Earlier this week the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights struck a trade mainly for salary cap purposes. Vegas, long desperate to clear the $5.0 million cap hit of forward Evgenii Dadonov, finally traded him after trying to at the deadline to Montreal in exchange for the cap hit of the unofficially retired Shea Weber.
The addition of Dadonov means the Canadiens now have something of an imbalance with their salary structure with CapFriendly showing them having almost $44 million in contracts next year for forwards. That mark is fourth highest in the league for next season. Montreal is on the bottom end for defensemen signed, with just $15.7 million in contracts next season, and exceptionally thin at the left defense spot, where as of now they only have one proven NHL caliber defender for the left side in Joel Edmundson.
This could present a natural trade fit with the Penguins, being as Pittsburgh has an excess of left-handed defenders for next season, several of whom are drawing large salaries.
RDS.ca (in French) had the following comment about what Habs general manager Kent Hughes is thinking, run through an online translator to English:
Some media outlets have also reported that several teams are trying to convince Hughes to trade forward Josh Anderson.
Even if he does not plan to trade Anderson in the near future, Hughes does not hide that he is attentive to the offers of his counterparts.
For a Penguin team that could certainly use more size and strength, the 6’3” and 227 pound Anderson would be an intriguing target to at least track.
Hughes seems to indicate he would be open to hearing offers on Anderson, though isn’t in a hurry to trade what has been a top-line forward who is at a prime age (28) and has a decent contract ($5.5 million cap hit for the next five seasons).
Anderson doesn’t create much as a playmaker, but in this day and age is one of the few “power forward” archetypes in the NHL who could be a threat to score in the 20 goal range, with the potential to knock on the door for 30 (his career single-season high is 27 goals and 47 points in 2018-19 back when he was with Columbus).
One issue, however, is that type of value Anderson carries with his size and physicality goes beyond just his goals and point boxcar stats. That makes for an attractive trade target from all around the league, as also pointed out by RDS. Hughes and Montreal would have no reason to consider a deal based around Marcus Pettersson or Mike Matheson, two middle-lineup defenders with relatively large and lengthy contracts.
A player like Brian Dumoulin could be of interest though. While he only has one year left on his deal and could be a UFA risk after next season, Montreal has made a killing in trading veteran defensemen at the deadline in recent years (Ben Chiarot this year, David Savard before him). Dumoulin would also fill a very big hole in the Canadiens’ depth chart and could be penciled in as a partner with Jeff Petry to actually give Montreal a well-rounded and solid looking top pair that could also be re-signed by the Habs, especially if they clear out a future salary commitment like Anderson’s long contract.
Whether the Penguins would have interest in moving on from Dumoulin this summer or not remains up for debate. Through perhaps mainly injuries, he seemed to have an off season by his lofty standards of typically solid play, but the break this off-season could prove to be a reset. Moving the team’s most capable defensive defenseman might be a bridge too far, even with the realization that perhaps Dumoulin would make for the most appealing trade target from the outside looking in.
Montreal may look to get younger or simply keep Anderson in the fold completely, but on the surface a fit for re-balancing a forward for a defenseman trade between the Pens and Habs does align to some degree.