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Three potential deals for Sean Monahan
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

It’s been ages since I’ve written an article here, but the buzz surrounding the rumours approaching the trade deadline was a little too much for me not to pick up the pen again for a moment (and maybe a few more to come…). A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I last wrote, but the Habs are still in rebuilding mode and, to no one’s surprise, will be on the sellers’ side by March 8.

The Habs don’t have tons of players who will be free agents without compensation on July 1, so it’s possible that more action will unfold once the season is over. But it’s not impossible that Kent Hughes will decide to make a big splash anyway. Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen were traded in February and March 2022 respectively, so current management still has a history of moving players with “controllable contracts” during the season.

But one player who will be traded without a shadow of a doubt (barring injury) is Sean Monahan. I know that for many fans, it’s unthinkable that the Habs would trade Monahan because “He’s good! But we have to look at the forest as a whole and not stick our noses up the tree. The team is rebuilding, Monahan’s contract expires on July 1, he currently has excellent market value, he has a very heavy injury history and he has reportedly made a deal with Kent Hughes to be traded to a contender at the deadline if the Habs aren’t in a good position in the standings. He will therefore likely leave, much to the dismay of many.

That said, that doesn’t mean he can’t come knocking on the Habs’ door on July 1 if he’s really enjoyed his time in Montreal and wants to continue his stay here. We rarely see this kind of scenario, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up, especially considering that Monahan is 29 years old and will probably want to sign with a contender rather than a rebuilding club, but you never know!

In any case, do we really want to offer a contract extension of +- 5 seasons at an annual salary of +- $5,000,000 to a player who will be 30 at the start of the contract and remains fragile following numerous operations? At a low price, he’s a quality big brother for the Habs, but don’t forget that players like Slafkovsky, Guhle and others will eventually go to the bank, and there will always be a limit to the money available! The contract could eventually become a ball and chain (a la Gallagher) and Monahan could well be on the downhill slope when the Habs (perhaps) finally have a contending team.

To add to all this, Elias Lindholm was traded for a pretty penny last night. The center headed to Vancouver in return for Andrei Kuzmenko, a 1st-round pick in 2024, Hunter Brzustewicz (yes, I googled his name to make sure I spelled it right), Joni Jurmo and a conditional 4th-round pick who can become a 3rd-round pick if Vancouver reaches the conference finals. Brzustewicz isn’t necessarily the best-known prospect, but he’s still a quality one, ranking 1st in the OHL for points among defensemen and 3rd among all skaters with 69 points in 47 games.

Such an early trade gives the Habs even more leeway in a potential deal for Sean Monahan, since Lindholm was probably the best center (and forward) available and now it’s Sean Monahan. All the teams that were interested in Lindholm and missed out will now focus on Monahan, and demand will be very high… which, of course, will create a bidding war and increase Monahan’s market value. Not to mention the fact that Monahan’s impact on the payroll is so small ($1,985,000) that ALL clubs will be able to add him, given that his salary will be pro-rated to the number of games remaining at the time of the transaction, and that the Habs can also withhold up to 50% of his salary.

I’m therefore going to rely on the return the Flames obtained for Elias Lindholm to build my offers, going a little less generously, as I believe Lindholm was worth slightly more than Monahan. I built these three proposals by being as realistic as possible, since we’d all like to get a club’s top prospect, get more than one 1st-round pick or even add an undesirable contract like Brendan Gallagher or Joel Armia. But the truth is, it doesn’t work that way, so I’m going to try to go there with some plausible proposals. Happy reading!

Sean Monahan heads to Colorado in return for Calum Ritchie

The Avalanche will undoubtedly be looking to improve their center line between now and March 8, as Ross Colton is currently filling the role of 2nd center. Colton isn’t a bad hockey player, but he’s probably not the prototypical 2nd center you want to aspire to top honors. They also have Ryan Johansen on the roster, but he’s only scored 18 points this season… not optimal for a top 6, we agree! The addition of Sean Monahan makes a lot of sense for them on the $ side too, since they have virtually no cap space.

Before seeing the return the Flames got for Lindholm, I probably would have been a little less demanding in my proposal. But in light of this new information, I think it’s realistic (and perhaps a little audacious) to hope to receive a prospect of the calibre of Calum Ritchie in return for Monahan.

