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The Habs pulled the trigger early on a Sean Monahan trade, sending him to Winnipeg on Friday for a first-round and a conditional third-rounder in 2027.  Having had some time to ponder the move, our writers offer up their assessments.

As a reminder, Montreal also picked up a first-round selection from Calgary to take him on in 2022 which could convey anywhere between this June and 2026.  They could wind up with the Flames’ pick (all three years) or Florida’s (2025 or 2026).

Terry Costaris: I love Monahan both as a player and individual. I truly wish him all the best.

We all knew that he was going to be traded. We also knew that he had a large say as to where he would go and thus, limited GM Kent Hughes’ bargaining power. Hughes extracted the most that he could get under these circumstances.

I’ve been saying all along that Montreal should take the “Mony” (pardon the bad pun) and run. Yes, Monahan might have extracted something more at the trade deadline BUT given his injury history, I would wager to say that there was at least a 50% chance that Hughes could’ve ended up rolling snake eyes.

Montreal gets a late first-rounder (plus the original first) and no salary retention, which might come in handy by the trade deadline. As for the conditional third-round pick. Meh. I’d prefer Winnipeg to have an early-round loss and forfeit this pick.

Overall, this is an extraordinary haul for the Canadiens.

I can’t remember any team pulling off such an impressive deal.

Kent Hughes has performed a master class in General Managing. Moves like this make me believe that he has the smarts necessary to land two game-breaking forwards in order to complete the Canadiens’ future core. Us fans simply have to remain patient.

Tom Haapanen: The Monahan trade really says more about Hughes than about Monahan. Hughes, who had already received a first-round pick for taking on Monahan two years ago, extracted another one from Winnipeg with this trade. Very clearly Hughes had set his trade criteria, and was not willing to compromise on those—but neither did he want to delay the deal for a possible better one, or risk possibly getting no deal at all. This is the same strategy he appears to be using also with Jake Allen, who may yet find a new home before the trade deadline.

We don’t know the details about his negotiating tactics, but the strategy is clear. And this same strategy also made him an outstanding player agent before he took on the Montreal GM role. This time, the writers at The Athletic unanimously awarded him a grade of A+ on the trade.

So, Monahan? Hughes had committed to trying to find him an opportunity with a contending team when Monahan signed his one-year extension, and he followed through on that commitment. An extension was not on the books, at least not at this time, so a trade was the only opportunity for the Habs to avoid having Monahan leave in the summer, with nothing in return.

The return, a late first-round pick (plus possibly a third) was better than most prognosticators expected to see just a few weeks ago. It was indeed less than what Calgary got from Vancouver for Lindholm, but that pot was significantly sweetened by Vancouver’s desire to dump Andrei Kuzmenko’s salary. Whether the Flames manage to rehabilitate Kuzmenko is really neither here nor there: Vancouver paid to free themselves from that contract. Winnipeg didn’t do a salary dump, so the first-rounder is a good return for a rental Monahan.

Hughes did try to get a prospect instead of a pick, but the Jets didn’t want to give up any of the prospects that Hughes was interested in. So, it’ll be a draft weekend project for Hughes to try to turn this pick (and maybe the Habs’ own early second-rounder) into a young player with top-six potential.

Allan Katz: When examining a trade like this, my goal is always to find the secret sauce that might generate some excitement over the deal. There are three ways to go in this assessment and all have some credibility. The three options are 1) Heaven, 2) Hell & 3) Limbo (aka Purgatory).

HEAVEN: Two first-round draft picks for an oft-injured soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is nothing short of incredible. There is an issue about how those picks turn out, but on the surface, the immediate reaction has to be – awesome. The added bonus is the team will be significantly weaker and will drop to a better draft pick this summer.

