The Habs made a surprise move this week with the acquisition of Sean Monahan and a first-round pick from Calgary. Our writers offer up their thoughts on the swap.
Terry Costaris: This deal has to be the most convoluted one in NHL history. When I tried to read the terms, I felt like the glue-eating Simpsons character Ralph Wiggum who, when presented with anything remotely intelligent says, “My cat’s name is Mittens.”
I believe that Montreal will get a first-round draft pick from either Calgary or Florida sometime this century for taking Monahan and his hefty contract off of Calgary’s hands? Right?
I know that Kent Hughes was a lawyer in one of his previous careers but wow, the only thing missing here was a contingency plan in the event that either Calgary’s or Florida’s pick would turn into a 2072 3rd rounder if the GDP in Luxembourg drops by 1% in 2023. (2024 would be too much of an ask.)
I predict that there will be a “Kent Hughes rule” emerging from this transaction that will prevent these types of deals from ever happening again.
Hockey is a game where you shoot a puck into a net. The team that scores the most goals wins. Its fans, myself included, have enough of a hard time understanding the gobbledygook of the cap. Now GMs are going to mess with trades? Gary Bettman, please do something and do it quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see Montreal get as many first-round picks as possible. The Habs are setting themselves up by having a constant stream of quality picks.
This is right out of the Sam Pollock book of GMing but there are just too many subclauses here. I also question the financial aspect of this trade.
If I’m Geoff Molson, I would like to know how paying $6 million in salary for a brittle, literally on his last hip, Monahan, for what will likely be a late first-round pick, is worth this much money. This is not getting the most blast for Molson’s buck. He could hire a number of scouts for this price tag who could work for the Habs for many years.
There must be some other financial workaround involved here that we are yet unaware of. With my luck as of late, the answer will probably come two minutes before we publish this. My cat’s name is Mittens.
Tom Haapanen: Excellent asset management by Hughes and Gorton. Once they knew that Price was unlikely to play in the coming season, they wasted no time in turning the available cap space into an asset and securing not only Monahan but also a first-round draft pick.
Monahan has undergone significant injuries and is not likely to regain the point/game level seen at the peak of his career. But, even at 30-40 points/season, and with strong faceoff skills, he would be an asset to the Habs throughout the season and might fetch an early draft pick at the deadline. And if he is unable to play or struggles, the Habs still hand the first-rounder.
That pick is likely not until 2024 or 2025 so will probably not see any substantial NHL action for another four years or more, and thus not help the immediate rebuild. However, that pick will help keep the prospect cupboard full in future years, making sure that the next run at the Cup will not be just a flash in the pan.
Allan Katz: With the plethora of offensive players on the team, the last thing you would expect is adding a centre and subtracting no one. The team now has five NHL contracted right wingers, five left wingers and five centres; not including Juraj Slafkovsky, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, or Jesse Ylonen. Something’s got to give.
With Carey Price’s condition being unknown, to at least the public, management knew they were sitting on an opportunity. The second management, the player, and doctors agreed: “Price is on LTIR for the season”, Hughes became the proverbial early bird and snatched the worm by picking up a 2025 first-round pick with conditions up the wazoo before anyone could blink. In exchange, the Habs also took on the last year of the expensive contract of the injury-prone Monahan.
Monahan is a big guy, a one-time sniper, an ace power play contributor (even last year) and with a career faceoff win average of over 50% and almost 54% last year. He’s only 27, but unfortunately, his hips are 67 albeit a hip-repaired 67. The Habs just acquired Kirby Dach, a player with oodles of untapped talent, who could use a mentor and someone to take a lot of his faceoffs. Put them on a line together, add Brendan Gallagher or Slafkovsky, and you might have a line to be reckoned with.
Kudos to Calgary for a world record-timed rebuild. The Habs scored big here too and might even trade the pick before it’s ever used. Big win for both teams.
Here is a sample of how the lineup might look if no more trades are made:
Drouin – Suzuki – Caufield
Monahan – Dach – Gallagher
Slafkovsky – Dvorak – Anderson
Armia – Evans – Dadonov
Extras: Pitlick, Hoffman
LTIR – Byron
Waivers – Pezzetta
Minors – Harvey Pinard, Ylonen
So. the forwards look solid. Monahan solves the Dach faceoff issues and the Habs have a competent, if too expensive, fourth line that can compete with anyone. Left on the list: Sign Dach and Cayden Primeau, find a quality right-side defenceman by trade or waivers, and sign a Priest, a Rabbi, an Iman, and a Television Evangelist to pray 24 hours a day for the goaltenders, may they rest in peace.
Brian La Rose: If you’re going to go deep into LTIR and almost certainly take the bonus carryover penalty for 2023-24 (one that will be considerably more expensive than their penalty from last season), it only makes sense to do so for someone with some upside and Monahan is that player. Is he suddenly going to revert back to being a top-six player? Probably not. But could he chip in enough to play at a third-line level, win some draws, and get himself on the radar at the trade deadline with the Habs retaining salary? That’s a reasonable gamble to make which means there could be another future asset coming from this trade. Hughes suggesting he could be re-signed if all goes well is another option; at 27, it’s not as if he’s so old that he can’t fit in on this team for a little while.
