The Montreal Canadiens have one of the best lines in hockey. If they interrupt that chemistry with a trade, who is the best fit to fill in as a replacement and continue their two-way dominance?
The Montreal Canadiens have one of the best two-way lines in hockey. A look at any advanced statistics will quickly tell you that the trio of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher contributes offence for the Habs but is even better defensively.
If you look at possession stats like Corse-For percentage, Gallagher ranks first in the league, Tatar is second and Danault is fourth. The only player that interferes with them ranking 1-2-3 in order is former Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty who is having a terrific year with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The three forwards were put together early last season and though Claude Julien likes to mix his lines, he barely touched this line. The old saying goes, it if ain’t broke, don’t fix it and that certainly applies here. There are a lot of things broken around the Habs roster, mostly bones this season, but that top line is the least of their coach’s worries.
It is a nice tip of the cap to Habs management over the years that they were able to acquire this dominant line at bargain bin prices. Gallagher was a fifth round draft pick, Tatar was a throw-in to the Pacioretty trade that also saw super-rookie Nick Suzuki and a second round pick land in Montreal and Danault was acquired with a second round pick for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.
The three players also have a combined cap hit of less than $11.7 million. The entire lines makes almost exactly the same amount of money as Auston Matthews. So, not only is the line the best possession line in hockey and they were acquired for next to nothing, they also come at a bargain price.
That last part will not last forever though. All three of them have one year left on their contracts and will be looking for big raises. The Canadiens could elect to bring them all back next season, push for the playoffs and risk losing them all for nothing. Or they could move one of them, possibly even as soon as Monday before this year’s trade deadline passes.
Tatar is the name that continues to pop up in trade rumours most often. With the high prices being paid for top six wingers right now, it would make sense for Marc Bergevin to field offers for Tatar and pull the trigger if he gets a great deal. If he does get a huge offer of picks and prospects, who will replace Tatar on one of the best two-way lines in hockey next season?
Let’s take a quick look at three potential options: