October 27, 2020

Five power forwards the Canadiens would love to acquire through trade

7 min read
MONTREAL — Let’s qualify this: There are no guarantees any of the following players are...

MONTREAL — Let’s qualify this: There are no guarantees any of the following players are available, and none that the Montreal Canadiens are pursuing them through trade.

But our editor asked for a list of players the Canadiens might consider in order to fill the most pressing need on their roster, and in the spirit of fun, we’re obliging him. Because even if it’s unlikely anyone we name ends up in Montreal, the Canadiens have the assets to land a big fish.

We’re thinking Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov, Mattias Norlinder, Carey Price and Shea Weber are untouchable.

But no one else is.

Not that we’re suggesting the Canadiens will trade Jeff Petry or Brendan Gallagher, but they need scoring and size — a player who brings both of those things — and they have to be willing to move some premium assets to acquire it.

So, we’re not expecting the rumours about Max Domi and Phillip Danault to suddenly subside. The Canadiens also have some flexibility to move off their blue line, with Victor Mete and Brett Kulak the most likely candidates — even if Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin told TVA Sports last week he’s inclined to hold because you can never have enough NHL-capable defencemen.

For the right player, we don’t think a potential 30-plus goal scorer, Cole Caufield, would be off the table. They also have several other quality prospects who could complete a package, and then there’s the picks.

They are the most valuable commodity in dealing with some cap-strapped teams, and the Canadiens have nine of them in the first three rounds of the next two drafts.

Let’s dive in.

1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Bio: 30, six-foot-one, 194 pounds

Contract status: Signed for four more seasons at $8.5M AAV, full no-move clause

2019-20 stats: 57 GP, 29 G, 37 A, 66 P

You won’t find his name cycling through the rumour mill, but that full-no movement clause in his contract has to be the only reason for that at this point.

How can you watch what the Lightning have done in these playoffs and not think many of their cap issues could be solved by moving the one player who hasn’t been able to take part in any of it?

They’d be losing their captain, but also a player who missed the last seven games of the regular season with a core injury and all of the playoffs with a lower-body injury.

Meanwhile, the Lightning have close to $69 million committed to just 15 players for next season, and they have star-caliber players in Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev to sign. Erik Cernak, 23, averaged 19 minutes a game this season — and over 20 this post-season — and he isn’t going to come cheap, either.

And Kevin Shattenkirk, Jan Ruuta, Luke Schenn and Zach Bogosian are all pending unrestricted free agents, which means the Lightning are either going to have to spend to keep one or two of them or spend to replace them.

Maybe Montreal isn’t a destination of choice for Stamkos, but the Canadiens could be a logical trade partner for the Lightning. Even if they are a divisional rival — though it’s possible they won’t be one in 2020-21 — they are one of the few teams in the league who could absorb Stamkos’ full contract without having to trade money back in the deal.

They might have to move a player or two afterwards, but that’s got nothing to do with the Lightning.

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2. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

Bio: 22, six-foot-five, 206 pounds

Contract status: Signed for one more season at $6.75M AAV

2019-20 stats: 68 GP, 28 G, 35 A, 63 P

Would a Jets team desperate to keep its Stanley Cup window open, one in serious need at centre and on defence, be willing to move its top sniper?

We’d be shocked.

But Laine’s name has been out there and that has to be related to their needs, but also what could be a tough negotiation in a year’s time.

We wouldn’t trade him. In what most considered to be a down year in 2018-19, Laine still scored 30 goals and 50 points.

We will concede, he’s exactly what the Canadiens need; a pure shooter, a big body, a power-play weapon. He’s only 22, and he’d fit in great with a growing Finnish contingent in Montreal.

But take your Domi/Danault, Mete/Kulak and a first suggestions and save them for some outdated message board. A deal like this doesn’t get done without one or two of Montreal’s top prospects — and a premium player or two — going the other way.

Let’s be real: a deal like this doesn’t get done, so this is probably the last time we’ll be discussing it in this space.

3. Josh Anderson, Columbus Blue Jackets

Bio: 26, six-foot-three, 222 pounds

Contract status: RFA, $1.85M AAV

2019-20 stats: 26 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P

A lingering shoulder injury hampered Anderson’s entire season, hence his limited playing time and production.

But if the Canadiens had to build a player that perfectly suits their needs, it would be this guy. Provided this guy is still the player who had 27 goals in 2018-19.

There’s buzz Anderson and the Jackets are focused on getting a long-term contract extension done, but failing that, it’s a possibility he’ll be traded.

4. Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

Bio: 29, five-foot-11, 185 pounds

Contract status: Signed for one more season at $4.65M AAV, eight-team no trade list

2019-20 stats: 65 GP, 25 G, 20 A, 45 P

Palmieri might be on the smaller end of what the Canadiens would be looking for, but he mitigates that with his style.

We’re talking about a legitimate power forward who’s produced at least 24 goals in each of the last five seasons. The Canadiens would probably love to get their hands on the Smithtown, N.Y., native.

But if they decided to trade for him, they’d have to have a lucrative contract extension waiting for him. He’s going to cost a premium asset or two to acquire and letting him walk out the door at that price doesn’t seem prudent.

And that’s a complicated bit of business, with Petry, Gallagher, Danault, Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia up for new contracts after next season, and with an expansion draft to plan for.

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5. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

Bio: 31, six-foot-one, 197 pounds

Contract status: Signed for three more seasons at $4.45M AAV, 16-team no trade list

2019-20 stats: 68 GP, 26 G, 23 A, 49 P

Provided the Lightning aren’t looking to move Stamkos, or that they aren’t able to convince Stamkos to approve a trade, would Killorn be a player they move to make room for Cirelli, Sergachev and the rest of their roster?

Coming off a season that saw him set career highs in goals and points — and an impressive playoffs — they can maximize their return. And given that Killorn is 31, it’s a good time to do that, especially considering they have to create cap space and they’re still loaded up front.

He was born in Halifax but raised just outside of Montreal. So, would Killorn be willing to come home?

We’re not sure. It’s a tough sell to leave an Oceanside property and the golf course behind for miserable winters and the pressure of playing in your hometown.

But if Killorn is willing, the Canadiens would have to be lined up to acquire him.

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