While it’s more than clear that Evgenii Dadonov was a cap dump by Vegas, it doesn’t change the fact that he has largely been a capable top-six winger that should be able to help the Canadiens offensively this coming season.
After things didn’t go well at all with Ottawa, they quickly moved him to Vegas and the new environment certainly suited him as Dadonov eventually looked like the Dadonov of old. However, it did take some time as he got off to a sluggish start with only nine points over the first two months of the season as the Golden Knights as a team faltered early on. Even if you add December’s production in the mix, it only goes to 12 points in 34 games which is comparable to what he did with Ottawa.
That tough first half ultimately is what propelled him into trade speculation as Vegas was set to be in a position where they were going to need to clear money to activate some of their injured players down the stretch. Logically, a player making $5 million that isn’t doing much is the one to try to move. In fact, they did move him to Anaheim for Ryan Kesler’s LTIR contract but Dadonov asserted that he had a valid no-trade clause. After a quick investigation, the NHL agreed and invalidated the swap, returning him to Vegas after the deadline had passed.
That’s a tough situation for a player to be in but to his credit, Dadonov didn’t pout. If anything, the trade motivated him as he was one of the best players for the Golden Knights down the stretch, averaging a point per game in 16 contests after being returned. They were able to manufacture enough injury relief to get some of their players back down the stretch but while Vegas came up short of the playoffs, it wasn’t Dadonov’s fault.
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
At a time when Montreal fans are already looking ahead to the trade deadline to see what future assets they can get for some of their rentals, Dadonov is the optimal ‘pump and dump’ player this season. Some have said he’s the next Tomas Tatar and while there is a direct correlation considering the Habs also got him from Vegas, he’s also a strong possession player and is going to be a quality addition to whatever line he’s put on.
So, how should the Canadiens try to build up his value? It stands to reason that he’s someone that will benefit from a consistent role and consistent minutes. While wingers are almost always interchangeable and he’ll inevitably be moved around at times, Dadonov is someone that should spend most of his time in the top six, while dropping down to the third line periodically when the lines get shaken up.
When it comes to special teams, Dadonov should be a fixture on one of the power play units and there’s a case to be made that he’d fit in on the top one. He has scored at least five times with the man advantage in four of the five seasons he has played since returning from the KHL with his best being an 11-goal output in 2019-20 despite the shortened season. If he’s not on the top unit, he should be one of the focal points of the second wave. As for the penalty kill, don’t expect to see him out there unless it’s in the final few seconds of a penalty.
I think Dadonov could be an interesting buy-low candidate in some fantasy leagues. The negativity surrounding his trade value (being given away to Anaheim and Montreal) could deflate his stock and a quick glance at ADPs suggest that’s exactly the case. His ADP in ESPN leagues is 182 while he doesn’t crack the top 200 with Yahoo. That’s pretty low for someone that has basically scored at a 53-point pace since coming back to North America.
Will he get to that pace with the Habs? That might be a tad optimistic, especially if Juraj Slafkovsky forces his way into the mix but NHL second-line production is something that could be doable for Dadonov. From a fantasy perspective, that has him on the fringes of being picked in shallower leagues but in deeper pools, he’d fit in reasonably well on a fantasy third line and if he’s on your fourth, you’re doing well (or have bad depth at another position). Give him a small boost for leagues that count shots on goal as he’s typically around the two-per-game mark which should be achievable in Montreal’s more offensive-minded system.
If you do take Dadonov, remember the likelihood of a trade (with the Habs eating up to half of the cap hit) at the deadline; whatever role he has with his new team will probably be smaller than it is with the Canadiens. Accordingly, he might be someone you want to move midseason.