would fit into the style they play and can complement their top-six very well just as he does in Montreal. His $5.5 million for the next five years brings cost certainty and the 28-year-old right-winger brings speed to burn, experience, veteran leadership, and an ability to score 20 to 30 goals per season with his 6-foot-4 220-pound power forward frame. He would need to waive his modified no-trade clause (NTC) if New Jersey is one of the eight teams on his no-trade list.
The Canadiens would still need to add to Anderson. They could add the Calgary Flames 2022 first-round pick they acquired in the Tyler Toffoli trade. Or what could be more enticing is the addition of controversial prospect Logan Mailloux. His raw skills make him projected to become a top-four puck-moving defenceman in the near future, which could be very enticing for New Jersey. It would also simplify the Mailloux’s professional life as he would no longer be in the glare of the Montreal market. But also simplify Hughes’ life as he would have made a positive move from the controversy and avoided having to decide to renounce the pick, or, to hope the player refuses to sign his entry-level contract so that the Canadiens can get a compensatory second-round pick.
Even though the Devils (as of 23 May 2022) have approximately $25 million in cap space available in the 2022-23 season, they do still need to make room to add contracts and more cap space can’t hurt their chances of retaining their core and supporting them properly. They would probably add the final year of the $3.4 million cap hit held by winger Andreas Johnsson who also has a modified NTC which begins in July 2022. He had been relegated to a bottom-six role.
In the end, the Canadiens have the luxury of patience to allow their draft selections time to develop before bringing them up to the NHL. They also would need to trade out players who could help with the development of their younger players as well as assets that would be too good for New Jersey to refuse. That would mean the Canadiens would have to trade out quality players, picks, and prospects. If it were for a similar package mentioned here, it would be worthwhile for a team like Montreal which is in a rebuild, to acquire the one-two punch of the top two picks. Even if it also means that they will be in the running for a lottery pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 28 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist to guide him in informing his readers and his goal of being a trusted source of information and entertainment.