Montreal Canadiens: Ethan Bear A Sensible Buy-Low Trade Target

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: Ethan Bear (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: Ethan Bear (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens were clear sellers at the NHL trade deadline. They shipped out Ben Chiarot, Tyler Toffoli, Artturi Lehkonen and Brett Kulak in a bit of a firesale during the 2021-22 season.

In return they picked up a couple of first round picks, a pair of second round picks and a few intriguing prospects including Justin Barron, Ty Smilanic and Emil Heineman. They will likely be sellers again at the 2023 trade deadline, and should work through this offseason with the thinking that the playoffs are a few years away.

But that doesn’t mean they have to trade everyone for draft picks. Nor does it mean they can’t acquire a player if the fit is right. In fact, they are in a position where trading a draft pick for a young roster player is an excellent idea.

First of all, the Canadiens have 14 picks in the upcoming NHL Draft. Adding that many players to the prospect pipeline at the same time is enticing, but also guarantees they won’t be able to sign all of them. Team’s can only have 50 players under contract at any time and can’t afford to give out a dozen or more contracts to 20 year old players in the same season.

So it makes sense to spread these picks out. That could include trading a late pick for a 2023 pick in the same round, or combining two picks to move up and get an earlier selection.

Or, if the right player is available, it could make sense to trade a pick for a roster player. The right player is available, and that is Ethan Bear.

What makes him the right player for the Canadiens right now? A couple of things. First of all he isn’t going to cost a first round pick. The Canadiens are not in a place where they should be trading away first round picks. They are also likely to trade away Jeff Petry and don’t want to force young defenders like Justin Barron or Kaiden Guhle to play 80 NHL games next season if they aren’t ready.

So, they should be looking to acquire a youngish defenceman who can play a lot of minutes next season and possibly develop their game to the point where they become a long term fixture on the team. With Guhle, Jordan Harris, Alexander Romanov, Mattias Norlinder, Arber Xhekaj and Jayden Struble all on the left side, the Canadiens could use a young right defender.

Ethan Bear will turn 25 years old later this week and could step into a big role on the Habs blue line right away with little pressure. If it doesn’t go perfectly fine early on, the team has low expectations for the 2022-23 season anyway so they can give it time. Maybe after 20 or so games he develops chemistry with Romanov and they become a fixture on the Habs second pairing for the next few years.

Even if he never does turn into a key player, he would at least allow the younger defenders like Barron to develop at their own pace at the AHL level if necessary. In 2019-20, Bear averaged nearly 22 minutes per game with the Edmonton Oilers and handled himself well on a mediocre team.

He has since been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes but didn’t fit in perfectly this season. He is now a restricted free agent and is apparently already talking to other teams about a contract for next season.

If he is available, and it sounds like he is, it wouldn’t cost a lot to acquire him. If the Habs were to offer one of their many mid-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, they could probably get him for a fourth round pick at this point.

Worst case scenario is he plays poorly, but he could play a lot of games on a team that is going to be bad anyway. This would keep the younger players who need the develop time in the AHL with the Laval Rocket which would help the Canadiens in the long term. Best case scenario is he starts playing like he did in Edmonton and if a reliable two-way player.

You won’t see the Canadiens trading many picks for roster players this offseason. But, if Petry is traded, it would make sense to fill his roster spot by trading a fourth or maybe third round pick for Ethan Bear.

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