Just before free agency began, the Habs moved Joel Edmundson to Washington with 50% retention for a pair of draft picks. Now that the dust has settled on the free agent market for the time being, do our writers think it was a good move, or should they have waited to deal him?
Terry Costaris: The Canadiens and Edmundson have all done themselves a nice favour here.
Edmundson has been nothing other than a class act with the Canadiens. He was a good soldier who played a great role in mentoring the Habs’ young defence. As a reward, he no longer has to deal with the constant trade speculation that has been eating away at him. Edmundson also gets several months to pack up his stuff and relocate in Washington. Good organizations treat their players with some decency – especially those who have made a difference for a franchise. Montreal is showing its classy colours.
As for the Habs, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Realistically, the odds of Edmundson playing by the trade deadline seem small. As a result, landing a first-rounder for him in March was not likely in the cards. The Canadiens got something for him. They also reduced their cap hit on this player by 50%. Not bad.
The trade then is a dignified win-win scenario.
Allan Katz: The Edmundson trade is a slam dunk. It is also a very boring slam dunk. The Habs traded a wonky back for a one-dollar lottery ticket (seventh-round pick) and a five-dollar lottery pick (the third-rounder). They paid $1.75 million dollars to buy the same amount in cap space for this season. When your owner has the bucks and he’s willing to spend; it’s a much better call to lay out the cash and send your man (Edmundson) off without attaching draft picks to rid yourself of the player. That money bought them two lottery tickets with one of them being okay. But they did the trade to ease the pressure on their coach trying to figure out a way to play the youth over their tired aging vets.
So here’s the lineup “for now” on the backend: Matheson with Guhle, Harris with Kovacevic, Xhekaj with Savard and Barron backing up the right-side defence, and Guhle also backing up the left side with a shuffle including Barron.
The team might choose to send Xhekaj or Barron to Laval, at the beginning of the season, until the expected injury of one of their defencemen. There is no way the injury situation will be worse than last year barring a tragic event (best left unsaid). I have no doubt no one will be injured until at least the intrasquad game’s second period (call me an optimist). So, Barron will get in sixty games if he’s mildly patient.
Brian La Rose: If Edmundson started the season in Montreal, played well, and stayed healthy, I think they could have beaten this trade at the deadline. Him playing well would make him a fourth or fifth option and with 50% retention, demand would have been pretty high. But playing well and staying healthy consistently are big ifs at this point of Edmundson’s career. By making this trade, GM Kent Hughes determined that the ifs were simply too big.
There was definitely a risk associated with keeping him as well. Notwithstanding the roster logjam, it’s quite possible that Edmundson’s back troubles acted up again, limiting him both in terms of on-ice role and how many games he actually plays. In that scenario, his trade value dwindles to the level of Evgenii Dadonov last season where they’re basically taking a warm body back just to get something.
This is not an easy market to move money in. The return, on the surface, was underwhelming but the fact there was a return was noteworthy in itself. Not that Edmundson is a bad player but when a capable centre in Ryan Johansen gets traded with 50% retention for free earlier that week, good luck clearing out money and getting top value at the same time. This move was clearly a compromise for Montreal, eating more than they probably would have liked but they ensured that they received some positive value. Not every trade has to be a big win; this one is underwhelming but given the circumstances, they could have done a lot worse.
Peter Longo: Overall, I think it’s a pretty reasonable trade. A healthy Edmundson playing solid hockey would be worth a good return at the trade deadline – something similar to the Ben Chiarot package (a first-round pick plus other assets). But that is a big risk to take given Edmundson’s recent health history.
I’m not a believer in clearing out veterans to just ‘give’ a spot in the line-up to a younger player. This is the NHL so everyone needs to earn their place. But given the performance of the rookies on defense last year, I think it’s pretty clear they have all earned their spots and proved they are NHL players. So, moving out Edmundson now also has the advantage of giving more development time to proven NHL players while not hurting the team.
Off the ice, I’m sure they will miss his leadership but hopefully, other veterans will pick up the slack or perhaps other leaders will emerge.
