Kent Hughes made his first of what many expect to be several notable moves on Thursday when he sent Shea Weber’s contract to Vegas in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov. Having had some time to ponder the move, our writers offer up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: I have to begin by thanking Weber for his incredible contributions to the Montreal Canadiens. We often forget that in every trade, real human beings are involved.
Man Mountain’s performance during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs was the stuff of legends. His sacrifices match, if not exceed, those of Bob Gainey’s double-torn shoulders playoff run.
Sadly, Weber likely will not have his number retired with this franchise. But there is no doubt that once his hefty/complex contract has finally run its course, and he can officially “retire,” Shea Weber will be a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.
Now let’s discuss the boring stuff. The trade for Dadonov is an accounting transaction and, perhaps an opportunity to get some additional return.
It’s a win-win move by both teams.
Vegas gets a bit more wiggle room to maintain its “win now” window while the Canadiens free up some money as they start to come out of their rebuild.
I’ll leave the number crunching accounting for my more business-savvy colleagues here at HabsWorld.
We all know that this is just step one of many other business-related transactions that will be happening this summer. Montreal may keep Dadonov until next year’s trade deadline or move him before training camp.
It seems pretty clear to me that the Habs will be tanking for at least another year. Having a player who earns $5M on a losing team’s payroll doesn’t make fiscal sense.
Maybe the Habs will move him this summer by taking on half of his salary. Dadonov has the ability to turn up the jets. Just look at his performance on Vegas after he refused to be traded to Anaheim. He has one year remaining on his contract and he will likely be chasing his last major free agent payday.
For a contender, a motivated Dadonov, especially at a cap hit of just $2.5M for one year, is a potential bargain. For Montreal, paying $2.5M to clear out Weber’s contract would save the Canadiens some additional money and likely land them a decent draft pick from a contender.
Business-wise, holding onto a redundant $5 million asset all season for a potential trade deadline draft pick might not be palatable to a team that has bled a lot of money thanks to several years of COVID lockdowns. But, hey, the Canadiens need a roster. They also need players who might provide some entertainment. So, who knows?
Right now, things are very foggy. We really won’t know what type of 3D chess moves that the tandem of Jeff Gorton and Hughes are really up to. My gut though, tells me that this trade will turn into yet another savvy transaction by this very creative pair.
Allan Katz: House cleaning is not the most exciting subject to write about, but this little act of house cleaning is actually a coup for Habs management. The fact that Montreal received a real hockey player for Weber’s contract means a number of clubs saw the value in that and pushed whoever wanted the deal to throw in much more than anyone would have thought possible. An expected deal would have looked like Weber and a fourth-round pick for a “C” level prospect, but instead, there’s no pick moving and an offensive talent, slightly over the hill, who can notch 20 goals being sent to the Habs.
Dadonov is a right winger and can fill in anywhere while the young-uns develop. If he stays healthy and scores at a nice clip he won’t last the season, to the Habs’ benefit. A trade deadline deal could bring as high as a 2nd round pick. If his performance falls off the cliff there will be an assortment of solid, prospects waiting in Laval. The fact he has one year left on his contract is perfect for management’s long-term plans.
Vegas made an okay deal, but the winner in this housekeeping incident is Montreal.
Brian La Rose: Let’s cover the accounting side that Terry left for me to go over. There’s a lot to like on that front for the Habs as they get out of three guaranteed seasons of LTIR; it’s not as if it’s a guarantee they’ll be back in there if Carey Price is injured if they can cut a big contract or two this summer. This gives them the ability to potentially accrue in-season space which will be useful with Cole Caufield and whoever is picked first next month likely to hit some of their incentives; it’d be nice for those not to roll over in 2023-24.
There is some cap recapture potential ($857,143) but it’s unlikely to hurt them too badly as it’s unlikely Weber actually retires and walks away from his remaining salary. There’s also a benefit in freeing up tagging space but I’d suggest you read up on that from @MtlfanSakic on Twitter who does a nice job of explaining it better than I could. And while it’s not a cap-related element, I like that Weber won’t be counting against the contract limit through 2026; as the Habs have a lot of prospects that will need to be signed, one extra contract slot available is useful.
Onto the trade itself. It leaves me with some questions. The first is why now? This deal was there to be done right after the vetoed trade with Anaheim. Sure, Dadonov wouldn’t have been able to play down the stretch but it’s not as if Montreal was trying to do much on the ice at that time; they would have been okay with Dadonov being ineligible. Meanwhile, had Vegas done the deal back then, they could have expanded their LTIR pool and brought back some of their LTIR’ed players earlier which might have helped them sneak into a playoff spot. We’ll never know the answer but obviously, only one team was open to doing the trade then; I’d be curious to know if it was Montreal or Vegas who eventually relented and agreed to this swap. Did the Golden Knights realize that Dadonov was never going to yield a positive-value return and just got this over with?
The other question is how in the world weren’t the Habs on Dadonov’s no-trade list? Anaheim, a team that’s a little ahead of Montreal in the rebuilding cycle, with a nice warm climate was a no-go but Montreal isn’t? (Or were they on there but he agreed to go anyway?)
Anyway, Dadonov is another frustrating winger to watch whose effort level wavers from shift to shift and game to game. He at least brings a scoring touch to a team that doesn’t have a lot of it and if they do more selling in the coming weeks, will have even less by the fall. At the deadline, they’ll be able to eat half the contract and flip him for something (I wouldn’t set my expectations too high though). In terms of getting out of Weber’s contract fairly cleanly, Montreal has done just that. It’s a move with minimal risk (just cap management this season) and if Dadonov happens to do well, there’s a draft pick waiting for them in a few months. That’s a tidy piece of business for the Habs.
