The Montreal Canadiens currently are sitting around 25th in the NHL standings after the first week of the New Year. The team has experienced its fair share of adversity thus far, but despite this, they have seen the emergence of many young defencemen. This includes the likes of Kaiden Guhle who has blossomed into a top defenceman for the organization, as well as the emergence of Jayden Struble. The Canadiens have four U23 defencemen on the roster in Guhle, Struble, Jordan Harris, and Justin Barron. Not to mention Arber Xhekaj and Logan Mailloux in Laval.
They also feature a prominent prospect pool as far as defence is concerned as fifth overall pick David Reinbacher as well as Adam Engstrom are playing over in Europe. Let’s also not forget one of the most electric prospects in hockey Lane Hutson. Hutson is poised to sign his entry-level deal following the conclusion of the college season. With the extent of young talent from the back end right now for the team, plus its fair share of veteran defencemen, it’s easy to see why the team should opt to ship out some defencemen sooner rather than later. So, who ends up being the odd ones out on the Canadiens back end?
Canadiens Defencemen Trade Candidates
David Savard is the most likely trade candidate on this list. At 33 years old, the veteran defenceman likely wants to take another run at a cup. He could be a vital piece to a team’s cup run as he was for Tampa Bay in 2020-21. Savard provides stability on the blueline with some offensive upside to boot. The veteran no longer fits the Canadiens timeline however as he will be far too old once the team is ready to compete. Savard also only has one year left on his deal after this season at 3.5 million.
The team’s right-side depth currently features Justin Barron, Johnathan Kovacevic, and Jordan Harris. With this being said, it makes sense for the team to move on from Savard at the deadline. This move opens up spots for younger guys to emerge on the blue line. Right-handed defencemen are a hot commodity around the league, especially come deadline time so Savard could fetch the Habs a pretty penny if Kent Hughes plays his cards right. It was only a couple of seasons ago that the Lightning paid a first-rounder for Savard’s services en route to a Stanley Cup.
Jordan Harris may become a victim of the Habs prospect depth at the defensive position. Harris is a smooth-skating, reliable defenceman who is in his second full season with the club. Harris however doesn’t bring any special element to the blueline that others don’t provide. Struble and Guhle bring the same attributes that Harris does but are bigger and more physical as well. Arber Xhekaj brings that much-needed toughness to the group while Justin Barron is the most offensively gifted of the five. This doesn’t even mention other prospects like Mailloux, Hutson, and Reinbacher.
Jordan Harris likely will end up becoming a casualty of the Canadiens depth, through no fault of his own. The team has the luxury of a surplus of great young defencemen on the back end. This gives Kent Hughes a rare opportunity to deal from a position of strength. Therefore he can package a young defenceman like Harris in a deal for a young forward.
Mike Matheson is far and away the team’s current best defenceman. He’s provided consistent offensive production from the back end, warranting All-Star consideration from some. However, Matheson will be 30 when the deadline rolls around and much like Savard, he doesn’t fit the Canadiens future timeline. The team will be sellers at the deadline and therefore Matheson’s services aren’t needed for this season. His value will never be higher than it is right now and the team should attempt to capitalize on this as they can surely get a haul for Matheson at the deadline. Furthermore, a Matheson trade frees up room on the left side for Kaiden Guhle to take over as the number one defenceman. It also allows Arber Xhekaj to return as well as for Lane Hutson to join the team and take over power play responsibilities once his college season is finished.
Having such a surplus of young defencemen is a luxury for the Canadiens. The team has the rare opportunity to deal from a position of strength, adding to their young forward core. Many fans might not want to see the departure of guys like Matheson and Harris. However, it is in the team’s best interest long-term to move on from these guys and capitalize on their peak value.
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