Canadiens can't trade Max Domi without replacing his production

Julian McKenzie
·NHL Writer
·4 min read

With each passing day, another rumour, rumbling, or news tidbit passes through the Twitter stratosphere. All it does is make Max Domi’s future as a Montreal Canadien all the more uncertain.

Domi has been linked to a number of teams over the past few weeks in possible trade scenarios. The removal of “MTL” from his Instagram and Twitter bios are a far cry from when Domi went on Sportsnet to profess how much he wanted to play in a hockey-crazed market like Montreal.

The forward has also hired Darren Ferris as his new agent, replacing Pat Brisson. That news certainly hasn’t quieted down the rumour mill.

But it isn’t as if the possibility of trading the forward is coming from an unexpected place.

The forward is coming off a down year with 17 goals and 44 points in 71 games, a far cry from the 28-goal, 72-point performance he had during the 2018-19 season. Per, the Habs offence this year even looked a little better at 5-on-5 without him, as opposed to him being on the ice.

Even if the difference was minimal in terms of expected goals, the heat maps show more shots from different points of the offensive zone without Domi than with him on the ice.

After starting this year’s pandemic postseason on the Habs’ fourth line, he was given chances to skate with more skilled players throughout the lineup with the hopes of jumpstarting the offence.

Alas, he ended his postseason campaign with three assists in 10 games with Montreal being eliminated in six games at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 14: Max Domi #13 of the Montreal Canadiens plays the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff at Scotiabank Arena on August 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
Max Domi may have had a down year, but he was still among the team's top scorers. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Domi, a restricted free agent, is arbitration-eligible once this season officially ends. He will likely want more than the $3.15 million per season deal he is currently on. But on a team like the Habs, who suddenly have a logjam at centre with Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Philip Danault, it might not be worth paying a ton of money to a player who might not be better than those three centres.

Keeping him at wing might not be an option either, as he’s shown his best numbers have come when he’s playing down the middle. But although his numbers did go down, he still provided some offence for a team that relied on 37-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk for 22 games (six goals, 13 points).

Domi’s 17 goals were third-best on the Habs, behind Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher’s 22 goals. His points were also third-best, trailing Tatar and Danault. The tallies accumulated here aren’t the most fearsome numbers compared to other teams with higher quality point producers, but he produced about as much as his fellow forwards in Montreal this past year.

He wasn’t exactly the only player who may have underdelivered on offence, either. Even then, his production still puts him in the same company as other more prominent point producers.

Among those who gave this statistic a retweet on Twitter? Domi’s teammate and friend, Jonathan Drouin, who leapt to his defence this past week at his charity golf tournament. He did not seem too happy about fans wanting a player of his quality out of town after his past two seasons.

“In my three seasons here, I didn’t see any other player reach 72 points,” Drouin told Le Journal de Montreal. “So, I find it weird that, in a few months, people don’t want him here.”

Drouin does have a point. Since he joined the team during the 2017-18 season, Domi’s 72-point year was the most recorded by any Hab in a season. Second-closest was Tatar’s 61 points this past season.

A change of scenery could still be the best thing for Domi, which is ironic since he joined Montreal from Arizona in search of that. But if the Canadiens are willing to part ways with him, they will need a piece, or multiple pieces, who can replace his offence. It’s entirely possible that his dip in production, and pending arbitration, may have brought down his asking price.

But it’s not entirely impossible with the upcoming free agent market, and through trades, to make up for his departure.

More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports