NHL Rumor Mill – February 1, 2022
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said his club views its trade deadline plans as being “open to everything”. However, they’re not feeling pressured to move out players on long-term deals by deadline day. If a move makes sense before March 21 they’ll consider it and if not they’ll wait for the offseason.
LeBrun indicates the Canadiens front office is also debating which players should stay and those who should go and why. However, it’s not easy to make individual player assessments when the club is playing so poorly right now. Hughes said he’s spoken to players who’ve been mentioned in trade rumors, saying he didn’t have any answers for them right now but wanted them to see him if they have any questions.
Sources told LeBrun that Jeff Petry would be open to a trade. The 34-year-old defenseman is having a rough year but still has value around the league, with one Western Conference executive saying his club would have no hesitation about stepping up for Petry if he could address a roster need.
LeBrun doesn’t see the Habs peddling Petry at a discount if they move him at all. He has a 15-team no-trade list but his camp is open to help facilitate a trade.
THE JEFF MAREK SHOW: Elliotte Friedman believes Petry will draw interest in the trade market based on his performance during last year’s playoffs. He expects the blueliner will be traded but isn’t sure if it’ll happen at the trade deadline or in the offseason. Friedman suspects it could be this summer because teams have more salary-cap flexibility.
Friedman also believes defenseman Ben Chiarot will be the first player the Canadiens trade this season because of his eligibility this summer for unrestricted free agent status. He pointed out the St. Louis Blues are among several teams interested in the 31-year-old Chiarot.
He also made the point that it was easier for the Canadiens to retain salary on Chiarot because it’s only for the remainder of this season. For Petry, it would mean doing so through 2024-25.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Petry’s contract will be a stumbling block on the path to a trade. Hughes would probably accommodate the unhappy defenseman’s trade request during this season if he was carrying a more affordable cap hit on a shorter term.
That Western Conference executive cited by LeBrun and any others interested in Petry would love to take him off the Habs’ hands provided Hughes retains a healthy chunk of the defenseman’s $6.25 million annual cap hit. Or takes back a toxic contract. Or packages Petry with the Canadiens first-round pick in this year’s draft, or a promising player like Cole Caufield or Alexander Romanov, or top prospect Kaiden Guhle.
Those are scenarios Hughes undoubtedly doesn’t want to do. It would be quite a feat by the Canadiens rookie GM to move Petry without having to resort to one of them. Maybe there will be better options available in the offseason. Petry’s unhappiness and uninspired play, however, could end up forcing Hughes into choosing one of those options.
Chiarot remains the easiest to move and I daresay Friedman is right that he’ll be the first Hab to be traded by deadline day. His annual cap hit ($3.5 million) isn’t that expensive but it could be necessary to retain some of it to ship him to a cap-strapped team. As Friedman points out, it won’t do any harm to the Canadiens payroll or their performance this season, especially if they can get a solid return that helps them over the long term.
TWO SENATORS UFAS DRAWING INTEREST
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli recently reported Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg and forward Nick Paul has garnered attention in the NHL rumor mill. Forsberg has popped up among clubs seeking help between the pipes while Paul has impressed with his work ethic.
Both players are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. The Senators would like to re-sign them but Seravalli suggests they could end up on his trade targets list if they’re not under contract by March 21.