Montreal Canadiens: Could Depth, Injuries Force Kent Hughes Hand In A Trade?

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jordan Harris is out with injury, but upon his return, Kent Hughes will have a decision to make.

A decision that, if handled well could play into the Habs' hands, and help them ascend to Stanley Cup contenders. There are just too many defensemen, and with the Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook injuries, the Canadiens could leverage a defenseman, a goalie, maybe a centre or prospect and bring in a good second-line centre.

Craig Button suggested moving Kirby Dach to the wing, allowing him to open up his game a little more. Dach thrives with space and can drive the puck to the net, but naturally, as a centre, he has more responsibilities. If he, and say Newhook can flank somebody else acquired via trade, the Habs would put themselves in an enviable position.

Here's Why

The top line, whether anybody likes it or not, is pretty set unless the Canadiens get a top-five pick for the 2024 Draft and draft a high-octane forward. Looking at things through the realist lens, Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky make up the top trio. Dach and Newhook can be the second duo, and balance out the talent and offence through the top six.

Where the trade would come in handy is dealing a young defender, an expiring asset and/or a goalie/prospect for a second-line centre. Button addressed the importance of having balance down the middle as well, and I agree having a lefty on the second line, with Suzuki (righty) on the top line makes a ton of sense. It will conceivably be costly, but for the Habs to acquire a second-line calibre centre, it is expected.

If you look across the Atlantic Division at the second-line centres, it's increasingly obvious that the clubs rely heavily on having a balanced attack in their top six. While the first-line centre is most important for the offence, the second-line centre is of nearly equal importance. The balance allows for the responsibilities to be evenly distributed, with neither line being a weakness for the team.

Ottawa - Josh Norris

Toronto - John Tavares

Buffalo - Dylan Cozens

Boston - Pavel Zacha

Florida - Anton Lundell

Tampa - Steven Stamkos

Detroit - Andrew Copp

Coaching and chemistry and all those things weren't considered, but the teams that have effectively built and deployed their top six forwards are often successful.

Potential Trade

Trade Package - Any potential trade of this ilk will require one of Jordan Harris or Arber Xhekaj as a starting point. I think for the Canadiens if they can offload a goaltender while helping a cap-strapped team with a low-cost option, it could get the ball rolling.

I think Harris, Allen and maybe a prospect and a pick could entice a general manager to listen. The pick will have to be at minimum a second, and if the Habs retain a bit of Allen's salary, that could help. A prospect that I believe could be expendable is Sean Farrell, and if that doesn't work, maybe Johnathan Kovacevic.

The idea is to make a nice care package for the trade partner, and hopefully hook the gm. Once hooked, minor details can be smoothed out, and if a third team wants to get involved it could set the deal off. Who are we talking about as potential trade targets, well let's dive in.

Trade Targets - So the target is a left-shot centreman, who is in the 21-25-year-old range. Since that is pretty general it opens up a lot of options. I thought that we could dive into three potential options.

Cole Sillinger - The Blue Jackets have always focused on building from the blueline out, and with so many forwards coming up through the system, a reliable left-shot defender could be helpful. Sillinger is far from a polished product but keep in mind he is only 22. He has a great shot, and playing with Dach and Newhook could play into his style.

Marco Rossi - Rossi is on the smaller side, but if you watch him play, he has a lot of Marchand-Gallagher in his game. He is surprisingly strong for his size, and his two-way game is excellent because of his speed and IQ. Rossi has a strong center of gravity, and his playmaking ability and quick-strike style would mesh perfectly with Dach and Newhook.

Dawson Mercer - Mercer has the versatility to play on the wing, which he does - since Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier are the top two centres. However, it doesn't mean that Mercer can't play centre, and he could be a nice option for a top-two centre. He has all the skill and tools, and the Canadiens already have one of the 2019 first-round selected Newfoundland natives - Newhook and Mercer can work alongside Dach and form a formidable second line for the Canadiens.

There are many other options, and maybe a goal scoring winger makes the most sense. The fact of the matter is that Kent Hughes could stand to gain a nice return for some of his high value assets.