I really liked Ritchie at the last draft and thought he’d go higher! His name was finally called in Colorado at No. 27, and it was an excellent selection, in my opinion. Ritchie is a 19-year-old Canadian center who stands 6’2 and weighs 189 pounds. He plays for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL this season, and has 47 points in 28 games. Ritchie’s great strength is his “hockey sense”; he’s an intelligent, combative and physical player who could fit in well with the type of team Kent Hughes is trying to build at the moment.

Honestly, it’s possible that the Avalanche aren’t ready to give up Ritchie for Monahan, and I’d understand them just fine. But they’re in their window, they’re “all in”, they need a center and considering how little money they have available, Monahan ticks all the boxes. At worst, maybe the Habs could add a pick or a prospect to the equation to even things out.

Sean Monahan traded to the Jets for Brad Lambert

I don’t think I’m the only one who didn’t think the Jets were in a very good position at the start of the season, given the locker room buzz surrounding Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck, among others. The Jets will undoubtedly want to improve their line-up, and rumours have already surfaced that the Jets may be interested in Monahan. Kevin Cheveldayoff’s club has a number of quality prospects, and it’s quite possible they’ll be inclined to part with one of them in the hope of improving their roster enough to make a long run in the playoffs. Rutger McGroarty would have been my main target, but I think that’s aiming too high.

Brad Lambert remains an excellent prospect who was even once ranked top 5 in his prime before tumbling down the lists and finally exiting at number 30 in 2022. After collecting 26 points in 17 playoff games for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, he now has 28 points in 33 games in the AHL. At 20, that’s an excellent performance. And personally, I see in him the potential to be a top-6 forward without a shadow of a doubt, especially as he can play both center and wing. I think Lambert could also fit in well with the style of team the Habs are trying to build, as he has a very dynamic skating stroke and remains a player who gets involved defensively, without being elite at it. His puck handling is excellent and also helps him to be a threat in the offensive zone. At 6′ and 185 lbs, he’s not a “big guy” either!

Once again, it’s possible to add a pick/hope on one side or the other to equalize market values, but I don’t think we’re that far off the mark and that the Habs would benefit greatly from adding this type of forward to their bank of prospects, as they have plenty of quality defensemen, but few forwards with high potential. Not to mention the fact that he would help the Rocket a LOT in their current playoff race.

Sean Monahan moves to the Big Apple, Habs get Kaapo Kakko

Yes, there are rumours that a deal between the two clubs is unlikely because there’s no love lost between Jeff Gorton (who worked for the organization before joining the Habs) and Chris Drury. Still, the men could put their differences aside if it means completing a mutually beneficial transaction. And Elliotte Friedman mentioned last week that the Rangers might have Monahan on their radar!

Again, it’s a bit of a bold proposition, but for various reasons, I think the Rangers would be inclined to give the Finnish player to the Habs in return for Monahan. One of the main reasons is that Kakko has mediocre offensive production this season and a salary of $2,100,000. He will be RFA at the end of the campaign, but is entitled to arbitration. Considering that the Rangers are likely to offer him walnuts and that Kakko won’t want a significant pay cut, a conflict seems to be on the horizon, and I don’t think Chris Drury wants to get involved. In other words, the Rangers player has a greater impact on the payroll than Monahan. This would give the Rangers GM some leeway to add another piece to his club if he feels the need.

Kakko was drafted 2nd overall in 2019, behind Jack Hughes and just ahead of Kirby Dach. Some even thought Kakko would “challenge” Hughes for the #1 spot. He was seen as a potential 1st-three winger capable of averaging a point per game. But the truth is that the Rangers have always had great difficulty in developing their young players properly (not to say that Kakko bears any responsibility for his development). Kakko has 6 points in 28 games this season. That’s not much. But last season, he collected 40 and we saw more of his offensive potential. And he’s only 22 years old. He’s a big guy. He’s a winger. Sounds like a project that would be of great interest to Kent Hughes. Not to mention the fact that he’s a 2019 draft pick like Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook, hehe.

Clearly, this deal could turn out to be a win-win. Especially since I wouldn’t be surprised if Monahan was interested in continuing his New York adventure beyond the playoffs!

Oh, and you’re probably going to say to me in the comments, “We want Gabriel Perreault!” and rightly so. I’d prefer that option, too. But I don’t think that’s an option for New York!

Extension

So that’s my three proposed destinations/transactions for Sean Monahan! Which would you be most satisfied with? This will undoubtedly be the most interesting file to follow in the coming weeks in the Habs environment!

Other players who could be traded include Tanner Pearson, Jake Allen and David Savard. It’s an exciting month ahead for hockey fans, so make the most of it!

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