With the Montreal Canadiens season over, the attention turns to the Expansion Draft that will be held in June. For the most part, choosing to go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen, and one-goalie method is the best bet for the Canadiens. This allows the team to protect valuable forwards depth such as Paul Byron and Phillip Danault. The method with seven forwards will also allow the highly coveted prospect Charles Hudon to be protected.
Unlike many of the prospects in the Habs system, Hudon has played three years of professional hockey in North America. The rule for the expansion draft is if a player has played less than three years in either the NHL or AHL, he is exempt. Therefore, many other highly touted prospects are completely exempt. This tweet by Eric Engels shows the complete list of Habs players who are exempt from the draft.
The Montreal Canadiens Should Protect Charles Hudon
In terms of offensive capability, Hudon looks like a long-term answer for the Habs that will be arriving sooner rather than later. He has adapted to the pro-game quite well, totaling two 25-plus goal seasons in each of the last two, including two 50-point campaigns.
This is where it becomes difficult, as the Canadiens will be able to protect just seven forwards. To start with the obvious choices, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk should all be protected. These three players are the cornerstones of the Habs offense.
Then, the valuable depth of Danault and Byron should be the next two forwards on the list. Both players play a strong two-way game that is very valuable to the team. They are also very cheap for what they bring. Byron who scored 22 goals last season will earn $1.2 million per season for the next two years. Danault’s salary is $912,500 next season, having just completed his sophomore season with 40 points. Keeping this depth on that price tag should be a priority.
After those five forwards, it gets a little harder. Hard-nosed grinder Andrew Shaw is another no-brainer who brings energy with his grittiness. The reason why he may not seem like a stand-out is that he, much like fellow pest Gallagher, failed to perform to expectations. In the long run, he will prove to be a strong middle six winger, contributing big goals and havoc in front of the net.
For the last spot, it gets much harder which is why Hudon may just be the best choice. The final spot should not be used to protect a fourth liner, therefore a player like Torrey Mitchell should be left exposed. Then there is Artturi Lehkonen who is exempt from the draft because he has under three years of professional hockey in North America under his belt. Hudon is not exempt from the expansion draft despite only playing six NHL games.
Making An Argument for Hudon
There are other players such as a veteran like Tomas Plekanec who could protected instead. However, with Plekanec only scoring 28 points in 78 games last season, he may be losing his value. Next season, he is expected to count for $6 million against the salary cap (earning $5 million in actual salary), which is way too much for a player who scored only 28 points. Plekanec has been a full-time Canadiens forward since 2005. However, last season showed the he can no logner be the effective second line centre he had been previously.It could be time to move on from Plekanec. Leaving the Kladno native available gives the Habs the option to search for a younger more skilled option via trade or free agency.
While, Plekanec is still very effective at 34, he is coming closer to the end of his career. However, at 23 Hudon’s career is just getting started. It would be time for the Canadiens to move on from their once first line centre.
This also would allow Hudon a better chance to make the opening night roster. However, he has seemed ready for the past two seasons as he’s dominated the AHL scoring 28 and 27 goals respectively. It could be very risky to allow a player like Hudon to be exposed, especially when an expansion team will be looking to start out young.
The Habs should at least consider protecting the Alma native before deciding what to do with him. Losing him for nothing could be a terrible mistake while losing Plekanec creates some much needed cap room to help improve the team.
They Could Protect Hudon to Trade Him
If the Canadiens organization feels that the versatile young forward isn’t a fit, they could protect him to trade him. A young player like Hudon has value around the NHL. If the Canadiens are looking to improve their team, especially at center, throwing Hudon in a package will sweeten the deal. However, the Canadiens really should give him a chance. He could be the answer to the Canadiens recent scoring woes in the near future.
Although he’s scoreless in his first six NHL games, he has the shooting ability to score and with consistent playing time will show this. Last season he was brought misfortune when he injured his shoulder during his third game and he never got another opportunity. At camp in September, Hudon should be hungry to get his spot on the NHL roster. After three years of success, it is Hudon’s time to shine.