Montreal Canadiens: Why Evgeni Dadonov Could Be Next Tomas Tatar For Habs

Apr 14, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Evgenii Dadonov. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Evgenii Dadonov. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens made a big trade earlier this week. Shea Weber, the team’s captain, was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for veteran winger Evgeni Dadonov.

It promises to be the appetizer on a very busy plate for general manager Kent Hughes this offseason. The Canadiens have 14 picks in the NHL Draft, are rumoured to be in on several other deals, and will likely be trying to clear up their salary cap picture for the next few seasons.

Oh, and star, future Hall of Fame goaltender Carey Price still needs to find out if he can play hockey at all next season. That’s a lot for a general manager to have to deal with right there on its own.

But the first move of the offseason has the potential to be a real home run for the Canadiens. Weber is never going to play hockey again so trading him was a no-brainer. Clearing out his enormous contract and not having to deal with that for the next four years is a sigh of relief for the team’s capologist as well as Hughes.

Vegas clearly wanted Dadonov out, and tried to trade him to the Anaheim Ducks at last year’s trade deadline. He had Anaheim on his list of teams he would not accept a trade to, but the Golden Knights didn’t consult that list before announcing the trade.

It led to an awkward few days around the deadline, but Dadonov ultimately finished the season in Vegas. Now he is on to Montreal where he will play with his fourth organization in the past four seasons. But, he could fit in well with the Habs and turn out to be a great pickup.

Dadonov is entering the final season of his three-year contract that comes with a $5 million cap hit. He signed the contract with the Ottawa Senators where he played the 2020-21 season, before being traded to Vegas where he played last season.

Things haven’t gone terrific for the Russian winger the past two seasons, but the 2020-21 Senators were not a good hockey team which doesn’t help a skilled winger. He did score 13 goals in 55 games which translates to 19 over a full schedule. This past season, Dadonov scored 20 goals and 43 points in 78 games for Vegas.

While everything went right for Vegas for a few years, everything pretty much went wrong this season. Mark Stone, Jack Eichel and Max pacioretty all missed considerable time and Dadonov had a steady rotation of linemates. He was also clearly on the trade block after the Eichel trade, but he put up decent numbers.

After the no-trade debacle, Dadonov finished the season very strong, scoring 16 points in 16 games after the trade deadline. Vegas was clinging to its playoff hopes that whole time and that was when Dadonov played his best hockey of the season.

Dadonov is liked by the analytics community since he can create scoring chances at five on five, and is able to convert on a good number of his own chances. In the right situation, he could score over 20 goals and approach 50 points next season.

Before signing with the Senators, Dadonov had three really strong seasons for the Florida Panthers, where he averaged just under 30 goals and 70 points per season. One of his regular linemates there was Mike Hoffman who just so happens to be on the Canadiens now.

A line of Dadonov and Hoffman flanking Christian Dvorak while getting a lot of offensive zone face-offs could put up strong numbers. In the final year of his contract, Dadonov could fetch a decent return on the trade market if he is on pace for 25 goals and 60 points in the middle of the season. If the Habs agree to retain half his contract for half of a season, the bidders will be even more interested.

The Canadiens have traded their captain to the Vegas Golden Knights once before. Part of the return for Pacioretty was Tomas Tatar who hadn’t fit in well in Vegas. He found the right linemates in Montreal and was excellent alongside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher for three seasons.

The Weber trade is a good one for the Habs already because they don’t have to worry about salary cap implications for nearly half a decade. But if Dadonov can look like his old self for three months with the Habs, instead of the three years Tatar gave them, a contender will definitely offer up a second round pick and a prospect for the rental piece.

Dadonov is a much different player than Tatar as he is more of a purely offensive player, but if he can start next season like he finished last season, this trade will get the Habs much more than a veteran winger.

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