Trade deadline a much-needed win for Canadiens

Trade deadline a much-needed win for Canadiens
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Breaking news: there haven’t been a lot of wins for the Montreal Canadiens this season. That said, the Canadiens have improved under Martin St. Louis, and they absolutely aced the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Now, they have a long way to go, thanks to all of the baggage Marc Bergevin left behind. Selling high on Ben Chiarot won’t magically mend all fences.

Even so, the Canadiens did a wonderful job accelerating their rebuild at the trade deadline. Sure, it’s easier for things to look up after they drop like a meteor, but let’s look at some of those Habs wins.

If you want an idea of the Canadiens’ trade deadline in a single tweet, ones like these should cover you:

Yeah, that’s a lot of picks and prospects. Let’s dive in.

Ben Chiarot trade remains a stunning trade deadline win for the Canadiens

At the time of the Ben Chiarot trade, the price the Panthers paid to the Canadiens was jaw-dropping.

The return: A 2023 conditional first-round pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round pick, Ty Smilanic (MTL retains 50% of Chiarot’s contract)

That’s … staggering. Deeper dives on Chiarot note sometimes-terrible numbers, often hoping for the best in a reduced role.

Now, it’s common to overrate first-round picks, especially at trade deadline time. The mystery of potential is even stronger than with prospects, as you don’t even know the prospect yet.

But even factoring in what draft picks typically are worth, the Canadiens still won the Ben Chiarot trade in a huge way.

Now, it’s possible that the Panthers find the perfect situation for Chiarot. For every concern about him slowing their machine down, there’s the decent chance he stays home and lets offensive-minded defensemen roam free. While some of the grit obsession gets overblown, there’s a chance Chiarot pays off for the Panthers in the playoffs.

That’s not really the Canadiens’ concern, anyway, though. They landed a massive return for a defenseman who was almost certain to leave for nothing in free agency. If he’s just bad, then this is one of those trades we’ll remember, and it’ll make us shake our heads. (Many of us, clearly, are already doing that.)

Interestingly, the reasonable impression that teams overpay for defense still doesn’t let Florida off the hook.

Although the Chiarot trade was the biggest deadline win for the Canadiens, it wasn’t the only one, either.

Sometimes you have to give up good players to load up for the future

Not every Canadiens trade deadline move was as “easy” as getting maximum value for a possibly overrated asset in Ben Chiarot.

Getting so much for Chiarot is likely the most important trade deadline triumph for the Canadiens. That said, it’s a testament to the Canadiens and their rebuild that they also made trades that might hurt a little bit.

Sometimes that’s necessary: you move a player you like, sometimes on a good contract, because their prime windows don’t line up with your best chances to compete.

Most obviously, that happened with the Tyler Toffoli trade. Watching Toffoli do more great things for the Flames, on a team-friendly contract, won’t always feel so good. But the Habs needed to fuel that rebuild, and Toffoli’s turning 30 on April 24.

[The Ducks have been wise enough to embrace a rebuild. The Sharks? Not so much.]

Really, it’s understandable if Montreal didn’t want to trade Artturri Lehkonen, either. He’s a little younger than Toffoli, and is one of those talents who can sometimes go undervalued.

But the Avalanche sent a robust trade value that just made too much sense to Montreal. Instead of remaining in rebuild denial, they did the wise thing.

Canadiens load up on picks and prospects at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline

The Canadiens pulled off so much at the trade deadline, it may even wash away some of the bad taste from their Christian Dvorak panic trade. No doubt, multiple first-round picks are the highlight. They also sprinkled in some second-rounders, and other pieces.

That includes a decent haul of prospects. Granted, most either won’t have any opinion on these prospects, or their mileage will vary.

Some might have a decent chance of helping the Canadiens in the future.

The point is, they’re not just hoping for drafting luck here. They’ve also added prospects in different stages of their development processes, and maybe they’ll find a fit or two.

Perhaps they’ll find another Lehkonen or Chiarot, while also accruing the sort of first-rounders that could maybe (cross your fingers) turn into someone like Toffoli. After all, the Kings nabbed Toffoli in the second round (47th overall in 2010).

In the grand scheme of things, the Canadiens need to ace more than a trade deadline (or two) to make their rebuild successful. For a team that’s been in serious despair not that long ago, they’ve already given fans some serious optimism.

They even threw in a feel-good story with Andrew Hammond.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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