The Montreal Canadiens did not waste any time in trying to replace Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Less than an hour after they announced they would not be matching the offer sheet from Carolina, the Canadiens acquired center Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for two draft picks, a first-round pick in 2022 and a second-round draft pick in 2024.
There are some conditions on that first-round pick changing hands this season since Montreal owns two picks — its own, as well as Carolina’s pick as part of the compensation for Kotkaniemi.
- Arizona will receive the higher of the two first-round picks. Unless…
- As per the Canadiens release: “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), then 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.”
In other words, if either Montreal or Carolina’s pick ends up in the top-10, Arizona gets the lower pick. If neither pick is in the top-10, Arizona gets the higher pick.
Dvorak is signed for four more seasons at a salary cap number of $4.45 million.
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The 25-year-old center is coming off a 2020-21 season that saw him score 17 goals and 31 total points in 56 games. He spent the first five years of his career with the Coyotes and has pretty consistently scored at a 15-20 goal pace over 82 games.
The Montreal perspective
It was pretty obvious that the Canadiens were going to have to do something here.
With Phillip Danault and Kotkaniemi leaving this offseason they had a glaring weakness at center after Nick Suzuki, and they were loaded with draft pick capital to use as trade chips. A trade was the most inevitable conclusion, and Dvorak was a player that was rumored to Montreal even before the Kotkaniemi offer sheet drama started.
In the short-term, this is not the worst situation for Montreal. Based on their most recent performances Dvorak is a better, more productive player than Kotkaniemi, is signed long-term, and comes at a cheaper salary cap number for this season.
The risk is that Kotkaniemi still has more upside and could become something more. But that has not happened yet, and if it was going to happen we probably would have seen a little more evidence of it by now.
Potentially surrendering the higher draft pick is a risk because there is a good chance that Montreal misses the playoffs this season, even after its Stanley Cup Final run. But the top-10 protection (in which case Montreal would surrender the lower pick) is a nice safety net.
The Arizona perspective
The massive rebuild continues.
This entire offseason for Arizona has been about purging long-term contracts and salary and collecting as many draft picks as possible.
The Coyotes now have 12 picks in the 2022 class, including three first-round picks and five second round picks. That means Arizona possesses eight of the first 64 picks in the draft.
They also now have three second-round picks in 2024.
The only question that remains now is where this all stops over the next few months. It seems like a safe assumption that Phil Kessel, in the last year of his contract, will eventually be moved. But will Clayton Keller go as well? Nick Schmaltz? They also have 12 pending unrestricted free agents, some of which are almost guaranteed to be traded for more draft picks this season.