Montreal Canadiens: Could a Sam Bennett Trade Make Sense For Habs?

Mar 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Victor Mete Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Victor Mete Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had a press conference earlier this week and he seemed to be tempering expectations ahead of the trade deadline.

He mentioned in that press conference that Ben Chiarot would be back before then end of the regular season, so they can’t put him on long term injury reserve and add a player that makes the same amount of money.

Basically, the Habs can add a player at the trade deadline that makes $1.7 million. A penny more and they will have to find a way to move money out.

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That is easier said than done this season. First of all, the Canadiens are in an all Canadian Division this season because they are not allowed to cross the border to the United States. If they were to trade for a player that currently plays for an American based team, that player would have to quarantine for two weeks before joining the Canadiens on the ice.

That would be difficult for anyone, especially the veteran, depth type of player that Bergevin is likely targeting. Imagine asking 36 year old Eric Staal to sit in a hotel room for 14 days and do push ups to keep in shape. Then take a defensive zone draw against Connor McDavid the next night.

It almost makes more sense for the Canadiens to trade within their own division, because they could hurdle many of the quarantine rules that way. It’s usually standard practice to avoid making a trade with a division rival, but this year just might have to be an exception.

Ever since Victor Mete went public with a trade demand (his agent did anyway), I’ve been curious about what teams might look to acquire him. Mete has an intriguing package of speed and skill and is still just 22 years old. He has some things to work on defensively, but he shouldn’t be written off just yet.

With the Habs making him a healthy scratch for the past two games, even with Chiarot out of the lineup, it made me wonder if something could be imminent on the trade front.

One idea that seems to make sense is to trade Mete for another player who asked for a trade and that is Sam Bennett. The two players share an agent and both went public with their request to be moved around the same time. Could swapping them for each kill two birds with one stone so to speak?

The Canadiens could use a player like Bennett as their fourth line centre. Jake Evans currently occupies that spot, but he hasn’t been all that effective lately. I’d be surprised if Bergevin didn’t add someone who can play down the middle of the ice. At the very least, Bennett could play the wing and give them an insurance policy at centre.

Right now, if Phillip Danault, or Evans can’t play a game, left winger Paul Byron has to move to the middle of the ice. Luckily for the Canadiens, their top three centres, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Danault have not missed a single game yet. If one of them did, who is the third line centre?

It could be Bennett, who would at least provide a little depth at the position. He isn’t having his best season, but Bennett is the type of player who can become a really good role player after being dealt. In Calgary, everyone remembers him as the fourth overall pick who was supposed to become a first line centre.

When he’s moved, he will become known as a gritty, versatile depth player that brings a lot of energy to a bottom six. Especially in the postseason. Bennett has been great in every postseason as Flames fans rave about how he is built for the playoffs.

Last year, he centred a third line with Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube and they were instrumental in Calgary advancing past the Winnipeg Jets and giving eventful Stanley Cup runner up Dallas Stars a good run.

Before last season, Bennett was a consistent 10-15 goal scorer and 25-30 point getter. In the past two playoffs, Bennett has risen to the occasion and scored 13 points in 15 postseason games.

Having him as the Habs fourth line centre with Corey Perry and Paul Byron on his wings would give the Canadiens tremendous scoring depth and a line that is a real pain in the side of the opponent in a playoff series.

The only road block in this type of trade is Bennett’s contract. His cap hit is $2.55 million for this season before he becomes a restricted free agent. That’s too much for the Habs to take on if Mete is going the other way with a $735,000 cap hit.

If the Habs are going to acquire another forward, they could afford to move out Artturi Lehkonen in the deal. His $2.4 million cap hit is almost identical to Bennett’s and the Flames could even retain the $75,000 difference between the two. Lehkonen has been the Habs extra forward lately and has been a healthy scratch for eight of the Habs last 14 games. Adding Bennett would make him the Canadiens 14th forward.

The Flames could use Lehkonen as they have tried several right wingers this season that just don’t seem to fit. Dominik Simon has played on every line and has no chemistry anywhere in the Flames lineup. Joakim Nordstrom was brought in to kill penalties but his even strength play has been so horrid they can’t risk putting him in the lineup.

Maybe a Lehkonen for Bennett trade makes the most sense. Maybe the Flames do want Mete too since they have been trying to make Nikita Nesterov work as their sixth defender.

To really balance things out, if the Habs were to send Mete and Lehkonen to Calgary, the Flames could send Oliver Kylington back to Montreal with Bennett. Kylington has blazing speed, but like Mete, has had trouble fitting into the Flames lineup.

Bennett and Kylington’s combined cap hit is $3,337,500 while Lehkonen and Mete make $3,135,000 against the cap.

The Canadiens would get a playoff warrior type of fourth line centre and a depth defenceman with some terrific speed and skill. The Flames would get the trusted right winger they thought they had in Nordstrom or Simon and a third pairing defender that can bring more to the table than Nesterov.

Trades are going to be hard to come by this year. Trading within your division might make the most sense because it would avoid the quarantine period where you have acquired a player but can’t see him for two weeks.

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Also, the Flames play in Toronto the next two nights before a pair of games in Ottawa. The Habs could literally send a car drop Lehkonen and Mete off and pick up Bennett and Kylington to avoid any type of quarantine. Bennett could be in the Habs lineup tonight.