It was a very unfortunate timing for the Montreal Canadiens that Connor Bedard wasn’t draft eligible last year, when they won the Draft Lottery. All isn’t lost for Kent Hughes and his team though, as the Canadiens keeps sliding down the NHL standings after a very cold December and with the Florida Panthers still outside the playoffs’ picture.
The Canadiens’ General Manager is on record more than once, stating that he would like to get his hands on another first round pick. While it may be easier to get one from a team securely into a playoffs’ position, Hughes will have to use every trick in the bag to repeat what he’s done to the Panthers by getting one that is not lottery protected.
Veterans fetching a first
There are many things to look forward to in 2023 and the Canadiens do have a few veteran players who could potentially fetch a first round pick. Joel Edmundson, Sean Monahan, Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak and even Jake Allen could all be interesting pieces enough for the right team to forfeit a first round pick. Granted, not all of them are on the trade market, a aspect which in itself, potentially raises the return for those players.
According to Hughes himself, Edmundson, Anderson and Allen are not available but it doesn’t prevent teams from enquiring about them. NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun is on record saying that the Canadiens are toying with the idea of extending Monahan. If that’s the case, it could make Dvorak expandable but the former Coyotes’ future is definitely tied to Monahan’s contractual situation as it’s very unlikely that both would be traded.
Allen just signed a two-year extension with the current management which only kicks in next season. As the Canadiens’ future in goal is murky to say the least, don’t expect him to go anywhere any time soon… unless a NHL-ready, promising young goalie is part of the return.
Due to their poor performances this season, the team’s other two pending UFAs, Jonathan Drouin and Evgenii Dadonov, are unlikely to fetch anything substantial, let alone a first round pick.
Taking less of a return?
Here’s a twist this year that you may not see other years, including last year in what was Hughes’ first as a NHL GM. This upcoming draft contains a generational talent in Connor Bedard, who is said to be in the category of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. Further, it is said to be a much deeper draft in quality talent than it was last season. According to draft gurus, a few of the prospects available this upcoming summer would have been selected before Juraj Slafkovsky had they been available last summer.
The impact of such a draft with definitely make teams think twice about forgoing a first round pick that is not lottery protected. So what could Hughes and the Canadiens do to entice such teams to lift any lottery protection? There are a couple of options available and all of them mean sweetening the deal.
1- Conditional pick: As we know, the Canadiens already have two first round pick in their own and the Florida Panthers’. Hypothetically, they could include one of those picks as a return. For example, Team A trades their first round pick (not lottery protected) for Edmundson and a conditional first. That first going back to Team A would be the third best between the Habs’, Panthers or Team A’s. So if Team A makes the playoffs and the Panthers don’t, they would keep their own first in that deal and, perhaps, give their second instead. For the Canadiens, it would mean guaranteeing the best two selections, potentially giving them a third shot at a lottery pick. Hope this makes sense…
2- Take a bad contract in return, or retain more salary: Hughes has made it clear that he doesn’t want to tie his hands by taking on salary for more than the current season. But if retaining salary for a year or two means getting a first round pick that is not lottery protected, it might be worth another shot at a lottery pick.
3- Sacrifice a good young prospect:– It’s no secret, the Canadiens are loaded with good young prospects. Granted, a prospect remains just that, a prospect, until he achieves something in the NHL. But a team trading their first round pick without lottery protection will want more in return than, say, Edmundson. So say Team A trades their first (unprotected) to the Canadiens, Hughes could attach a good prospect with Edmundson, as he did with Pittsburgh when he gave Poehling with Petry.
Last but not least, if multiple teams are competing for a Canadiens’ player, Hughes should carefully weigh the odds of that team to miss or make the playoffs. If two or three teams want Edmundson (to use the same example), he should look at several factors. He can do so by looking at their remaining schedule, their injured list and who will be coming back, the impact Edmundson would have on their team, amongst other factors. It would be worth getting less of a return from a team more likely to miss the playoffs.
As you can see, this year is a very particular year and General Managers will have to be more creative to entice their counterparts into surrendering a potential lottery pick. It can be done, but the return will certainly be affected.
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