The Montreal Canadiens added more depth on defence as they traded a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Erik Gustafsson. The Flyers retained 50% of Gustafsson’s salary. The Canadiens also added defenceman Jon Merrill from the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
Montreal occupies the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division with a comfortable six-point lead ahead of the Calgary Flames, who have played three more games than the Habs. The club is preparing to make a deep playoff run, and by adding the two defenders, they add depth to their blueline in case of an injury. They are currently without defenceman Ben Chiarot, who is day-to-day with a hand injury.
As for the Flyers, they are four points behind the Boston Bruins for the fourth seed in the East Division, while having played two more games this season. They have had a disappointing campaign so far, after finishing second in the Metropolitan Division in the 2019-20 season. The club has decided to sell off two of their pending free agents, as they traded Michael Raffl to the Washington Capitals, as well.
Montreal Add Offensive Defenceman
After losing Victor Mete to the Ottawa Senators through waivers, the Canadiens added Merrill and Gustafsson through trades. Both players will have to go through a seven-day quarantine, which will include testing, before playing with their new club.
In 2018-19, Gustafsson had an impressive career year, scoring 17 goals and posting 60 points in 79 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. His production dipped the following season as he was traded to the Flames mid-way through the season, totalling six goals and 29 points through 66 games in 2019-20. He then signed a one-year, $3 million deal in Philidelphia, with the expectation of chipping in offensively at five-on-five and on the power play. Instead, he wasn’t a good fit for the Flyers, scoring one goal and posting 10 points in 29 games, and has been a healthy scratch at times.
The Canadiens have added a left-shot defenceman with offensive upside for half his salary and giving up nearly nothing as they traded a seventh-round pick. Gustafsson is expected to be a depth defender for the club but could slot in next to captain Shea Weber at some point this season and in the playoffs. If he can reignite his offensive production, he will be a great addition to Montreal. His play with the club will be a strong indication of how free agency will go for him and whether or not the team decides to re-sign him this offseason.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.