The Habs moved out Casey DeSmith on Tuesday but created another logjam by taking Tanner Pearson (along with a 2025 third-round pick) in return. Was this the right move to make? Our writers offer up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: There has to be “more to come” concerning this trade. When, I’m not certain as Pearson is coming off a major injury and most GMs will have to wait and see if he is damaged goods or not. If Pearson is not moved in a month or two, then GM Kent Hughes has dropped the ball on this deal.
I understand that the Habs needed to deal in order to address their logjam in net. Moving DeSmith alleviated this problem. But they have now made it that much harder for one of their rising prospects to get a spot in the bottom six.
There’s also the financial implications for Montreal’s ownership. Yes, Pearson can be sent down to the minors to offset some of his high salary against the cap but if the Canadiens retain him, they then will spend $1.45M, when you subtract Casey DeSmith’s cap hit, for a player that they don’t need; someone who has had near career-ending issues with his hand, all for a third-round pick.
I get the need to acquire as many draft picks as possible but Geoff Molson and his ownership group might want to re-examine both the economics and cost benefits of such transactions. No third-round pick should be purchased for $1.45M. Think of how many additional scouts this money would get you. Now, that would be money better spent.
So, the bottom line here is if Pearson is moved within a month or two, for even a seventh-round pick, then this trade with Vancouver was a win-win transaction for both parties. If he remains on either Montreal’s or Laval’s roster though, then Hughes has indeed dropped the ball here.
Allan Katz: There is a Jewish word (aka Yiddish) Balaboosta: It means the perfect housewife and mother. The Balaboosta is the fearless emotional centre of her family, who makes sure her table is not only full of gorgeous food, but also full of friends, love, and laughter. She also keeps an immaculately clean house. The three-headed “monster” of Gorton, Hughes and St-Louis is the Balaboosta of the Montreal Canadiens.
This trade for Pearson is a perfect example. Obviously, the Petry tree of trades offers a broader confirmation, but there’s no reason to go there with other writers venturing into that territory. The draft picks are all replenishing future tables of gorgeous prospects and tradable assets. The unloading of DeSmith was brilliant housecleaning. The team essentially traded a player who had no chance of helping the team due to the bounty of goalies already in the race for top-two status, for a player who plays wing and, if healthy, could provide veteran leadership to a young forward corps. The Habs did not NEED another winger but there is definitely more room on the wing than there was in net and the whole idea of the trade was to give cap room for a team that did not have it by a team that could afford to exploit their cap room.
Obviously, this is not an exciting trade, but house cleaning is rarely exciting (never?) and the management team continues to show off their Balaboosta talents to great effect. But there’s more …. Lester B. Pearson was not only Prime Minister of Canada in the sixties, but he ushered in the new Canadian flag that we have today. Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister from 1968 to 1984 and was considered a world-class leader. He also fathered Canada’s current P.M. The Habs now have a Pearson and a Trudeau (rising prospect) which is practically meaningless on every level, BUT ONE, and that is … … okay … completely meaningless, but another example of a team on a mission and following their game plan. Kudos all around.
Brian La Rose: The market for DeSmith probably wasn’t great and getting a third-round pick alone likely wasn’t feasible. Taking on more money to get a better pick wasn’t an outcome I was expecting. If the goal remains to avoid offseason LTIR and duck under the $83.5M threshold when opening rosters are due, this trade makes that objective considerably more difficult. If there’s another shoe to drop as Terry feels above, that could change things.
Pearson, in a vacuum, is a serviceable piece for the Habs if he’s healthy. But that’s a big if. I’m not as certain as some that he can be flipped as they have just one retention slot left and that might be needed to extract top value for Sean Monahan if he’s healthy at the trade deadline. There’s value in him being around to allow a prospect a bit more time to develop if needed but there are easier ways to achieve that objective.
If there’s a way for Montreal to still accomplish their objective of avoiding offseason LTIR, then this trade is fine. But if adding the extra cap prevents them from doing so, I won’t feel the same way later on.
