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As expected, it was a fairly quiet trade deadline for the Habs who made a pair of swaps, moving Jake Allen to New Jersey while swapping prospects with Anaheim.  Our writers offer up their thoughts on the deadline.

Technically, a third trade was made after the deadline but seeing as it’s strictly an AHL swap, it’s not factored into the discussion here.

Terry Costaris: I know that most fans, including myself, would have loved seeing multiple blockbuster transactions by the deadline but there is a good reason why we should never have a say on these things. Kent Hughes made a few ‘small’ (but actually significant) deals that once again took the Montreal Canadiens on the right path to ultimate success.

Most of Hughes’ trades have been of the “asset management” variety. Those on or around March 8th were focused on player development.

Sometimes, “less is more.” GM Hughes moved the Canadiens a tiny bit closer to port, thus benefiting Montreal’s long-term interests.

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones that you don’t make. That’s how I feel about the Canadiens keeping David Savard on board.

Nothing that Hughes did here will haunt him years from now. There is no iceberg ahead.

He improved Montreal’s defence by retaining Savard – whose impact on the very young D has been significant. Likewise, he freed up space in the three-man goalie rotation by trading Allen, which is best for the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie development.

The tandem of Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau is basically ready to remove its training wheels.

Montreal’s apprenticing defence still needs David Savard’s mentorship. One more year of his presence will do more for this core than any late ‘first’ round pick – which these days, is like what was a second-rounder a decade ago.

As for the Jan Mysak for Jacob Perreault deal, this is yet another ‘dart on the board’ trade, much like the acquisition of Colin White via waivers a few weeks earlier.

Who knows, maybe Perreault pans out into a Phillip Danault-level pick-up – we’re all entitled to dream. Mysak, hard-working as he is, was not likely going to reach his potential in Montreal. I wish him all the best though.

So, in summary, not much was done. Just a few small moves but holding onto Savard and moving Allen were significant nonetheless.

Allan Katz: As the trade deadline approached, I only had one wish for the Habs; that they not trade the one player on the team who had the same first name as my son Jake and the same last name as my first name. Was that too much to ask? … My real hope for the deadline was that the Habs got at least one task accomplished and they were: Trade Savard only if they win the trade – trade a goalie preferably the goalie with two first names – unload some of the veteran forwards and their large contracts – trade a major prospect for a goal scorer.

Trading Allen seemed like a real long shot. I heard an NHL insider peg his value at a 4th or 5th rounder. I heard another insider say he was untradeable. So, the results for the team are impressive. Every one of those possible trades had a potential downside and the Allen downside (if the trade was done earlier) was if one of the two Hab goalies got injured. For the whole year, the team would have put themselves in a terrible situation if they were hit by goalie injuries and Allen was not on the Habs. Jakub Dobes, a rookie pro, floundered to start the AHL season. Fortunately, he’s been playing well as of late and should be a passable #3 Hab goalie while continuing to learn in Laval. As a housecleaning goes it was small but effective. The team is better for it.

Brian La Rose: I have to admit, I didn’t expect Allen to be moved, especially to one of the teams on his no-trade list, an element that has been underreported in discussing this trade.  He admitted today that he rejected a deal there earlier in the season (which is why the Devils were talking to him on deadline day to try to convince him to accept this time).  I honestly think there could have been a better market for him in June from teams that didn’t want to go into free agency and have to give a multi-year deal to some of the not-exactly-impressive options available.

Having said that, the value is fine, to an extent.  I like that there’s a way for the pick to be upgraded although I’m not holding my breath on that one.  What bothers me is that it required retention to get a mid-round return.  Is that truly the best value of a retention slot?  With Joel Armia, Christian Dvorak, and Savard all on expiring deals next season, did making this move just kibosh the potential for one of those players to go later?  (I assume their one retention slot for next season will go to Savard, in particular.).  This is where the ill-fated Jeff Petry to Detroit move really stung since it ties up a retention slot through next season.

I know behind the scenes there was some encouragement to break up the three-goalie tandem and that is a factor that has to be considered here.  More playing (and evaluation) time for Primeau has value and had Hughes held onto Allen until the draft, that wouldn’t have happened.  But all else equal, I still think I’d have waited to see if a better option came up in June or at least one that didn’t require burning a retention slot.  But value-wise, it’s fair.

As for the prospect swap, I would have liked to see Mysak move off the fourth line in Laval for more than a period or two here and there.  J-F Houle basically pigeonholed him into that slot and left him there.  I’m not certain Mysak would have done a lot with the extra opportunity but I’d feel a bit more confident about moving him had he been given a chance and struggled with it.

I don’t mind the Perreault pickup.  There might be a bit more offensive upside in the profile but there’s also a much higher risk factor given how the first couple of years of his career have gone.  He’s a higher ceiling, lower floor type of player but Montreal has the prospect depth to make moves like that worth pursuing on the off-chance that Perreault pans out into a legitimate NHL prospect.

Kevin Leveille: Am I surprised the Habs were able to move Allen? Yes, a little bit, but I was also pretty spot on in my assessment of the goalie market (even though it’s not that hard). The return is also insignificant which was my prediction.

Hughes mentioned in his press conference that they expected Edmonton or Carolina who opted not to move. Los Angeles and New Jersey both made big swings at Linus Ullmark and Jacob Markstrom respectively but were unable to acquire what they wanted. Los Angeles has little to no internal options, so expect them to revisit Ullmark, Markstrom, or maybe even Juuse Saros in the off-season.

I said New Jersey was going to set the market, and their play took a huge dive after I said it. This allows them to really test a few more small ticket options before having to pay the price this summer. If Kaapo Kahkonen or Allen can provide any semblance of solid play while being a solid mentor for Nico Daws, the Devils could remove themselves from acquiring Markstrom entirely. They can move him again next year otherwise.

