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Deadline: Here’s what to watch for this week with the Canadiens
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

I remember saying, before the holidays, that the deadline would come sooner than we thought. That one morning, we’d wake up and it would be the deadline.

And poof : it’s already Monday of deadline week.

It’s like this every year: it always happens pretty quickly. We wake up and realize that, more than ever, the pressure is on management to make transactions quickly.

On the Canadiens’ side, there will obviously be plenty to keep an eye on this week. Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton, who will be making their third deadline in town, will be selling for a third year in a row.

But what do they have to sell? What’s in store for the Habs this week? Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the Habs.

1. On the hockey front, the players will be stressing out as they wait to find out what’s in store for them. But in reality, they’ll also have two games on the road: tomorrow night in Nashville (8 p.m. for Quebec fans) and Thursday night in Carolina.

The Habs will practice today at 1 p.m. Quebec time, by the way.

There’s also a game at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, against the Maple Leafs. However, the game will take place after the trade deadline, once the stress has passed.

But for Martin St-Louis, it’s all part of his preparation for the week. He just doesn’t yet know exactly who will be at his disposal.

2. Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton and the entire Habs management team won’t be on the road. The club will set up its headquarters in Quebec to get through the deadline.

Which players have more to worry about?

David Savard is a name that comes up a lot. The defenseman doesn’t want to leave Montreal and the Habs want to keep him… but all it takes is one GM willing to pay to change everything.

Contract: $3.5 million a year for another year and a half.

Mike Matheson is in the same boat as David Savard, but his chances of leaving the Habs are probably even slimmer than those of the defensive defenseman.

Contract: $4.875 million a year for two and a half more years.

Johnathan Kovacevic is a reliable defenseman with an excellent contract. A club looking for depth could be tempted to make an offer for the right-handed defenseman.

Contract: $0.76 M per year for another year and a half.

Jordan Harris is a name on the block. It’s clear that one day, a defenseman will be traded (more than one, in fact) to make room for young, up-and-coming defensemen. It won’t necessarily be by Friday, but at the same time, you never know.

Contract: $1.4 M per year for another year and a half. Restricted free agent in 2025.

Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau are two of the names that keep coming up, as the ménage à trois has been a focus of attention since the start of the 2024-2025 campaign. Will Kent Hughes be able to make a move? Remember, the GM doesn’t have to move if he doesn’t get his price. #NoPressure

Contracts: $3.85 M per year for another year and a half for Allen. $0.89 M per year for another year and a half for Primeau, who will be a restricted free agent in 2025.

Joel Armia is playing better these days, but will any team really take the bait to get him out of Montreal right away? The Habs will surely try, but…

Contract: $3.4 M per year for another year and a half.

Tanner Pearson is a candidate to be traded… but not at any price. After all, the Habs probably won’t want to use their last salary retention on Pearson, and I’m also thinking that if they’re going to trade him for a long shot and bring back a youngster – who isn’t ready – from Laval, they might as well keep #70.

Contract: $3.25 M per year for a few more months.

Jake Evans is on the list because his contract expires in a year and a half, but there aren’t many rumours about him. That said, like David Savard, who knows what a club might offer…

Contract: $1.7 M per year for another year and a half.

Note that the Habs won’t have the best ammunition now. Next year, there will be more rental players: Savard, Kovacevic, Allen, Dvorak, Pezzetta, Evans and Armia.

But we’re not there yet.

3. It’s not just the players who could be interesting: the Habs also have one last salary retention in their pocket. It can save it for the draft (which I don’t think would be a bad thing), use it on a current club player, or arrange to be the third wheel in a deal.

The scenario of jumping into a deal to retain 25% of a rental player’s salary makes a lot of sense, based on what’s circulating right now. Kent Hughes is likely to do just that if the right opportunity presents itself.

Remember that a team is entitled to three retentions at any one time. On July 1, 2024, the Habs will no longer have Joel Edmundson, but will have Jeff Petry for another year.

Right now, according to Cap Friendly, the Habs have $5,654,167 in cap space available for the trade deadline. The GM has plenty of room to move.

4. Also note that the Habs will be able to send, on paper, a player to Laval to be on the Rocket roster Friday at 3pm. A player who is in the NHL at that time cannot take part in the AHL playoffs.

This year’s leading candidate: Joshua Roy. Will Rafaël Harvey Pinard (if healthy), Jayden Struble and/or Arber Xhekaj also be subject to this measure? I don’t think so, but you never know.

So yes, it’s going to be a big week. And that’s even if, in the end, it could be pretty quiet between now and Friday, and next Saturday’s lineup could resemble last Saturday’s.

But let’s wait and see. After all, who knows what the GM has up his sleeve…

In Brief

– Which teams will buy?

– Wow!

– Yes.

– What’s it like playing in Kanata? [BPM Sports]

– Big names join forces.

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