HELL: That the Habs did not receive anything beyond the pick is very disappointing. The two first-round draft picks are an illusion for a number of reasons. The most important reason is you cannot include the first pick in the assessment of the Winnipeg trade, because that is in the past and really has little to do with the assessment of the most recent trade. Surely the market was set higher after the Elias Lindholm trade and Montreal did not get a potent prospect on top of the pick. Hughes believes in making trades that benefit both teams. This makes him a good man, but not necessarily a good general manager. On top of this, the team’s chances for the rest of the season drop precipitously with Monahan’s loss. For those who prefer the team be better off after a trade asking for time and patience seems almost cruel. It would have been nice to give Laval help too, is that asking too much? I gather it is.

LIMBO: Considering some believed the Habs would be lucky if they got a second, the first is okay news. The bottom line is we now have to wait and see what is done with the two picks. Asset wise the team is richer, but what does that do for the fan NOW? The answer is in the secret sauce.

THE SECRET SAUCE: Don’t tell anyone, but Monahan’s defensive metrics are not good. The wear and tear on his body surpasses his age. He is very slow and it is amazing how much he has achieved considering his “wheels” are ancient, but that is not the secret sauce. As a fan of hockey and the Habs, we now have a Canadian team to cheer for during this season’s playoffs. If Winnipeg wins the Stanley Cup the Habs receive the third-round bonus pick. Talking for myself I want a Canadian team to win the Cup this year. I would thoroughly enjoy cheering for Edmonton or Vancouver but I would have no skin in the game. Winnipeg and that third-round pick add a little spice to a spring that will be Hab-less. Here is a list of six third-round picks that flourished in the NHL since 2000; Adam Fox, Brayden Pointe, Patrick Sharp, Tomas Plekanec, Kris Letang, and Brad Marchand … not too bad.  I realize I left out Toronto and would prefer they won the Cup over Tehran, but otherwise, it’s BENNY AND THE JETS, okay SEAN AND THE JETS.

Brian La Rose: The Habs couldn’t have been happier with Calgary opting to move Lindholm early, making Monahan the top rental centre on the market.  That made Winnipeg up its offer, something GM Kevin Cheveldayoff alluded to in his remarks following the trade.

That Montreal made this trade now suggests to me that there weren’t multiple teams who upped their offer to this level.  One team did and rather than wait and hold out for more (running the risk of injury or new players hitting the market), they found someone willing to meet their asking price and took it.  It’s the right decision.  And Monahan’s market was never going to be at the level of Lindholm, a viable Selke candidate so comparing the two returns isn’t really viable.

This move reminds me of the Tyler Toffoli one a couple of years back made around this point of the season.  Hughes set his price – a fairly high one – and when someone met it, he pulled the trigger on the trade.  Coincidentally, that move was made with Calgary, no less, the team who sent him to Montreal in the first place and then aided Montreal’s return by moving Lindholm early.  All roads lead through Calgary, it seems, and that’s a good thing with how this has worked out.

Kevin Leveille: One of the things sports fans struggle with is the idea that a team wins or loses a trade because it’s simply not how it works. Teams that see themselves as contenders to win their league are in a “win now mode”. They’ll make moves that they know have negative long-term implications to try to win immediately. When they don’t win, fans will say “Why did they trade that guy, made no sense!” But it made perfect sense because you can’t indefinitely manage in what I like to call “asset management mode” and expect to attract free agents or players via trades when no-move clauses are involved.

Teams who are far away from a championship enter that “asset management mode”. The Habs have been part of the latter group since before GM Hughes took over, and in the case of Monahan, it was a masterclass in asset management. The Habs cashed in on the Flames’ desire to “win now” to secure a pick that now looks like it might be an incredible steal if Calgary continues to stumble next season (considering the selling off of players, it’s certainly possible) and then they gave Monahan the time, space, and resources to return to being a serviceable NHL middle six centreman. Once that happened, they once again cashed in on Friday. The question of re-signing Monahan is not one that makes sense. If the fit is that perfect, they can revisit it in the summer.

