Montreal Canadiens: Could Florida’s Draft Pick End Up More Valuable Than Habs Pick?

The Montreal Canadiens suffered through a terrible season in 2021-22. Expectations were relatively high heading in after going to the Stanley Cup Final the previous season, but the team fell flat on its face.

Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton were brought in to lead the team into the future as the team’s new general manager and vice president of hockey operations. The pair were able to make some lemonade out of the lemons they were handed midseason.

Most of that juice was squeezed at the trade deadline. Any team that is struggling to going to look to move out some veterans and acquire assets that will help the organization in the future. The Canadiens were no exception last season and shipped out a handful of veteran players for great returns.

One of those returns is starting to look more and more exciting every passing day this season.

The first big trade the new management team pulled off was shipping Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames for a first round pick, Tyler Pitlick and prospect Emil Heineman and a 5th round pick.

Brett Kulak was later traded for a 2nd round pick (which became Lane Hutson) and depth defender William Lagesson.

Artturi Lehkonen was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche for a second round pick in 2024 and prospect Justin Barron.

Those are all good moves by a team that is selling, but none of them have the potential to pay off like the Ben Chiarot deal. (well, okay maybe the Hutson trade will).

Chiarot was dealt to the Florida Panthers for an unprotected first round pick in 2023, prospect Ty Smilanic and a fourth round pick in 2022 that was used to select Cedrick Guindon.

Smilanic is not having a great season in Wisconsin, Guindon has scored well over a point per game so far in the OHL. But the real benefit of that trade could be the draft pick. As in, it might be a lot earlier in the 2023 draft than the Panthers thought.

Florida was the absolute best team in the 2021-22 regular season. They won the President’s Trophy after winning 58 games and securing 122 points in the standings.

This season has not been going so well. The Panthers went through some significant change in the offseason, trading Jonathan Huberdeau and Mac Weegar to the Calgary Flames for Matthew Tkachuk. While the newcomer has been great, the team is not performing up to expectations in the standings.

In fact, somehow, after the first quarter of this season, the best team from last year (Florida) is behind the worst team from last year (Montreal). The Canadiens are 11-9-1 for 23 points and the Panthers are currently 10-8-2 which gives them 22 points.

Both teams sit outside the playoff picture at the moment. If the NHL Draft were held tonight based on these standings, the Canadiens would pick 14th and 15th.

Of course, there are 60 or so more games to play this season. Nothing is set in stone just yet, but it would have been unthinkable a month ago to suggest that Panthers pick that the Habs own is as valuable as the Canadiens own pick.

Except, right now, it is. There are many games left to play, but this is something definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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