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Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens Might Not Take Obvious Approach During NHL Expansion

The Montreal Canadiens might have a couple of viable options heading into NHL expansion. They might not elect the obvious play.

There will be theories and strategies tossed out from today until the Seattle Kraken officially join the NHL as its 32nd team. 30 other NHL clubs will have to maneuver around not losing key players, juggle with the salary cap implications from any selection and, perhaps, work out a deal with Kraken GM Ron Francis to try and control their own narrative. Among those teams with a decision to make is the Montreal Canadiens.

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Sportsnet’s Eric Engels argues the Canadiens will go with one of two likely strategies. First, either let the consensus obvious selection of Jake Allen go down. Second, try to work a trade with Seattle to have the team take a forward of their choosing.

Why the Obvious Selection is Jake Allen

Engels argues that Cale Fleury is a strong candidate to be selected if the NHL Expansion draft were to happen today and Francis was shooting for the best player to grow long-term with the organization. But, most believe goaltender Jake Allen is the guy Seattle selects and the Canadiens might think so too. Considering they acquired and re-signed Allen, in part because of the expansion draft, one would have to assume the Canadiens believe the Kraken will take him.

If that doesn’t happen, it’s not the worst thing in the world for Montreal. Engels argues that, “Having a backup of Allen’s quality behind Price ensures a more even split of games and gives the Canadiens one of the best 1-2 punches in the league for two seasons beyond this coming one.” He also points to Allen’s new deal which kicks in next season.

The Canadiens locked in Allen at a $2.87 million per year deal and, at the same time, give Cayden Primeau enough time to develop. In fact, this might be the ideal situation for Montreal, which leads us to option number two.

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Convince Kraken to Take Paul Byron

Keeping Allen would be a luxury and not a must, but if the Canadiens decide they’d like to go that route, one of the plays Engels argues they might make is trying to steer Seattle towards forward Paul Byron.

Paul Byron Montreal Canadiens

Engels writes:

It’s a move that makes sense on several fronts, from clearing the soon-to-be 32-year-old’s $3.4-million hit from the Canadiens’ cap for the two seasons that follow this next one, to protecting the younger assets that would be exposed, to holding onto each of the players Bergevin acquired this off-season — players he views as essential to having the Canadiens not only contend now but for years to come.

There is a limit to what kind of sweetener the Canadiens would choose to give to essentially bribe the Kraken into selecting Byron — not a first- or second-round pick — but it has value. The Canadiens have three picks in the third round of the 2021 draft, three in the fourth round and three in the fifth round. Any of those picks could be used to ensure Seattle doesn’t take Allen, a defenseman like Joel Edmundson or Ben Chiarot, or Fleury who has a higher ceiling and lower cap hit.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brian L

    December 18, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    Kraken would be insane to take on Byron for only a third round pick sweetener give your head a shake

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