For now, Hughes materialized two extra first-round picks out of available cap space. That’s the bottom line for a team that is deeply entrenched in an “asset management” situation. More asset management? Hughes managed to get a first out of Winnipeg without retaining salary. This is more leverage as he can now include retention in a potential Jake Allen, Tanner Pearson, or even David Savard trade moving forward. I don’t think all three will be moved or that Hughes has much interest in retaining on Savard, but HE CAN. He now has that leverage after trading his best tradeable asset. Two picks (he could potentially trade them to move up if the lottery isn’t kind to them… think he would have done that last year? I do.) this year, they can compete as best as they can next year and still land a top-10 pick out of Calgary. All that and gave up nothing in the process. NOTHING! It made no sense to extend Monahan now, and this is coming from a fan who is entirely open to the Habs signing him as a free agent in the summer if the fit was perfect as it’s currently being made out in the media.

Peter Longo: In terms of trades, they don’t come any easier than this. The Flames and Canucks had just established the market for centres with the Lindholm trade and Hughes was sitting with the best centre (on an expiring contract) available in the NHL. Monahan has been playing great hockey all year which did all the talking. And it’s not like Hughes had to put any strategic thoughts into timing the trade either. Montreal is desperate for centres and with Monahan playing great, keeping him in the lineup until he got his asking price was a no-brainer.

Where I will give credit to Hughes was back in the offseason when he was able to sign Monahan. That’s the type of good work that Montreal needs from the GM. This trade itself was a no brainer and even my dead grandmother could have made it happen.

Did Hughes get good value in comparison to other NHL trades? Perhaps. The return was less than the Lindholm trade but a first and conditional third is not a terrible return. So, a passing grade but not amazing.

Was it a good trade for Montreal? In the short term – unless there’s another big move comes in the next few days – this is horrible. On a bottom-dwelling team that is that is already struggling offensively with no centre depth, Hughes just traded their third-leading scorer with absolutely no replacement anywhere on the horizon. Your guess is as good as mine as to who will play centre now with only two centres on the active roster at the time of the trade (Suzuki and Evans). They do have three goalies so perhaps Jake Allen? Maybe someone needs to tell Hughes on NHL teams you actually need four centres and only two goalies?

In the long term, the trade could work out if the picks can be developed or packaged off for some much-needed offensive help. That’s assuming that Hughes tries at some point to field a competitive team. For the time being the only thing certain is that without a replacement, the Canadiens are going to struggle even more for the remainder of the season.

Norm Szcyrek: I was a little surprised Montreal pulled the trigger on dealing Monahan so far away from the trade deadline.  Typically, a selling team will wait until the deadline is close to make a deal, with the theory that opposing general managers will be more desperate to meet their demands.  However, Monahan has been skipping practices for over a month now to have “therapy days”.  I believe that is hockey code for having treatment to deal with a minor injury or flare-up of some kind.  Despite that handicap, Sean has brought his offensive numbers up among the NHL leaders since the start of January.

With that in mind, a first-round pick is an excellent return for this pending UFA veteran.  The conditional third-round pick has a low probability of coming true so I am not counting on it.  Some people want to compare this trade to the one between Calgary and Vancouver where pending UFA Lindholm was the key part of the deal.  Monahan’s injury history likely limited his value somewhat compared to Lindholm.  NHL pundits I follow have put Lindholm ahead of Monahan in terms of their market value.  Don’t forget that Monahan already earned a first-round pick from Calgary. It may be an unofficial record for a team to trade the same player twice for two different first-round picks.

Oren Weizman: Sean is gone. Yes, the one once branded ‘Moneyhands’ Monahan in Calgary, continues his tour of Canada’s emerging hockey markets as he is now a Winnipeg Jet.

And my, oh my, did that hockey team go from the doldrums to destiny in the timeline of a few hockey trades. With a healthy Monahan, the Jets are definitely set to at least burn through the first round of this year’s playoffs with an excellent balance of youth and gritty veterans.

And oh my god, if Lord Stanley’s mug is seen parading down Main Street, the Canadiens will get to celebrate the additional pick… in 2027. Hey, stranger things have happened, but one can’t help but feel sad about the departure of Monahan, an appreciated figure in the Montreal locker room.

