The Montreal Canadiens have strengthened after a dismal 2021/22 season, but they could still do with adding to their defensive corps.
A lot can change between seasons, but none were as drastic as the Montreal Canadiens falling from Stanley Cup runners-up in 2021 to finishing dead-last in 2022. That being said, a repeat of the past season should not be expected this time around.
A healthy Canadiens roster should be far more competitive in the coming season, thanks to their solid offensive group that boasts promising young talents such as Cole Caulfield, Nick Suzuki and recent first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovský.
Couple that with some solid veteran players, including the recent addition of Sean Monahan, and the Canadiens could very well make a push for playoffs if all goes according to plan.
However, there is just one area — outside of the season-long loss of goaltender Carey Price — that could hold the Canadiens back in their hunt to return to competitiveness: the defensive corps.
The Canadiens had a strong group with the likes of Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot, but with recent trades, it has left the group somewhat thin and in need of a serious upgrade.
Cap space is a real concern for the team at present, as the Montreal Canadiens are currently sitting more than $6 million over the $82.5 million ceiling. But with Price set to miss the entire season, the Canadiens can use LTIR relief and free up just over $4 million.
Searching for a defenseman that would be a legitimate upgrade to what the Canadiens already have, as well as being affordable, is a challenge for any team — but there is one player fitting all of the criteria that could be the perfect addition.
Montreal Canadiens Could Use Jakob Chychrun
Jakob Chychrun is at the forefront of trade rumors and talk, with the 24-year-old keen to move on to pastures new. The Arizona Coyotes continue on through their expectedly-lengthy rebuild and their move to a new arena, which opens up trade possibilities for 2021’s leading defenseman. Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong even said publicly that a Chychrun trade is possible.
A move to the Canadiens could work out for Chychrun, who would arguably become the best player within the group. Chychrun would play top pairing minutes each night while working with a group that could still compete for the playoffs right now.
Montreal is an ideal destination for Chrychrun. With three years remaining on his deal, trading for him would carry a cap hit of just $4.6 million, which offers room for the Canadiens to improve in a short space of time.
The Canadiens could make a deal work with the Coyotes, who have a very high asking price for their top defenseman — including first-round picks, highly-rated prospects and active NHL players.
The Ottawa Senators are believed to be very keen on landing Chychrun to their growing core, and the Canadiens could scupper a divisional rival’s plans by swooping in and giving the Coyotes what they want.
Moving a forward from the current group would work for the Canadiens, who still need to re-sign restricted free agent Kirby Dach to a new deal. Moving someone such as Paul Byron, who is on an expiring deal, may help the team figure things out financially.
The Canadiens have prospects that could be appealing to the Coyotes, including goaltender Cayden Primeau, and they have the draft picks to work out something — they own the Panthers’ pick in 2023 as well as their own.
The Canadiens could have another unique turnaround if they can add the right pieces to their roster, and Jakob Chychrun, who already has 337 NHL games (53 goals, 89 assists) to his name, is worth considering a deal for to make that happen.