There are some decisions coming when it comes to Sean Monahan. Head coach Martin St. Louis said over the weekend that his recovery has “plateaued” which sounds like a polite way of saying he’s not going to be back this week. While he has widely been expected to be Montreal’s top trade chip this season, let’s just say that a longer-than-expected recovery timeline hasn’t just plateaued his trade value, it has weakened it considerably. No team in their right mind is going to consider trading a high draft pick for a player that was supposed to be out for a few weeks and now is approaching 2.5 months without a return date set. One can dream but it’s probably not going to happen.
At this point, his value is probably no more than a mid-round pick with a condition that could elevate it a round based on games played between the regular season and playoffs with the Habs retaining 50%. Even the retention part is iffy at the moment; all their cap room now is based on Monahan being on LTIR so if he’s traded, that cap space is no longer there barring someone else going on to take his place that makes enough to offset Monahan’s money. (How much longer will Brendan Gallagher be out? That’s the one viable option they have on that front.)
On the one hand, any return for a player they were paid a first-rounder to take would still be a nice piece of business. Free assets are free assets and anytime you can get some of those, great. But on the other hand, maybe a longer-term play makes sense.
It’s well-known that the organization likes Monahan to the point where an extension was believed to have been briefly discussed earlier in the year. At this point, Monahan must know that his market value will be down due to the injuries; he’s not going to be able to go into free agency and realistically command a long-term deal. But would a one-year pillow contract make sense? That would give him another chance to show he can play a full season (or closer to it) and it would certainly come at a lower price tag than where he’s at now. If all goes well, they could look at either extending him again next season or looking to move him in what could be a stronger trade market.
There are two options when looking for a short-term deal. One is to try and chase a Cup ring but doing that would result in him taking a lesser role which isn’t ideal for rebuilding his value. In this case, a pillow deal would need to be with a team that can play him high enough in the lineup. That would be a rebuilding squad and let’s face it, the Habs are definitely rebuilding.
Of course, there are risks associated with that approach as well. If Monahan isn’t healthy next year (and with his history, there’s a decent chance that happens), they’ll be in the same boat as they are now with an ‘asset’ that really isn’t worth much of anything once again; he’ll just be cheaper on the cap. There’s also the potential logjam down the middle but I’m not overly concerned with that as some players can easily adapt to the wing; I’m a believer that it’s really hard to have too many centres.
For me, the question boils down to this – Does the potential reward of waiting a year and not taking what they could get for Monahan now outweigh the risks of an extension? At this point, I think it does. It wouldn’t surprise me if GM Kent Hughes feels the same and pivots in that direction over the coming days.