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Montreal GM talks about role in facilitating Karlsson trade, and Jeff Petry + Casey DeSmith

Kent Hughes drops some info about Jeff Petry, Casey DeSmith and the Erik Karlsson trade

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NHL: JAN 24 Panthers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens took on an interesting role last week when they inserted themselves in the trade between Pittsburgh and San Jose. The Habs got to shed the contracts of Mike Hoffman (to SJ) and Rem Pitlick (to Pittsburgh) and also the added bonus of picking up a 2025 second round pick from the Pens (plus fading minor league prospect Nathan Legare) for their troubles. But to make it work, Montreal had to absorb Casey DeSmith and 75% of Jeff Petry’s contract in return from Pittsburgh.

Now Montreal is working and halfway down at wiggling out of the former Penguins that they had to take.

Yesterday, as you may have heard, the Canadiens sent Petry to Detroit in exchange for defenseman Gustav Lindstom and a conditional fourth round pick. Montreal also picked up the tab to retain $2.3 million annually for Petry’s contract. The latter move is smart and makes sense, considering MTL wants to get the best benefit possible on the Carey Price LTIR situation for the next two seasons and keeping some money can assist to that goal.

It was weird in the first place that Petry didn’t have Montreal blocked on his 15-team no trade list and would get dealt back in August 2023 to a team where he requested a trade away from in January 2022 and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh last summer.

As it turns out, Montreal general manager Kent Hughes knew he was going to quickly flip Petry all along and was very open to let the veteran defender know that he wouldn’t have to come back to play for the Canadiens again. From this writeup in the Montreal Gazette about how the Canadiens did right by Petry, here’s Hughes’ thoughts:

“I’m a believer in general — whether it be players or people — that you try to do the right thing,” Hughes said during a video conference after Tuesday’s trade was announced. “Certainly in this case, when I called Jeff (after re-acquiring him from the Penguins) I said: ‘Listen, I know you didn’t go to bed expecting to hear from me this morning. I was probably one of the last people you expected to.’ I know they were as a family uptight. They’ve got four young boys and they were about to start school in two weeks.”

“So I gave him my word. I said: ‘Listen, we saw an opportunity here to facilitate the trade between Pittsburgh and San Jose and to help ourselves. But we’re mindful that you’ve got a family and your own career and Montreal’s probably not the place you’re expecting to play.’ I promised him that we would work expeditiously to get him moved and that we wouldn’t drag this out trying to maximize every last piece of value in the trade. It probably took a little longer than we anticipated.”

According to, Hughes was proactive to reach out to Kyle Dubas in Pittsburgh to see if Montreal could help make the Karlsson trade happen. Surely the opportunity to pickup an extra second round and prospect in Legare was something Hughes was hunting down for his own benefit in getting involved.

There’s also, perhaps not a bombshell detail but an interesting note that as expected, Petry was not willing to be traded all the way out to California to play for the rebuilding Sharks that are also thousands of miles away from his family’s preferred home-base in Michigan.

[Hughes] disclosed that he was in the car when he contacted the Penguins’ GM, Kyle Dubas, the Saturday before the trade was confirmed, to find out where negotiations stood with the Sharks for the acquisition of Erik Karlsson.

It was during this conversation with his counterpart from Pittsburgh that Hughes learned Montreal was not on Petry’s no-trade list, allowing for a possible three-team trade, as the veteran had initially refused a trade that would have sent him directly to San Jose.

The Canadiens’ general manager also confessed that the goal was not to bring Petry back to Montreal, who had requested a trade from the organization just a year earlier.

Hughes’ openness details a lot of what was going on. The Pens weren’t able to move Petry to San Jose, as many suspected would be logical given the situation with the no trade clause. But to make the math work, Pittsburgh had to part with the high-priced Petry to fit the even more high-priced Karlsson. Petry and Montreal both didn’t particularly want one another and Hughes all along planned on accommodating Petry with a second trade.

In the end, it worked out for all parties. The Pens got Karlsson. Montreal got a second and fourth round draft pick out of the deal - and while they had to retain salary on Petry to make him appealing to Red Wings, they could spare the space given the Carey Price LTIR situation. Petry also won to end up with the Red Wings, in a city where his father was a great pitcher for the Tigers and in his home state.

All of this information wraps up that side of the saga, but it looks like there is one more domino to fall. That would be the other veteran that Montreal picked up in Casey DeSmith. The Habs are enamored with Samuel Montembeault and also have Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau in the fold.

Similar to bringing on Petry, Hughes doesn’t want or see a need to have DeSmith either and has made it clear they will look to trade the former Penguin goalie for his second trade of the off-season.

“I told Casey to be patient,” Hughes said. “The idea is not to bury him in the AHL, so we’ll continue looking at opportunities to either trade him or maybe change a few things, but it might take some time because the goalie market doesn’t move very quickly.”

It sucks for DeSmith to remain in a limbo, but at least now it’s out there that a capable backup at a reasonable price could be had for a team that is looking for one.

It was understood that given the complexities of the salary cap situations and contractual clauses involved that the Erik Karlsson trade would be one of the most intricate and detailed transactions of the NHL’s salary cap era. 12 assets and two retained contracts changed hands in the initial three-team trade. Now with Petry’s second trade, add three more assets and another retention to the mountain. The possibly impending DeSmith trade will only further the indirect listing of this move from there, like the ripple effect spanning out after throwing a stone into a pond.

In the end, Montreal played the part of the broker and have found a way to bring on a few more assets for their troubles. The Karlsson trade is complete, but the after effects and delayed shockwaves from the complicated move are still being worked out even after it was announced.