3 Canadiens Who Could Be Traded Before the Season Starts

The Montreal Canadiens have started their training camp and preseason games this week. So far in the rookie tournament and the multiple intrasquad scrimmages they have played, there have been a few young players outplaying the veterans and working hard for a spot on the opening night roster. For them to make the team, however, there needs to be some room made.

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Montreal currently has 13 forwards and seven defencemen with NHL contracts – four of which have entry-level contracts (ELC) – leaving only one spot available for the 23-man roster. To make space without losing someone on waivers, the Canadiens will have to make a trade. With that said, here is a look at three players who could be on the move.

1. Mike Hoffman

The Canadiens signed Mike Hoffman last season to help with a struggling power play (PP) and give the team more offence. He is an annual 20-25 goal scorer and usually gets most of those goals while on the PP, having scored 67 career PP goals before joining the Habs. He scored only 15 goals last season – four on the PP – a career-low and struggled under coach Dominic Ducharme like many offensive players did last season. With the team playing a more defensive style, he struggled for the first three months of the season because his defensive game was very lacking; he has always been considered a one-dimensional player. His struggles and $4.5 million contract, which is good until 2023-24, could be a reason he has yet to be moved, with rumours swirling around Montreal that there has been interest in the forward.

Mike Hoffman Montreal Canadiens
Mike Hoffman, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hoffman’s season wasn’t great, but neither was the team’s; he did, however, bounce back under new coach Martin St. Louis after he was hired in January. He scored only four goals before St. Louis was hired. After, he had 11 and looked more comfortable being able to create plays and offence when he was on the ice. Management hopes that other general managers (GM) will look at this change in his play and know that he still has the 20-25 goal potential and want to use him to improve their team. His contract is on the high side for his level of play last season, but it’s reasonable if he can get back to his former scoring pace.

2. Joel Armia

Joel Armia is another Canadien who struggled last season; he is a player who has 20-goal potential but has never been able to reach it. In his first two seasons with the Habs, he was on pace to score around 20 goals, but injuries held him to under 60 games and he only scored 13 and 16, respectively. In the last two seasons, he struggled, scoring only 13 goals in his previous 101 games and only 28 points in that same span. He is a bottom-six player who makes $3.4 million, a high salary for a third or fourth-line player that most teams may question during trade talks.

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Armia is a great stick handler and has good offensive skills, he just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet, but he does have defensive abilities. He is an excellent penalty killer (PK) who was one of the best on the Canadiens last season and a huge reason why they were dominant on the PK during their Stanley Cup run in 2020-21. GM Kent Hughes will pitch this skill to other GMs in any trade talks he will have, and try to sell high on him based on his penalty-killing and defensive play, which is highly coveted in the playoffs. His salary is a hindrance and could be challenging to move, but it isn’t immovable for a guy of his defensive talents; if he can get his offensive game going, it would end up being a valuable contract.

3. Joel Edmundson

Joel Edmundson is the top veteran on the defence for the Canadiens this season. He is a great player in the locker room and does his best to make the rookies feel comfortable when they join the team. This was a big reason why some considered him as a potential captain. Nick Suzuki was named captain, with Edmundson named an alternate captain along with Brendan Gallagher, at Montreal’s annual golf tournament. He missed most of the season last year with a lower back injury and his father’s death, playing only 24 games, and his presence was sorely missed on the Canadiens’ blue line, which struggled mightily last season. He is currently out with a lower-body injury to start training camp and is listed out indefinitely, but management says he shouldn’t be out long.

Joel Edmundson
Joel Edmundson, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Edmundson has one more year left on his contract after this season and is a Stanley Cup winner with the St. Louis Blues. If he can get healthy before the season starts, he could be an excellent asset for any team contending for the Cup and help them secure a playoff spot. He is a big rugged defenceman who can perfectly complement an offensive defenceman with his stay-at-home style. With another season on his contract, whatever team that acquires him will have two seasons of control and can flip him at the trade deadline in his last season and gain assets if they choose. If Montreal decides to trade him, they will lose a lot of veteran presence on the blue line, but at the same time it will open up a spot for one of the young guys to make the team.

The Canadiens have a lot of young players who are very close to making the next step to the NHL. At forward, they have Jesse Ylonen, Filip Mesar, Jan Mysak, Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Juraj Slafkovsky; on defence there’s Jordan Harris, Arber Xhexaj and Kaiden Ghule, who are all left-handed defencemen. To get some of these players into the league, others will have to be moved; the team currently has room for one player, but at least two forwards and three defencemen could make the NHL based on what has been seen from this training camp. It will also be easier for some forwards to make the opening day roster because of injuries to Sean Monahan and Paul Byron.

There is still some time to go in training camp, but with the season starting in less than two weeks, Canadiens management has to make moves soon if they want the younger guys to play in the NHL sooner rather than later.

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