To say it has been a rough start to the season for Evgenii Dadonov would be an understatement. Even so, while he’s a popular option to simply waive and part ways with when he’s cleared to return, I don’t think the Habs should be doing that just yet.
When Montreal brought him in over the offseason, it felt like the hope was to pump up his value and flip him. He’s not producing but while his early performance has been a failure from an offensive perspective, I actually think he has helped his trade value so far.
Dadonov is particularly streaky when it comes to his production and if he suddenly got on a hot streak upon his return to bring his per-game rates closer to his career averages, I don’t think anyone would be surprised. That scenario is far from unrealistic so I don’t think he has hurt himself a ton there in terms of value, at least yet.
Digging into some of the other numbers, he has a positive shot share and expected goals rate. That’s good. Montreal’s on-ice shooting percentage when he’s on the ice is barely 3% so it stands to reason that some good luck will bring that closer to career norms. No red flag there. I’m not saying this is anything to get excited about but he’s not hurting himself either.
Here’s a question. Heading into the season, what would you have classified Dadonov as? I’d say the general consensus is that he’s the type of player who best fits in the top six and doesn’t fit in a more limited role. Those players can be useful but when they’re not scoring, they’re not contributing.
I don’t think that’s the case with Dadonov though. He’s contributing positive possession numbers on a line that wasn’t doing much of anything offensively before his absence. That is something that would be appealing to some coaches for teams that are looking to shore up their bottom six.
You know what else appeals to coaches? Penalty killers. Dadonov is averaging more than two minutes per night on the penalty kill. Other than Martin St. Louis (and perhaps GM Kent Hughes if he put St. Louis up to the idea), I don’t think there’s a single person who could have seen that coming. Over his past five years combined, Dadonov played 2:26 shorthanded. Not per game, not even per season. 2:26 total. 146 seconds. He had more than that on opening night alone last month.
And it’s not as if he’s logging minutes on a penalty killing unit that’s at the bottom of the league either. Dadonov has been playing fairly heavy minutes on a group that’s doing relatively well all things considered when you factor in their inexperienced defenders. This is where things get a bit more intriguing.
Let’s go back to that question from earlier. I’d say a lot of NHL general managers would have also put Dadonov in that ‘top six or bust’ category. How many playoff teams will have an opening for Dadonov in that type of role at the trade deadline? Barring a bunch of injuries, maybe one or two. Perhaps zero.
But if Dadonov can continue to kill penalties relatively well while putting up positive possession numbers, he becomes someone that can legitimately play in the bottom six of a playoff team. Now, he becomes a ‘bottom sixer that can move up in a pinch’ type of player. How many playoff squads could Dadonov fit in with that distinction? A whole lot more than one or two and certainly not zero. That’s good news for Montreal.
Yes, the Habs will have to eat half the contract to move him. That’s a given. And yes, some production to show that he can still be a capable secondary scorer will be needed when he returns. But as long as Dadonov continues to be a positive on the penalty kill, there should be some interest in him at the trade deadline and frankly, there should be more at that time than there was in the past. That’s not the type of player to throw on waivers and bury in the minors in mid-November. I’m not saying he’s going to become a high-end trade asset but with his track record, some patience could prove fruitful in the end.