The Montreal Canadiens offseason was a rather quiet one, but one of the big stories of the summer, leading into the preseason is the fact that Trevor Zegras has yet to sign an extension. It has drawn a ton of attention on social media, to the point where it was one of the many topics Wednesday night’s installment of The Sick Podcast.
Shane Gaumond hosted Charles Alexis Briebois and Matt Drake, and the trio discussed an array of topics. How to get rid of Joel Armia and his contract, but most intriguing what the price would be to pry Trevor Zegras away from general manager Pat Verbeek, and his Anaheim Ducks.
It would likely be a big package, but a player like Trevor Zegras would be a nice fit on the first line, to rekindle his chemistry with Cole Caufield, and complement the Canadiens’ top duo, with captain Nick Suzuki down the middle. Thankfully the Canadiens have added some nice pieces to their prospect pool over the last few drafts, and their depth could be a blessing.
It’s no secret that Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes have put an onus on drafting high-potential players at all positions, that fit the mould of what they are trying to build in Montreal.
Great drafting has earned the Habs the privilege of having some great depth, especially on the left side of the blue line, and while it might be hard to part with a player, you have to give to get. And the quality of a package to bring in an elite under-23 talent, that would fit right into the timeline that Habs are pushing for, would be significant. I can’t say that I know exactly what Verbeek would want, as only Hughes would know that answer if he did in fact enquire about the Bedford, New York native.
The Canadiens are very familiar with Zegras, because of his ties to Caufield, as mentioned above, but he also acclimated himself to Samuel Montembeault last year, with an absolutely nasty ‘Michigan-style’ goal. He put on a show during his rookie season with the Ducks, and he was the American’s best player during their world junior’s gold medal-winning tournament in 2020-21. The tournament MVP decision wasn’t very difficult, because of his brilliant play, posting 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists) through seven games.
That was on a team with the likes of Matthew Boldy, Cam York, Matty Beniers, Alex Turcotte and a bunch of former United States National Team Development Program players. He stood out, and his high-octane style has translated to the NHL, as he is one of, if not the brightest talent under the age of 23 in a very deep Anaheim Ducks pipeline. The one area that could use some help right now, is the left side of the blue line, considering that the majority of their brightest young defenders are more offensively inclined.
What Would Zegras Cost Kent Hughes
When a player is picked in the first round of a draft, while it’s not uncommon for them to be traded, it is certainly something that doesn’t happen frequently, especially if the player or players are both playing and developing well. But, if the coveted player is worth the trade, as determined by the general manager and scouting team, then it could occur.
The Canadiens don’t have an exact piece to add to the Suzuki-Caufield duo, and Zegras would immediately come in and slot nicely alongside the Habs’ two best players.
Something the Canadiens do have is a lot of defensemen who are set to break into the league over the next few years, and a couple that put together a nice season in 2022-23, both as rookies. The two defenders are Jordan Harris and Kaiden Guhle, and it’s obvious, in my opinion anyway, which of the two you would prefer to keep, that being Guhle.
He fits the style of the game in the Western Conference much better, and I think that he has plenty of room to grow his offensive game, but his brain and defensive skill are already there, which could make him a highly-coveted piece.
At just 21 years old, he hasn’t scratched the surface of what he will become, and that is why he would likely be one of the first asks if a hypothetical package were assembled by Hughes, to get Verbeek talking. Harris would be an easier player to take the impact of losing, but if you want Zegras, you need to table a serious offer.
I also don’t see a situation where a first-round pick isn’t demanded, and I think that could be a nice start, throw in a high-potential prospect, a la William Trudeau or Emil Heineman and Johnathan Kovacevic, and you might have a base or at least close to one with which to work.
With Jayden Struble, Lane Hutson, Adam Engstrom and Nicolas Beaudin looking to push for a role on the Canadiens over the next couple of years, the Canadiens have options to fill the hole. They also have ample means to try and bring in another first-round pick, in either this year or next year’s draft, if they dangle Sean Monahan.
Guhle would not be fun to lose, and very difficult to replace, but Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris and Mike Matheson could fill the NHL spots for this season, and another, if it’s needed.
It’s just an exercise to explore what it could cost, and dream about the trio of Caufield-Suzuki-Zegras flying through the offensive zone. While Kirby Dach, Alex Newhook and the Canadiens’ promising young forwards could just be a nice option on the second line to really spark the Habs’ depth in the top-six.
This line would be dynamic, and one of the most fun to watch in a long time, because since Alex Kovalev, the Canadiens haven’t had a player with the skillset of Zegras.
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