Canadiens deal Kovacevic to Devils for 2025 4th round selection

Johnathan Kovacevic provided the Habs with a reliable, stout defender who played with so much heart.
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens traded defenseman Johnathan Kovacevic to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday afternoon. 

Making this trade seems like a precursor to the Habs planning on getting younger on the back end. With Kovacevic out, a spot opens up for a younger defender to play the top four minutes. Unless another trade materializes, which is plausible, it seems likely that Jordan Harris or Jayden Struble may get a promotion. 

Another wrinkle is that Montreal didn’t get a big return. Kovacevic isn’t exactly a bona fide top-four defender, but a sixth-round pick isn’t much. It doesn’t feel like the swap would have happened without the Habs' surplus of defenders and high hopes that one is ready for a larger role. 

Canadiens got pretty good value out of the Winnipeg Jets waiver dump

However, Kovacevic provided Montreal with great value from a waiver wire pickup to playing regular minutes. Big goals and assists weren’t part of his game, but reliable, honest defensive efforts are a staple of his game. So you would have to think that Kent Hughes has confidence in the organization’s young blueliners at both ends of the ice. 

Kovacevic's size and physical elements will be missed on the ice, because of his willingness to stand up for his teammates. But most of all, he could be relied on to shut down the opponent’s either with stout defensive play with his smart defensive stick and great gap control. The New Jersey Devils got themselves a solid defenseman. 

Over his time with the Habs, Kovacevic accumulated 84 penalty minutes along with a plus-13 differential. Through his 139 games in a Canadiens sweater, the native of Grimsby, Ontario., scored nine goals and 19 assists. After struggling to establish himself as an NHL-calibre defenseman with the Jets, he did so assuredly with the Habs.

It's unclear whether he will play higher up on the Devils' blueline, but unlikely. However, even if he doesn't, he provides the Devils with more value than a fourth-round selection likely would. He has established that he can play and keep the opposition in check with physicality or smart defensive play each night.