The Montreal Canadiens received some tough news on Monday, as two of their forwards are out indefinitely due to injury. Jonathan Drouin will undergo wrist surgery, while Paul Byron needs knee surgery.
Claude Julien confirme que Jonathan Drouin (poignet) et Paul Byron (genou) subiront une intervention chirurgicale.
Claude Julien confirms that Jonathan Drouin (wrist) and Paul Byron (knee) will undergo surgery. pic.twitter.com/a927CcXld9
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 18, 2019
Byron was off to a slow start to the season, with just one goal and four points in 19 games. Drouin will be more difficult to replace given his play so far. His 15 points (7-8-15) rank fourth on the team.
Replacing Drouin is likely going to have to be a group effort, though it could create an opportunity for rookie Nick Suzuki to take on more of an offensive role. With just five goals and nine points in 20 games, Suzuki’s production thus far has been modest, but his play has been gradually improving. The 20-year-old has scored in each of his last two games and has points in three straight contests.
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Now would also be a good time for Max Domi to break out of his slump. Last year’s team scoring leader has just one goal in his last 15 games and has just three points in his last 10.
The same goes for guys like Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Joel Armia. Lehkonen has just one goal and three points in his last 15 games. Kotkaniemi, who just returned from a seven-game absence due to a groin injury, has just one assist in his last 10 games. Meanwhile, we may have jinxed Armia when we wrote about his strong play, as he has just two assists to show for his nine last games.
With Drouin sidelined for what looks like could be an extended period of time, all of these players are going to have to find ways to chip in more offensively. If they don’t, the Canadiens could also turn to the trade market.
There may not be many teams who are in sell-mode yet as we’re still in the fairly early stages of the season, but one team who looks to already be open for business is the Los Angeles Kings.
1. Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings)
They’re reportedly open to moving Tyler Toffoli, who is in the final year of a contract that carries a $4.6 million cap hit. The former 30-goal scorer has nine points (4-5-9) in 19 games this season.
2. Ilya Kovalchuk (Los Angeles Kings)
Then there’s Ilya Kovalchuk. A six-time 40-goal scorer, Kovalchuk returned to the NHL last year after five seasons in the KHL, but his time in LA hasn’t gone according to plan. After recording nine points (3-6-9) in his first 17 games, the rebuilding Kings, wanting to take a look at younger players, told the 36-year-old winger that he was being removed from the lineup indefinitely.
There is word this afternoon that LA has informed Ilya Kovalchuk he will be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. He is welcome to practice with the club, but he will not be playing. Obviously, more details as they occur.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 12, 2019
Teams might be more willing to take a chance on Kovalchuk if he wasn’t signed through next season at a $6.25-million cap hit, but the Kings surely know they’ll have to retain a significant portion of that money if they want to move him. Kovalchuk also has a full no-movement clause, but considering he’s on a losing team that won’t even play him, that may not be much of an issue.
3. Jason Zucker (Minnesota Wild)
Another team that could already be willing to discuss selling is the team languishing in last place in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild, who have players such as Jason Zucker and Eric Staal that could be of interest to Montreal.
Zucker, a four-time 20-goal scorer who posted career highs with 33 goals and 64 points in 2017-18, has 12 points (5-7-12) through 20 games this season. The 27-year-old has three more seasons remaining on a contract that carries a $5.5 million cap hit.
Zucker was set to be dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the summer as part of a trade for Phil Kessel, but Kessel ended up deciding not to waive his no-trade clause for the Wild. Zucker’s contract makes him more of a long-term commitment and less likely to be someone the Canadiens would look at just to fill in for Drouin for the time being.
4. Eric Staal (Minnesota Wild)
As for Staal, the 35-year-old veteran of 16 NHL seasons is still fairly productive, leading the Wild with six goals and 14 points in 20 games. He’s signed through next season at a fairly affordable $3.25-million cap hit.
5. Taylor Hall (New Jersey Devils)
If the Habs are in the mood to make a really significant addition, they could call the New Jersey Devils about Taylor Hall.
The 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Devils may not be ready to waive the white flag yet, but they haven’t looked anything like a contender so far. Hall could hit the market before long if things don’t improve in New Jersey.
Hall is really the only player who could replace Drouin on his own. Unless Marc Bergevin pulls of a blockbuster deal, the Habs are going to need several players stepping up to replace that offence, regardless of whether there are reinforcements on the way or not.