The Montreal Canadiens chose not to match the offer sheet tendered by the Carolina Hurricanes for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Instead, they’ve potentially taken one of the compensatory picks (a conditional first-rounder in 2022), added a fourth-round pick in 2024, and landed forward Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes. Moving a talented player with a potentially higher ceiling for more of a sure thing, are the Canadiens a better team after being targeted by the Hurricanes?
There were a number of teams interested in Dvorak and it appears clear that the minute the offer sheet was signed, the Canadiens started putting the pieces together of a deal so that when they didn’t match and lost an up-and-coming center, they had one ready to replace him. Montreal gets a good 2-way center with offensive upside and it takes the sting out of losing Kotkaniemi. That said, there is some debate about how good Dvorak will be and it was a significant price to pay, especially when you consider that many see Dvorak as more of a complementary piece than someone who can really “drive” the second line.
For the Canadiens, they let a player leave that may or may not have been a big part of their future. The question is about whether or not they suffered a net loss or made a net gain in this series of moves. While the Hurricanes clearly liked the player, the Habs weren’t sure what Kotkaniemi would be. They weren’t prepared to make a commitment to him as a second-line center, while it sounds like they’ll have little choice but to use Dvorak in that spot. It’s a lot better than not having a player in that position, but it’s certainly not clear whether or not this is an upgrade over the four years they’ve just committed to Dvorak for.
Some will suggest that Dvorak is severely underrated. If that’s true, the Canadiens will have done well here. The player is locked up with team control for four additional seasons at a cost of $4.45 million per season. It’s more than the Habs would have paid if they’d simply signed Kotkaniemi before the offer sheet, but a lot less than they’d be paying if they matched.
But, if Kotkaniemi moves to a new team and a new system and flourishes, the Canadiens will take some heat for this. @domluszczyszyn writes: “Christian Dvorak looked like he turned a corner in 2019-20 to become a productive top six center, but his play greatly fell off in 2021 once he stopped playing with Conor Garland. An interesting gamble trading a first for a team unlikely to make the playoffs this season.”
A Few Trade Details
Eric Engels writes: “in the event that either or both of Montreal’s own 1st round pick and/or Carolina’s 1st round pick are Top 10 picks in the 2022 NHL Draft (after the final Draft order has been established in accordance with the results of the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery), Montreal will instead transfer to Arizona: i) the worse of Montreal’s own pick and Carolina’s pick (previously acquired by Montreal, and ii) Montreal’s own 2nd round pick in the 2024 NHL draft.”
As for the Coyotes, they now have 12 picks in next year’s draft, including three first-rounders and five second-rounders.
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