Kevin Leveille: This is the first of what I believe will be a summer busy with roster moves. I think this was a deal that should work out quite well for the Habs.
Based on Hughes’ comments following the trade, the Habs get some financial flexibility to handle whatever is coming their way with franchise cornerstone Price. Price continues his rehab and it appears that his return to the lineup for 22-23 is anything but certain. While the Habs certainly could have advanced with both Price and Weber on LTIR, it does limit their ability to move during the offseason, so money is certainly a factor in wanting to move the Weber contract.
In Dadonov, the Habs acquired a player who is on an expiring contract. This means that he’s a place-holder while the kids get the proper seasoning at whatever level they need. This also tells me that moves may well be coming regarding other wingers on the team. Look at anyone of Armia, Hoffman, Anderson, and Gallagher to receive some attention around the league as the Habs have too many wingers on the books. Dadonov will also be motivated to perform in Montreal as he’s playing for a new contract that is unlikely to come from Montreal so he needs to play well enough to catch the attention of other teams around the league.
Finally, Dadonov is likely to be flipped with Montreal retaining salary at this year’s trade deadline. This means that in one move, Hughes got rid of LTIR dead weight on the cap, acquired a placeholder for the upcoming season, allowed himself to make a subsequent move for assets with one of his wingers, and ensured that Weber’s contract would eventually be flipped for future assets, the quality of which will be determined by the performance of a player who needs to earn himself a new contract. That is a pretty excellent piece of business for the Habs’ GM.
Peter Longo: The Weber for Dadonov trade is another common-sense transaction for Hughes. From a pure business perspective Weber (and his contract) provided no value to Montreal (assuming Weber will not play again). So, to move out Weber’s contact for any asset is a positive – no matter what the return. It is difficult to say what the true value of an LTIR contract.
In Dadonov, Hughes has picked up a 33-year-old skilled winger with a 20+ goal-scoring track record that can play the top six on either side. These attributes are much needed should the Habs choose to keep him. Acquiring Dadonov opens up all sorts of possibilities for trading him now or at the deadline, or keeping him and trading any of the other wingers.
The only downside is the additional salary cap hit Hughes had just taken on. Hughes has done a reasonable job at these types of no-brainer transactions. It’ll be interesting to watch the next couple of months to see how Hughes negotiates much tougher transactions during the NHL draft and the start of UFA GM binge-spending season.
Paul MacLeod: Initially, when the idea of trading Weber’s contract was raised, I thought that it would be a simple matter of management working out a deal with Arizona as Weber’s deal is structured perfectly for a cost-conscious team needing to reach the cap floor. I.e., a high cap hit coupled with a low actual salary. When the trade deadline deal with Arizona fell through, the idea that the Canadiens would have to surrender an asset to get a team to take Weber’s contract started.
Now we see that they were able to trade the contract and the space it creates (for the right team via LTIR) for a viable NHL player. Dadonov is reputed to be responsible defensively, provides reliable secondary scoring, and seems like a good fit for what Martin St. Louis is trying to implement. So, in the short term, this deal eliminates the cap complications of Weber’s contract, provides a useful player, and gives closure to Weber’s captaincy paving the way for the team to decide on a new captain.
In the medium term, Dadonov will probably be flipped for prospects or picks at the trade deadline which means this deal has the potential to be fantastic for Montreal. From the possibility of giving up assets to move dead money to an excellent short-term return with the potential for long-term rewards, is a very tidy bit of business by Canadiens’ management. I would grade this trade as an A. I can’t wait to see what they do next. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt highly confident that the management team has a long-term plan and knows what they need to do to bring the plan to fruition.
Norm Szcyrek: The Habs traded their “Dad’ for a Dadonov. From Vegas’ perspective, it makes a lot of sense to move Dadonov. Although he is a decent winger, he was blocked by Pacioretty, Stone, Marchessault, and Reilly Smith (when all are healthy) on their top two lines. The Golden Knights tried to move him at the 2022 trade deadline for cap relief but the NHL blocked it due to a discrepancy in his no-trade clause. That no-trade team list from 2020 must not have included Montreal, which allowed the trade to happen this time.
To be productive he will need top-six level minutes, which may be feasible given the Habs’ expected roster next season, especially if they go through another round of extended injuries again. Evgenii can play both left and right wing, so that flexibility is useful. Dadonov’s advanced statistics are good on offence, but less so on defence indicating he is more of a one-way player. As a veteran player of 33 entering the last season of his contract before becoming a UFA, Dadonov should have extra motivation to play well for Montreal. If he does, the Habs will have the option of either re-signing him early or trading him at the deadline.
If he plays terribly and the GM cannot trade him, he could be buried in Laval. The only downside I see to this move is that it may rob a prospect like Jesse Ylonen from getting a chance at making the pro team in training camp. Ylonen stood out during his recall this season and had an impressive playoff performance for the AHL Rocket this year, indicating he is ready to turn pro.
Although Weber arrived at the expense of a very popular P.K. Subban, he was a very important player to the team and quickly became beloved by fans. He played through difficult injuries during last season’s long playoff run, and it cost him the opportunity to play again. I admire him as a player and person but regret having another Habs jersey in my closet of former Montreal players the team has moved out.