Win-win, almost. The only big loser is Allen who goes from a three-goalie situation in Montreal to yet another in Jersey where he’ll share the crease with Daws and Kahkonen. At least there’s a good chance it’s resolved by next training camp as the Devils’ decisions on Akira Schmid, Daws, Allen, Kahkonen, and potentially Markstrom. Nothing to worry about for Allen there.

Peter Longo: The Allen trade itself isn’t bad – it’s actually what you’d expect in a trade for something like Allen. But what it does demonstrate (again!) is that Habs management has no plan or strategy. After all, if you were in a rebuild and wanted to prioritize player development – why would you keep three goalies all year and limit Primeau to only 14 games? If player development is a priority, you would have given away Allen for next to nothing and prioritized playing time for Primeau and Montembeault.

Conversely, if you wanted to maximize asset value in a trade and were convinced you would be able to get a first-round pick – why settle now for a third-round pick with only a month to go in the season? Settling for that now doesn’t make sense because it was probably offered months ago.

Others may argue that Allen hasn’t been playing well and Hughes did as well as he could.  Unfortunately, Hughes has only himself to blame for this as well. Up to this point in his career Allen has played an average of 46 games a year, and 38 in two previous seasons with the Habs (ignoring the COVID years which impacted total games played). This year he’s on pace for low 20’s and is playing on average only once every 10 days with some stretches of 12 and 13 days between starts. It is absurd for Hughes to expect a player to be on his game when he’s shaking off the rust from being sidelined for nearly two weeks.

Again – the trade itself isn’t bad – a third-round pick is pretty much what could be expected. If Hughes had done any research on trade values, he would have known that and accepted any of those offers he received months ago. Instead, Hughes shot himself in the foot on both asset management and player development. It’s hard to imagine a worse outcome – doing both things poorly.

Oh wait – I forgot – Hughes also used up another salary cap retaining slot for all of next season. I guess there is a way for Hughes to shoot himself in the foot again.

Paul MacLeod: The trade deadline went more or less as I expected. As I predicted in a previous Writers Write In, Allen was traded, ending the three-headed monster in net, and a third-round pick that has the potential to become a 2nd rounder if the conditions are met is a fine return given Allen’s numbers this season and the less than stellar returns many sellers were getting for much stronger asset’. I’m not surprised that without salary retention slots left to lessen the burden that none of Tanner Pearson, Savard or, my personal favourite trade candidate, Joel Armia elicited an offer strong enough to tempt Kent Hughes.

I also really liked the trade of Mysak for Perreault. I had high hopes for Mysak when he was drafted but he was not progressing in Laval. Mysak seems like he is likely to be able to play a 4th line role in the NHL while Perreault will either win a scoring role or bust. This seems like a classic case of trading a lower ceiling/high floor prospect for a high ceiling/low floor prospect. Given that Mysak was being eclipsed by younger prospects, I really like this low-risk/potentially high-reward bet by the Canadiens. I rate their trade deadline a solid B+.

Norm Szcyrek: The handwriting was on the wall that Allen was going to be traded; to me, it was just a question if it happened this year, this offseason, or next season.  The return was little but the cost was still high.  The salary retention spot for this trade that goes into next season, is more important to Montreal.  They will have only one retention spot left next season, so that means there will be one chance to move pending UFA’s such as Savard, Armia, or Dvorak off the books more easily before the 2024-25 season.  The removal of current bad contracts is just as important to the Canadiens team improving, as the development of their current and future players.

Dave Woodward: Before commenting on the trade, I think a few words about Allen are warranted.  No person was prejudiced more by the three-goalie system than Jake Allen.  He knew that he would not be around for the end of the rebuild and, at 33, Allen’s remaining time in the NHL is short.  Rather than sulk about the situation, by all accounts, he was the consummate pro, supporting his fellow netminders in a way that assisted the younger goalies in their development.   Jake Allen is a pro.

Of course, the three-goalie system could not continue and, while Allen remains a better goalie than Primeau at this time, at 33 and with the Canadiens in the midst of a rebuild, Allen had to be moved.  Montembeault is clearly number one and the Habs now have a 20-game window to determine whether Cayden Primeau can be the backup while Dobes and Jacob Fowler marinate in the AHL and College respectively.

The return?  A third-rounder (that could convert into a second-round pick) is more than fair value for Allen at this phase of his career.  Allen is not going to New Jersey to be their number one goalie.  He is going to New Jersey to be a 1A or 1B and help New Jersey develop one of their younger goaltenders into a number one goalie, in the event they cannot land Markstrom.   Although Allen remains a capable backup, his skills are diminishing as he enters his mid-thirties.  Given the market for goalkeepers this year, the return is more than acceptable.

Of course, that return was predicated on the Canadiens retaining salary and Allen’s contract runs into next season.  While that sweetens the deal for the Devils, it will not be a material hardship for the Habs.  They have lots of cap space next year and Hughes is unlikely to be active during free agency this summer.  The rebuilding Canadiens are at least another year or two away from competing for a playoff spot so there is no point adding another exorbitant contract to the roster.  They already have more than enough of that baggage courtesy of the Bergevin regime.

At the end of the day, the Canadiens endured a three-goalie system for most of this season and will have to retain half of Allen’s salary for next year (which will most certainly be another year outside the playoffs).  It probably cost them some wins as the tandem of Montembeault and Allen would have likely been more effective.  However, the payoff was the retention of Primeau (their most NHL-ready goaltender prospect) and a third-round selection which could become a second-rounder.  With the Canadiens still rebuilding, that is a deal this scribbler will take any day.