Welcome to The Hockey Writers’ 2023 Offseason Trade Targets series for the Detroit Red Wings. During it, we will be looking at a handful of players from each NHL team who the Red Wings should consider pursuing this summer.
The latest installment of this series will be taking a look at a non-playoff team in the Montreal Canadiens. They finished the 2022-23 season with 68 points. As a result of the recent draft lottery, they hold the fifth-overall selection in the 2023 Draft.
- Montreal Canadiens Projected 2023-24 Cap Space: $8,490,834
- Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA): 10
- Restricted Free Agents (RFA): 9
The Canadiens have decent cap flexibility but could benefit from a salary dump deal. They have a considerable number of free agents and there’s a good chance that not a lot of them re-sign.
Christian Dvorak had a down year in 2022-23. His 28 points in 64 games were good for 0.44 points per game (P/GP), the lowest of his career since 2018-19. He is not a player to target for offence.
Related: Red Wings’ 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: New York Rangers
Dvorak is an ideal bottom-six center. On a Stanley Cup-contending team, he’s probably a fourth-line pivot. Depending on where Andrew Copp is deployed, Dvorak could replace him as the third-line center. Copp also plays either wing, so they can keep both if need be.
Robby Fabbri could be an interesting project for the Canadiens. He has been effective when healthy, but staying healthy has been an issue for him. With Pius Suter a UFA, a trade for Dvorak would make for a seamless replacement. Perhaps Fabbri plus a third-round pick in 2023 pushes the transaction through.
Let’s be clear from the start, Brendan Gallagher is not the same player he once was. Injuries have derailed his career of late and he only dressed for 37 games in 2022-23. He’s a player with an intense work ethic and leadership who puts everything out on the ice.
On the Red Wings, he’d still be a top-nine forward. I could see him starting as a third-liner and then moving up and down the lineup as needed. If he becomes rejuvenated offensively he’s a lock for the top six.
At 25-50 percent salary retained, Gallagher for a 2023 second-round pick feels fair for both sides. The Red Wings have several second-round selections and the Canadiens could use the cap relief. If the Red Wings make the pick conditional based on the number of games that Gallagher plays in, that would eliminate some risk for general manager Steve Yzerman. If he plays less than 40 games, the pick becomes a third-round selection.
Arber Xhekaj can hit like a truck. He also likes to hit as evidenced by his 157 hits in 51 games played. His offence isn’t there yet, however, with only 13 points in the regular season.
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This season Xhekaj was primarily a third-pairing defender. He could be at least that for the Red Wings. Acquiring him would crowd the left side of the defence, but he’s worth the trouble.
Related: Wild’s 2023 Offseason Trade Targets: Toronto Maple Leafs
Because Xhekaj is a left-handed defender, sending a left-handed defender the other way seems fair. Jordan Oesterle doesn’t feel like enough of an impact player for the Canadiens to target. They may like what they see in Olli Määttä. A one-for-one deal feels like it makes the most sense. If the Canadiens would agree to Oesterle plus a third or second-round pick, I’d make that deal instead. That would leave Chiarot or Määttä as trade bait for a forward.
These two rebuilding teams could help each other out with these trades. Any of these would add more toughness to the Red Wings. Time will tell if any will transpire.