Canadiens act as third-party broker, help AHL affiliate on quiet trade deadline day

BROSSARD, Que. — The Montreal Canadiens used their cap space to acquire assets and helped their American Hockey League affiliate in a quiet trade deadline day on Friday.

General manager Kent Hughes said the Canadiens could have made one or two more trades but decided to be a little more conservative in his second year running the storied franchise.

“(Vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton) tells me to settle down, he's going to tie me to the desk so I can't make a trade every week,” Hughes said. “I like to be involved in deals but at the end of the day, it has to be moving us forward towards an objective.

“For us, making a trade is to further our objective to build a team capable of winning consistently in the NHL and we didn’t find the trades that were worth it.”

As the Habs continued their retooling, Hughes operated as a third-party broker. A new trend this season, third-party brokers get compensated for accepting a percentage of a player’s salary in a trade between two other teams.

In a three-team trade that sent forward Nick Bonino from the San Jose Sharks back to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal acquired a 2024 fifth-round pick and defenceman Tony Sund.

The Habs retained 50 per cent of Bonino’s US$2.05 million salary for the rest of the season and sent the rights to defenceman Arvid Henrikson to San Jose. The Habs also retained 50 per cent of Evgenii Dadonov’s contract from a trade with the Dallas Stars for forward Denis Gurianov on Feb. 26.

Hughes added that getting a better sense of injuries and his cap allowed him to use two of his three salary retentions by the deadline.

"As we were evaluating the market to trade players like Dadonov, and possibly (Sean Monahan) or (Jonathan Drouin) we assumed would have had to use all three of them to be able to trade them," Hughes said. "So that influences (our decision). We participated (in a three-team trade) once, had the possibility to potentially do it a third time and lock us out but then if that situation presented itself at the draft we couldn't do it, based on what the returns were, it was worth preserving one."

Hughes decided to keep defenceman Joel Edmundson, who was regarded as this season's biggest trade asset. He said that a return on the trade was most important to him, similar to the deal involving now-former Montreal defenceman Jeff Petry who was dealt to Pittsburgh last off-season.

“Like I explained to Joel when we met, a trade would be possible if there was one that would advance our objective,” Hughes said. “If not, Joel is someone that brings a lot of leadership to our team and our young players.”

Edmundson returned to play in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday after missing 10 games with an upper-body injury. His return was apparently too late for a deadline trade.

"I think for an extended period of time, his name was certainly pretty active in the market," said Hughes. "His injury situation certainly would have also had an effect. To put myself in the shoes of the team trying to contend, I think it would have an effect on me as well."

Hughes said centre Sean Monahan was hurt during his rehab for a lower-body injury. He added that “his return is not specific” but there was a possibility for him to return before the end of the season “but not 100 per cent.”

Hughes also helped the Laval Rocket, Montreal's American Hockey League-affiliate, by sending forward Nate Schnarr to the Kings in return for defenceman Frederic Allard.

Allard will take the eastbound flight on Sunday to report to Montreal’s AHL affiliate Laval Rocket. The Saint-Sauveur, Que. native had two goals and five assists in 35 games for the Kings' AHL affiliate Ontario Reign.

Allard said he was "pretty excited" about being back home, close to his family. The 25-year-old was having lunch with former Rocket player Tobie Bisson as he got the call from Kings GM Rob Blake.

The Canadiens have called upon the Rocket often as they grappled with a host of injuries this season. A total of nine Laval players have played at least one game for Montreal.

"It's a good opportunity," said Allard. "I know that unfortunately there's a lot of injuries in Montreal and they were looking for defencemen and it wasn't going as I wanted in L.A. so I thought it could maybe happen.

"To be able to help the Rocket and show that I can reach the next level is something that's really exciting to me."

The Canadiens also filed the necessary paperwork to make forwards Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylonen eligible for the AHL playoffs, should the Rocket make the post-season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.

Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press