Montreal wasted little time finding a replacement for Jesperi Kotkaniemi as an hour after not matching his offer sheet, the Habs announced the acquisition of Christian Dvorak from Arizona. Going to the Coyotes is a 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round selection.
The first-rounder is top-ten protected. If either of the two picks the Canadiens have are within the top ten, then the later-ranked choice of the two will be sent to Arizona without any additional compensation going to the Coyotes. For further clarity, if both teams made the playoffs, on the other hand, the earlier of the two picks would transfer. With this protection structure, Montreal will be encumbered from trading their other pick next season as they would have to wait until the offseason (after the draft lottery) at the earliest to know which pick they’re moving to Arizona.
The 25-year-old Dvorak was a late second-round pick of Arizona back in 2014 (58th overall) but has outperformed his draft stock already. He has spent the last five seasons as a regular in the desert, notching at least 15 goals and 31 points in four of them (the other was an injury-riddled year where he missed 54 games due to a torn pectoral muscle).
Last season, Dvorak had 17 goals and 14 assists in 56 games with Arizona, the highest goal-per-game and point-per-game average of his career. That was good enough to finish sixth in team scoring while at 18:24 per game, he led all Coyotes forwards in ice time.
The big question with Dvorak is how much offensive upside he has. Will a new team and system allow him to push for closer to 45 or 50 points and crack the 20-goal mark while likely playing on the second line behind Nick Suzuki? If so, he has the potential to be a core piece for a while as he has four years remaining on his contract with a $4.45 million cap hit.
Unlike Kotkaniemi, Dvorak will also be undoubtedly be deployed on the penalty kill which could allow Suzuki to focus more on the offensive side of things. He’ll also likely take Phillip Danault’s role as a faceoff specialist. Danault took the 13th-most faceoffs in the league last season, winning 52.5% of them. By comparison, Dvorak took the seventh-most draws (1,062 in total, an average of 19 per game), winning a similar percentage at 52.1%.
There’s no doubt that Montreal has paid a high price for Dvorak so expectations will justifiably be high. In the end, the transaction effectively works out as Kotkaniemi and a 2024 2nd for Dvorak and a 2022 3rd (with a likely drop in the first round as well) and considering Kotkaniemi’s draft stock, it’s certainly understandable if that seems a little underwhelming. But Dvorak still has some upside and there is a reasonable chance that he outproduces Kotkaniemi next season (that could very well change in future years, however) while playing a significant two-way role.
The Canadiens will absorb Dvorak into the LTIR from Shea Weber’s contract once the season starts so no further roster moves will be necessary from a cap perspective. If they do want to do anything else though, they’re getting quite close to the point where they will need to match money. Montreal won’t need to touch offseason LTIR yet as they remain under the offseason cap as well. Considering how close we are to training camp and how close they are to the cap, it’s quite possible that this is it for major activity from the Habs this summer. What an interesting way to cap off their offseason shuffling it was.