Peter Longo: Once again, Hughes did a huge favour for a player at the expense of the team. Vancouver must be thrilled to have traded away an overpriced/underperforming forward and picked up a much-needed backup goalie for only a third-round pick. That’s a good trade for Vancouver fans.
If you are a Montreal fan – you just have to shake your head. Does Hughes actually understand the value of what he just did? Teams are struggling to get rid of bad contracts and here’s Hughes taking one on for nothing. If all it takes is a third-round pick to get rid of a bad contract why hasn’t Armia been traded? I just don’t see any benefit to Montreal.
Here’s what really makes me shake my head and wonder if the new Habs management actually has any plan or strategy. If we step back to August 6, 2023 (yes, just a few weeks ago!) Habs management felt they had too many veteran forwards and wanted to clear some room for younger players. So, they traded away the teams’ fourth-leading scorer in Mike Hoffman as well as bubble player Rem Pitlick in exchange for Jeff Petry, Casey DeSmith, Nathan Legare, and a second-round pick.
This solved the logjam at forward but created two more logjams on defence and goaltending. So, Hughes got swindled and traded away their top right-handed defenceman (Petry) for depth defender Gustav Lindstrom, a fourth-round pick, and had to retain ~$2.3M of Petry’s salary for two years.
With the DeSmith trade, Hughes has now completed the circle back to where he was on August 6th by obtaining another veteran forward in Pearson!
The kicker in all of this, the Habs are actually worse off from a salary cap perspective by $900K this year and $2.3M next year.
Deduct: Hoffman ($4.5M) and Rem Pitlick ($1.1M) = $5.6M cap hit this season
Add: Pearson ($3.25M) + Gustav Lindstrom ($950K) + $2.3M retained = $6.5M cap hit this season
Add: $2.3M retained for 2024-2025
So, Hughes has gone in circles with his trades! He still has a logjam at forward but now he has created one on defence. He has weakened his team’s offence for this season and is spending more in terms of salary cap. Am I missing something?
Would Montreal not have been better to just keep Hoffman, enjoy whatever offence he provides, trade him at the deadline, and have an extra $2.3M in cap space for next season? What a bizarre series of trades with no discernible benefits or strategy.
Paul MacLeod: While some may quibble about the return on the Petry to Detroit portion of the deal, it’s impossible (or should be impossible) not to be impressed by a series of trades where the net result is that Les Canadiens get a 2025 2nd, 2025 3rd, 2025 4th, Lindstrom, Legare, and Pearson for $2.34M in cap space (this season and next) plus Hoffman, DeSmith and Pitlick. The Pearson deal, like the Monahan trade before it, also has the potential to yield additional draft picks and/or a prospect if Pearson thrives and can be flipped at the trade deadline. Once again, Hughes has managed to acquire value and potential for a relatively low-value asset, a backup goaltender. That he once again moved a player who did not want to be in Montreal to a place where the player has a real opportunity is a bonus.
The only quibble could be that the presence of Pearson will make it difficult to find space for a young forward, thereby undoing some of the benefits of trading Hoffman and Pitlick. However, with the Christian Dvorak injury opening a space; the forward openings are the same as before the trade, at least on a temporary basis. It also reduces the possibility that a young forward is pressed into a role that he is not ready for due to injury.
In short, this is another excellent trade with no real downside. Grade A.
Norm Szcyrek: I am glad to see DeSmith moved out of Montreal since his presence caused a logjam in net. The pickup of Pearson is an acceptable return. Although the Habs have more depth at forward than recent years, Pearson’s presence will likely block a prospect from getting a chance at either making this year’s team or reducing the ice time of other fourth-line players. If Pearson is healthy, and that is a huge if, he could be valuable as a bottom-six player. He has decent size, can produce a little offence, and should be able to handle defensive responsibilities. Much like last season’s pickups of Evgenii Dadonov and Monahan, Montreal’s brain trust is likely looking forward to the trade deadline to potentially flip Pearson to a contender for something valuable.