Paul MacLeod: I have mixed feelings about the Edmundson trade. Something had to be done to ease the logjam of players on the left side of the defence. So, it was a necessary move. The return was underwhelming but under the circumstances and Edmundson’s injury troubles about what could be reasonably expected. Keeping him until the trade deadline to potentially boost the return was not a good option because he would have had to take significant playing time from one of the youngsters for it to work and is a significant injury risk. Mixed feelings simply because I liked the player, but it was undoubtedly time for Les Canadiens to move on and get what they could. Hopefully, they will be able to make some sort of similar deal to move Mike Hoffman.
Daniel Marsh: This is a trade that, on the surface, looks incredibly underwhelming given that a year ago Hughes was hoping to turn Edmundson into a 1st-round pick plus.
However, each year environmental factors change and needs change. A year ago, no one could have predicted the meteoric development of Xhekaj, Harris, and most importantly, Guhle into the capable defencemen that they are. Hughes needed to make space for this promising D-core. That had to be the top priority and in the opening salvo of Day 1 of the new NHL year, Hughes achieved that.
What Hughes received may be perceived as underwhelming for fans given their expectations for a strong return, but Edmundson is not the same player that dominated through the Stanley Cup run a few years ago.
The constraints other teams face with a tight salary cap made it seem increasingly likely that any trade involving Edmundson could have cost Montreal picks or prospects to jettison his contract. To get anything in return for Edmundson now feels more like a coup. When I consider that Anthony Duclair was traded by Florida hours later to San Jose for a 5th-rounder and Steven Lorentz, the Edmundson trade to Washington looks even better to me.
Lastly, as I alluded to earlier, salary cap space is at an all-time premium. Montreal managed to acquire more cap space in this move to bring their spending down. If the Canadiens can make a similar trade with one of their aging forwards while staying under the cap, they will be able to weaponize Carey Price’s $10.5M LTIR in-season rather than in the offseason.
So, while the trade on the surface appears to be underwhelming, I for one, think this trade is a win for the Canadiens as it is a move that appears to be a prelude for what is still yet to come.
Norm Szcyrek: When I saw the news about Montreal trading Edmundson my first thoughts were, thank the gods, the new ones and the old ones. Since he played so little last season due to injuries he could not be moved before the trade deadline as everyone had expected. When he was in the lineup last season, he looked even slower than he did during the 2021 playoff run. When I say slower, I don’t mean just in terms of skating; his anticipation or hockey sense was even worse than before, and he was average at best in that category. There were so many games when a Habs goal was scored against with Edmundson on the ice, and when his defence partner was on camera I could see the frustration in their face since they knew Joel was a liability.
I thought a seventh-round pick would be the only return Hughes could gain from trading Edmundson away, so getting that plus a third-rounder is what I call shrewd negotiating. If Edmundson has stayed in Montreal, he would have been the team’s ninth defenceman according to my depth chart, since everyone else on the active roster is a better player. Having eight defenders is a much better situation since the team can more easily adapt to injuries when they arise. I don’t mind Montreal retaining half of his salary because saving half still helped give them some flexibility when it comes to the salary cap. When the next season begins and the time is right to move Carey Price to his annual LTIR list status, then the Canadiens will still be in a good position regarding the cap limit.
Dave Woodward: It is unfortunate that a better return was not available for Edmundson. In a different market (such as the market at the time Chiarot was moved) and without Edmundson’s injury problems over the last few years, Edmundson likely would have garnered a first-round pick and maybe even a prospect. And the market could conceivably change by the trade deadline.
However, as of now, in Edmundson, the Canadiens have a solid but injury-prone defenceman who will not be part of the rebuild and who, but for this trade, would be taking up a roster spot that should go to one of their young defencemen. Also, with his wonky back, what are the chances of Edmundson staying healthy this season? Not high. And if he gets hurt, there is a reasonable possibility that the Canadiens will not be able to move him at the deadline.
Given the above, they took the available draft capital (2024 3rd and 7th round picks) and retained half of Edmundson’s salary in a year that they should not be tight against the cap. The deal makes room for a younger defender and gets the best available return for Edmundson. Overall, it’s a good decision.
Best to Eddie though, one of the four Clydesdales who was a key part of the Canadiens’ unlikely playoff run to the Finals in 2021. Hope he can stay healthy and continue his career.