Canadiens: To Trade Pick #26, Or Not To Trade Pick #26

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens have the 5th overall pick in next week’s NHL entry draft, and there’s already been plenty of discussion surrounding that pick. The Canadiens have the chance to add a cornerstone piece with that selection, with the likes of Ivan Demidov, Cayden Lindstrom and Zeev Buium all possibilities, just to name a few.

But the Canadiens also possess the 26th pick in this draft, thanks to the trade that sent Sean Monahan to Winnipeg earlier this season. There isn’t nearly as much intrigue with this pick as the fifth selection, but the Canadiens have the opportunity to add a solid prospect with this draft choice. Two seasons ago, the Canadiens also held the 26th pick and used it to draft Filip Mesar, a promising young forward.

But Montreal also has the option of moving this pick, either to add a proven player, or move up in the draft. We saw the Canadiens do this last year when they packaged their first and second-round selections to acquire Alex Newhook from Colorado. That’s certainly an option for the Habs once again if the right offer comes along. They also swapped Alexander Romanov for the 13th overall pick in 2022 to use it in acquiring Kirby Dach from Chicago.

So the Habs are no stranger to moving draft picks to improve their roster now. And it makes sense to do so. Newhook and Dach are further along in their development but needed changes of scenery. Yet they're still young enough to have room to grow and become critical parts of a rebuilding squad. So far, those moves have looked like they have paid off.

Perhaps it’s something the Habs may consider trying to do again if the right player becomes available for the right price. We’ve seen Trevor Zegras, Patrik Laine, and Martin Necas, all of whom are rumoured to be available. But as of right now, the Canadiens don’t seem to want to fork over the cost to acquire them, with Zegras and Necas, in particular, likely to cost more than just the 26th pick.

The other option would be to try and move up in the draft, packaging the 26th pick with something else to add a higher-ranked prospect. This is something Kent Hughes has yet to do as GM, at least in the first round. But this year seems like the one that could warrant the need to do so. I suspect the Habs are strongly considering doing so, if they can make it work without forking over too much.

The draft is considered to be very top-heavy, with a clear-cut top 15-16 prospects. In previous drafts, usually, you have a top 5-10 prospects with a lot of disparity after that. But this year, there seems to be a consensus amongst most that the top group in this draft stretches to 15 names. What order those 15 names are drafted in is the real question.

The Canadiens are sure to get one of those players with the fifth pick, but they may feel the desire to grab a second one. Moving up from 26th to, say, 12th could be costly but ultimately worth it. We know the Canadiens have a surplus of left-shot defensemen, so perhaps they could package one with pick #26 to move up.

The draft is just a few days away now, but the rumours are still swirling. No one knows for sure what will happen, but it should be interesting nonetheless. The Canadiens will have options heading into round one on Friday. And we know they’ll weigh them heavily. How it’ll shake up is still a mystery, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.