Going this route means that Montreal can comfortably re-sign Dach without any immediate cap concerns so it simplifies the rest of the offseason planning. Of course, it comes at the cost of not having Price once again and that’s a pretty significant loss. But now knowing that he won’t be available anytime soon (if ever again), this is a reasonable pivot by the Canadiens even if it comes at a cost for next season with a pricey bonus overage penalty.
Ken MacLeod: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was yet again really nice work from the Habs GM. Hughes took advantage of a Calgary cap crisis to extract yet another first-round pick from the Flames (and this time for just “future considerations”) which could be used in 2024, 2025, or 2026, depending on how the convoluted conditions attached to the pick play out.
But while the first-round pick was always going to be the gold-medal return in the deal, getting Monahan and his expiring $6,375,000 cap hit could turn out to be worth at least a silver. Monahan, 27, was taken sixth overall by Calgary in 2013 and was rolling along to a stellar NHL career until a series of serious injuries put his career into a downward spiral. Monahan saw his 2020-21 season come to an early end when he needed surgery on his left hip. This past season also ended early when he had surgery on his right hip.
The good news is that the 6’2″, 200-lb centreman insists that he’s well ahead of schedule from his April surgery and is feeling better than he has in years. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out, but a rejuvenated Monahan would likely be in high demand at the trade deadline, particularly if Montreal can retain some of his salary. To be honest, though, it might be a better idea to sign a back-on-track Monahan to a new deal with the Canadiens.
This all depends on how well he recovers from his ailments, obviously, but potentially elite scoring line centres don’t fall into your lap every day.
Paul MacLeod: The Good: The Canadiens acquire another first-round pick to bolster the rebuild. If Monahan plays well, he is on an expiring contract and can be flipped for additional assets
The Bad: Carey Price will not be ready to play at the start of the season.
The Ugly: Carey Price’s career may be over with major knee surgery apparently offering the only possibility for him to play again.
The Confusing: The intricate and convoluted conditions of the trade which may result in Montreal getting the additional pick as early as 2024 or as late as 2026.
Trade grade for the Canadiens: A+. Your all-star goalie can’t play leaving you stuck in LTIR? Don’t mope, don’t panic. No. Be like Kent and leverage that cap space for an additional first-round pick while buying low on a distressed, but highly motivated asset that may turn into additional assets at the trade deadline. This is an absolutely great deal for the Canadiens. The only downside is Price’s injury which created the cap space for it to happen.
Norm Szcyrek: I like the trade since it is low risk, but with a chance of high rewards. Monahan, if healthy and close to his former self, can help this team. He averaged just over 62 points per season for his first six seasons in the NHL. There are still question marks with some of Montreal’s centres, like Christian Dvorak and Dach, so he could provide depth at the team’s weakest position. If he is not healthy or the surgeries did not get him back to his previous high level of play, then his contract has only one year left and there will be no hard feelings if he tries to continue his pro career elsewhere. What concerns me is that major hip injuries can be tricky, and having two hip surgeries in two years is not a great sign.
The multi-conditional terms of this deal are the most complex I have ever seen for an NHL trade. It’s confusing yet impressive.
The move forced Kent Hughes to admit that Price’s rehab has not been going well and that he will start the season on the LTIR list. Unfortunately, that status was highly rumoured all last season and this offseason, so I was prepared to accept that bad news.
Dave Woodward: When I first heard of the trade, it was perplexing. Why would the Canadiens acquire an additional $6.375 million in salary for a player with career-threatening injury issues when they were already up against the cap? The answer filtered through as the details of the most convoluted conditional first-round pick in recent memory and the health of Price were disclosed.
The deal adds potential depth down the middle for the Habs if Monahan is healthy enough to contribute. Worst case, if Monahan cannot play, the Canadiens pay $6.375M in dead cap space for one year (a year in which they have no chance of contending) and receive a first-round pick in return at some point (I will not write a treatise on the various permutations and combinations of that pick in this space). Best case, if Monahan can play and finds his game, he can either be moved at the trade deadline for future or younger assets or, at 27 years old, he can be signed. A healthy Monahan could help a team that lacks experience and depth at centre. Either way, the Canadiens benefit from the deal.
Of course, the trade is possible because Price is unlikely to play this year which frees up $10.5 million in cap space. While it is hard for some to feel bad for a player paid that well, it is unfortunate that Price’s career is likely over. He has been the face of the franchise for over a decade and deserves the respect of all Habs fans. Most articles reference his cap hit and ignore the fact that he carried the Canadiens for a long time. Just a message to Carey Price. Thank you for being the greatest Hab of this century.