The Habs got their price, of course, a first-round pick, which makes Monahan one of the most lucrative acquisitions in recent history (and a hilariously continual outcome for Calgary) but also gives the Canadiens, so far, close to 12 picks in 2024. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the draft is an utter crapshoot, and no matter what some will claim about having an abundance of prospects, one also wonders about the development staff’s ability to follow and assist the development of these prospects. The Habs haven’t been brilliant over the years at asset management, which is why it’s almost a wonder if having this many people in the system is really helpful. The Canadiens were mocked mercilessly last summer for having an overcharged training camp with close to 70 players invited; adding 12 prospects might not improve their ability to evaluate what they have.

However, this challenge all belongs to one man, Nick Bobrov. The abundance of these riches means that he’ll have to make sure that this is a draft that counts. The Canadiens, although blessed with a rich farm system, are still struggling to find a deliberate and phenom-level offensive forward that can punish their adversaries night in and night out. Is this the draft where the essence of that absence disappears? The Canadiens will have the picks, but will they make the right picks?

As I read a few months ago from a bored-at-school poster on Reddit (salutations to few-quiet-283), Nick Bobrov has yet to draft in the first round a player that is over 0.45 ppg. Is this the draft where he redeems his lackluster offensive flair at the draft table? Let us hope we don’t have to relive another Michkov disappointment in 2024.

Dave Woodward: Let’s begin by wishing Monahan well.  He came to the Habs via a salary dump after a series of injury-plagued seasons and some painful surgeries.  Monahan’s career seems to have been rejuvenated this year.  The guy is a hockey player who has played hard for the Habs and by all accounts was a great teammate.  He should be a candidate for the Masterton Trophy this year.  You can’t help but wish him well.

Hughes has weakened the Canadiens considerably by dealing Monahan at a time when two of the team’s regular centres are injured and out for the season.  The next several weeks will be difficult to watch for fans.  Barring another deal to bring in a centreman, for the rest of the year, the Canadiens will be weaker down the middle than they have been for some time and that’s saying something.  However, management has its sights on the future.

In the short run, the Canadiens are not going anywhere anyway.  With the trade, the Habs will lose more games than they would have otherwise the rest of the season.  Who cares?  They weren’t making the playoffs anyway.

Should they have signed Monahan instead?  Monahan’s season has likely earned him a better contract with a little bit of term.  Why would a team in a rebuild invest term and material cap space in a 30-year-old veteran player that has been chronically injured for four of the past five seasons?  Let the contenders take that risk.

Monahan has been excellent for the Canadiens this year but by the time their core is ready to contend, he will either be retired, on LTIR, or in the last few years of his fine career.  For the sake of the rebuild, Sean had to be dealt.

Was the return enough?  In my view, the answer is an emphatic yes.  A first-round pick for a middle-six centre/rental/pending UFA with a troubling injury history is good value.  The conditional third rounder is likely academic as the Canadiens receive the pick only if Winnipeg wins Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice…but why not take a flier if you can get it thrown in?

While the first-rounder is likely to be a late first-round pick, it’s still a first-round draft pick.  There are plenty of misses in Round 1 but there are also elite players taken late in the first round as well.

Some pundits may compare the return to the Lindholm deal and question the Canadiens’ return for Monahan.  That’s not a fair comparison.  Firstly, Vancouver gave up far too much.  Secondly, the Flames took on a cap hit for two years for an underperforming forward (Andrei Kuzmenko) and traded away a player (Lindholm) with no major injury history and who has performed consistently for the last five years.   While the point totals of Monahan and Lindholm are similar this year, there is no question which player represents the safer acquisition.   Also, the prospects acquired for Lindholm are not, in my view, elite prospects, and the first-rounder going the other way will likely be later than the pick the Canadiens have acquired from Winnipeg.  Apples and oranges.

Of course, if one considers the deal to first acquire Monahan and this trade, management’s genius is readily apparent.  Two first-round picks and the services of a solid bridge player in the rebuild all for the price of his $6 million-plus salary in year one and part of his $2 million salary in year two.  That tidy bit of business is a solid piece of asset management.  Well done.