The Montreal Canadiens didn’t necessarily need to sign Mathieu Perreault. Even excluding fellow-winger Paul Byron, who is now out five months, the Habs have fairly decent depth up front with nine healthy players who are projected to line up on the wing.
Granted, Perreault is a nice-to-have, as another Francophone, especially for those who saw the Habs recently failing to dress a Quebec-born player in a game for the first time as a black mark in the franchise’s history. However, he’s yet one more winger who can theoretically play a top-nine if not a top-six role in a pinch.
While the Canadiens are potentially done with free agency, the trade market is a definite possibility. Trading a winger may be the best way for the Habs to address bigger needs facing the team, namely a lack of mobility on defense. Here are the likeliest Canadiens wingers to go the other way in any such deal:
3. Josh Anderson
There may be some buyer’s remorse sinking for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin regarding Josh Anderson. Anderson started off last season fairly strong, making the seven-year, $38.5 million deal he signed with the Habs look like a good one.
After all, the nine goals Anderson scored in the season’s first 13 games put him on pace for well over 50 in a full 82-game season. Of course, that was unrealistic, but him at least matching the 27 he scored in 2018-19 for the Columbus Blue Jackets seemed like a fair bet.
Ultimately, Anderson went cold, scoring just eight goals the rest of the way. Technically, the 17 he scored in 52 games did put him on pace for 27 markers in a full season, coincidentally enough. However, the Canadiens can’t reasonably be sure if Anderson is actually a 27-goal scorer considering he’s only done it the one time in his career, or someone who just got hot to start the season and is actually a player they can count on to score just eight every 39 games.
Furthermore, Anderson finishing with as many points as Max Domi, for whom he was traded and who was healthy scratched by the Blue Jackets, was not a good look. Add in his underwhelming production during the playoffs, his clutch two-goal performance in Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning notwithstanding, and it makes sense for the Canadiens to consider all options at their disposal and potentially move him.
Now, it’s not likely to happen, even though a power forward like Anderson would likely be in fairly high demand. In fact, it’s unlikely to happen mainly because of that fact. He’s still someone who can throw his body around and create space in the offensive zone, chipping in the odd goal all the while. In retrospect, his deal might be a bit rich, but Bergevin probably values him in accordance with how much he paid him, in spite of everything.
2. Jonathan Drouin
Truth be told, both Anderson has a modified no-trade clause to boot, similar to Jonathan Drouin. Drouin’s is more limited in nature, though. According to CapFriendly, Anderson is entitled to an eight-team no-trade list and Drouin a three-team one. Even so, it’s hard to believe Drouin wouldn’t at least consider any trade out of town, considering his complicated situation with the Canadiens.
After taking a leave of absence from the team in April and missing the playoffs due to personal reasons, Drouin will reportedly be ready for training camp. However, after being made available to the Seattle Kraken at the NHL Expansion Draft, Drouin clearly isn’t worth what he once was, especially not to the Canadiens.
True, that means the Canadiens are unlikely to get much in exchange, let alone the puck-moving, mobile defenseman they need to truly replace Shea Weber. However, just getting his $5.5 million contract off the books could be valuable to make a separate, bigger move.
1. Artturi Lehkonen
Of course, with Weber presumably set to go on long-term injured reserve, the Canadiens would theoretically be poised to recoup his entire cap hit. In such an instance, cap space would become less valuable to the Canadiens, albeit just slightly in a world in which the salary cap will stay flat at $81.5 million for the foreseeable future.
As a result, someone like Artturi Lehkonen, could be traded as part of a bigger package for someone the Canadiens would need more. Lehkonen remains unsigned for now, but as a restricted free agent who earned just $2.4 million last season, he won’t break the Habs’ bank or that of any potential suitor.
While having scored the most significant goal in recent Canadiens history, to get the Habs into the Stanley Cup Final, Lehkonen was still a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs, playing 17 of 22 games. So, it’s not a stretch to say the Canadiens don’t value Lehkonen as much they should, even if he is arguably Bergevin’s biggest success story at the 10 NHL Entry Drafts over which he’s presided.
Ultimately, on the Canadiens, with as much depth on the wings as they have, Lehkonen is little more than a fourth-liner. On most other teams, he would be a middle-six forward easy, meaning he probably holds more value elsewhere. If he were to be traded, there’s no doubt the Canadiens would miss his tenacity and propensity to drive play. However, moving Lehkonen is a hypothetically easy decision to make if Bergevin can parlay his relative lack of worth to the Canadiens into someone who fills a bigger hole in the lineup in the process.