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Joel Armia is getting better, but there are limits to keeping him around
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

If Kent Hughes doesn’t trade a player, it’s for one of these reasons: he doesn’t want to trade him, he can’t trade him or he hasn’t reached an agreement with a counterpart to trade him.

When it comes to Joel Armia, a player who was traded in the waivers as recently as this fall, you’d think he’d fall into the category of players who aren’t exactly the most in-demand in the NHL.

But right now, there’s a certain wave of interest that’s almost leading us to believe otherwise.

Yes, the Finn has been playing better over the past few weeks… and there seems to be a groundswell of evidence that the Habs aren’t as keen to part with Armia as we think – or as many of the club’s fans are.

For example? When Mathias Brunet said he believed in the possibility of seeing Juraj Slafkovsky, Kirby Dach and Joel Armia playing together next year, the journalist added the following:

He’s a guy who’s very much appreciated within the organization. – Mathias Brunet

Then, a little more recently, when Alexandre Pratt claimed that the Habs had only one elite defensive player: the good Armia. He took back the word elite, but still.

Still, it speaks volumes:

The Habs have only one elite player defensively, and that’s Joel Armia. – Alexandre Pratt

Then, this morning, Renaud Lavoie penned a piece in which he talked about the winger’s resurrection. He mentioned that the forward had been whipped up by his dismissal by Laval at the start of the season and that he felt mentally engaged.

And that’s when he mentioned this about what’s next:

If he can finish the season strong, he could be part of the solution next season, something few people, myself included, thought possible three months ago. – Renaud Lavoie

I understand that the Habs like his qualities as a puck protector and defensive player. However, I don’t understand how we can talk about a “guy who’s part of the solution” next season.

In fact, I don’t: it discourages me from thinking that he’s potentially part of the solution.

I’m not saying that Renaud Lavoie is wrong in what he writes, because he knows what he’s talking about, and he often does so knowingly, reporting what goes on behind closed doors.

However, I can’t agree that Armia is part of the solution, which seems to be the Habs’ vision. His production over 82 games this season isn’t even 30 points.

His 11 goals aren’t bad, but… he still has just 16 points in 45 games this season. From 2020-2021 to 2022-2023, he had just 14 points in each campaign, which isn’t very many.

We’ve seen better, let’s say.

(Credit: Hockey DB)

If Armia is that useful, I’d prefer Kent Hughes to use his powers of persuasion (and, let’s be honest, his latest salary retention), to send the player to be another team’s solution.

There are teams with whom he could find a home, according to David Pagnotta.

At $3.4M per year for another year and a half, I know plenty of people who would volunteer to go carry him to the airport, given his inconsistency in recent years.

So much the better if he’s playing better these days (#Window) and finally seems motivated, but I don’t think several good weeks – or better weeks, at least – should erase a looooooong contract that hasn’t been Marc Bergevin’s best.

If the Habs have a chance to trade him, let them. But if many experienced journalists are talking this way about Armia, a player with upside, I have a feeling it’s because it means that yes, he’s definitely in the Habs’ plans.

For better and (especially) for worse.

In gusts

– A name to watch.

– At 12:30 p.m. Quebec time, the extras for tonight’s game will skate. Jake Allen will face the Preds.

– Yes.

Cash is in the series. That may explain the firing of Lindy Ruff. [98.5 FM]

– We go back in time.

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