Now that February is here, we can all now get excited for this year’s NHL Trade Deadline. The deadline is now less than three weeks away and the Montreal Canadiens are currently sitting in third place in the Atlantic division. They’re seven points up on the Carolina Hurricanes, who are currently sitting in 9th and just two points back from the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs. Now at the final stretch for the playoffs, general manager Marc Bergevin will look to dip into the trade waters.
He does want to improve his team’s depth to make that last push and secure a playoff birth this season. However, Bergevin also doesn’t want to mortgage the future to do so. If he does makes a significant move, it will be for a player with term left on their deal after this year. If he dips into the rental market, it will be strictly for depth for the bottom six. That being said, here are some of the Montreal Canadiens trade deadline targets.
Montreal Canadiens Trade Deadline Targets
In terms of need, the Canadiens will be looking for a top pairing left defenceman as well as some scoring help. In particular, on the powerplay. The Habs scoring has greatly improved since last season, as they currently sit 12th in the NHL. However, their powerplay percentage is second last in the entire league. If the Habs want to be a legitimate contender, this is an area they desperately need to improve.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 9, 2019
Taking these needs into consideration, these are the players who Marc Bergevin may target before the trade deadline.
The Canadiens have been tied to Cam Fowler for quite some time. Fowler was rumoured to be a target of Bergevin’s back at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. At that time, Bergevin held the 9th overall pick which he used to draft defenceman Mikhail Sergachev. It was rumoured that he was willing to move that pick to acquire the left-shot defenceman.
Now almost three years later, Fowler’s name is coming up again. Bergevin has taken in three of the Ducks recent games during their Canadian road trip. He then met with Fowler’s agent Pat Brisson in Montreal. It could just be coincidence, as Bergevin and Brisson are good friends and the Anaheim Ducks were playing the Canadiens that same night. Bergevin could also have another target in mind. However, with Fowler being rumoured to Montreal before and with the Habs need at left defence, Fowler would be a prime target for Bergevin.
The Habs have been looking for a partner for Shea Weber since they acquired him and Fowler would fit there quite nicely. The 27-year-old is an outstanding puck-moving defenceman with excellent mobility. Fowler moves well in transition and can play both special teams. He would not only be the perfect puck mover to compliment Weber, but he would also help open up Weber on the powerplay, which should, in turn, produce more goals. If the Habs acquire Fowler, they’d finally have a legitimate top pairing.
Fowler is currently in the first year of an eight-year deal he signed in the summer. His annual average value is $6.5 million.
Sticking with defence, another potential partner for Weber would be Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are currently sitting in last place in the Western Conference and have already been selling off pieces, as they shipped Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs just a couple of weeks ago.
Martinez fits the bill of what Bergevin is looking for. A top-four left-shot defenceman with term left on his deal. Although Martinez is a little older than Fowler, and may not be the top pairing player that Fowler is, he would still be a good compliment to Weber. Much like Fowler, he’s a great skater and puck mover. He doesn’t shoot the puck as much as teams may like but his passing ability allows him to find the players who will. Martinez slots in as more of a number three than two, but would be a cheaper option than Fowler.
Martinez has two years remaining on his current deal with an average annual value of $4 million.
Switching from defence to forward but sticking with the Kings, the Canadiens could target two-way forward Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli is a proven goal scorer who has surpassed the 20-goal plateau twice and the 30-goal plateau once in his six-year career. The only years Toffoli missed the mark were seasons at which he was forced to miss time due to injury. Almost 25% of Toffoli’s goals over his career have come with the man advantage.
Not only is Toffoli effective on the powerplay, but he is also a very efficient penalty killer. He currently plays on the Kings top penalty kill unit with centre Jeff Carter. This two-way ability makes him a swiss-army knife, and something coach Claude Julien would surely love to have in his lineup. Think of Joel Armia with better goal scoring ability. Habs fans have grown to love Armia, and would surely love the acquisition of Toffoli as well.
Toffoli has another year remaining on his current deal, which has an annual average value of $4.6 million.
Another forward the Habs could look to target is Brayden Schenn of the St. Louis Blues. Schenn is currently sitting in the 17th position on TSN’s trade bait board, despite the Blues recent success. He is a character player which is certainly something Marc Bergevin values immensely.
Schenn would also bring versatility to the lineup as he is capable of playing both centre and the wing. He’s also a proven powerplay goal scorer. Out of Schenn’s 147 goals over his career, 55 have come on the powerplay. That’s good for 37.4%.
Schenn’s in-your-face style of game is something that would be extremely valuable if the Habs were to acquire him and make the playoffs this season.
Another player Bergevin could look to acquire is Tomas Tatar‘s former teammate/linemate Gustav Nyquist. The two players spent a lot of time together, winning a Calder Cup trophy in Grand Rapids of the AHL as well as playing on the same line with the Detroit Red Wings. The two have a ton of chemistry and would prove to be something very valuable to the Habs for the final stretch to the playoffs.
Nyquist is a very offensive-minded player who would certainly help the Habs powerplay struggles.
The one downfall with Nyquist is that he is in the final year of his contract, which is something Bergevin isn’t really looking for. However, if he was guaranteed to re-sign in Montreal, he may just change his mind.
Wayne Simmonds is an interesting name to add to Bergevin’s wishlist. He has been interested in acquiring Simmonds before. He also fits the Habs needs. Big forward with character and goal-scoring ability. Simmonds would bring toughness to the Habs lineup, which would come in handy during a gruelling playoff run.
The issue with Simmonds, much like Nyquist, is that his contract ends at the end of the season. Bergevin would need a commitment from Simmonds before he made any type of deal for him, especially considering Simmonds would certainly come at a hefty price. Without that commitment, Bergevin certainly wouldn’t risk the future for a playoff run with Simmonds.
He’s also set to turn 31 in August. So depending on the price, it might be something Bergevin elects to stay away from.
The last name we will mention is Dallas Stars forward Brett Ritchie. Elliott Friedman recently reported that the Habs were interested in the forward which isn’t surprising. The Habs are looking for more depth on their bottom lines and Ritchie would provide just that. Ritchie is a big body, standing at 6’3” and weighing almost 220lbs. Ritchie could potentially help the Habs powerplay, being a big body to stand in front of the net. He would bring some much-needed size to a rather small Habs forward group.
Busy Time for the Habs General Manager
With just over two weeks to go until the trade deadline, Habs general manager Marc Bergevin will certainly be busy. Hockey Insiders everywhere always say that Marc Bergevin is one of the busiest men during this time of year. This year should be no different as the Habs are gearing up for a playoff run.
Bergevin never tends to show his hand, but we do know one thing for sure. Whatever moves Bergevin makes will have the future in mind. He won’t be dipping into the rental market and mortgaging the future for a run at the Stanley Cup this season. If Bergevin sees an opportunity to improve this year while also helping his club in the future, he will pull the trigger. If not, Bergevin will stand pat, and let this young promising team try to prove the naysayers wrong, as they’ve done all season long.
ANAHEIM, CA – JANUARY 17: Cam Fowler #4 of the Anaheim Ducks looks to pass as he is chased by Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins at Honda Center on January 17, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)