Montreal Canadiens need Christian Dvorak as insurance policy

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The Montreal Canadiens are in a salary stalemate, still having center Kirby Dach to re-sign as a restricted free agent. On the surface, it might make sense that fellow center Christian Dvorak is rumored to be set to leave town to make room. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Canadians get their center in Dach

When Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes acquired Dach by trade in the 2022 NHL Draft, it at least solved the mystery of why they thought they could ditch centers Shane Wright and Logan Cooley to pick the winger. Juraj Slavkofsky in the front row. However, that wasn’t a solution to the team’s lack of depth in the middle.

Current Montreal Canadiens forward Kirby Dach – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Certainly, there are ways in which trading for Dach was a better option. For example, he’s a high pick in his own right, third overall to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019. In a sense, Hughes (and executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton) got their cake and ate it. also, with two best-three draft picks, each going to a distinct need in the Canadiens roster.

Dach is also three years into his NHL career. So he’s still young with a lot of potential, but more developed than Wright or Cooley. However, in those three seasons, Dach failed to establish himself as a center, with the Blackhawks moving him to the wing. That’s enough to give typical Habs fan Alex Galchenyuk a boost, with Dach amassing a success rate of just 34.6% so far.

For his part, Galchenyuk had a 44.7% success rate in his first three seasons (45.3% his entire tenure with the Canadiens), admitting to being traded for a combination of factors. Meanwhile, Christian Dvorak had a five-season 51.5 percent with the Arizona Coyotes. He also led the Habs to 56.7% last season.

Dvorak brings the necessary experience to the center

Granted, there’s no guarantee that Wright or Cooley will hold their own. However, looking ahead to the draft, Wright, for example, was considered the safest choice available based on his projected floor as a second-line center. How he fares on faceoffs at the NHL level remains to be seen, but analysts know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dach has issues with them, to say the least.

Considering that the Canadians have gone down this path in the future, dropping a young defender to Alexander Romanov to get Dach, they are also committed to helping the striker develop. That means rationally keeping a guy like Dvorak to show him more of the ropes, with no other regular Canadiens center hitting 50% in faceoffs last season.

Christian Dvorak Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens forward Christian Dvorak – (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In fact, even at just 26, Dvorak is the oldest statesman on the team for all intents and purposes. Jake Evans is the same age, but a few months younger for the record and far from what you would call a grizzled veteran with experience to draw on. Ditto for Nick Suzuki at only 23 years old. Can the Habs really afford to trade Dvorak like a dump, with no one like him coming back to Montreal?

In the end, Dvorak is not the redundancy that some claim he is. The argument for keeping him in the fold reflects how tightly the Canadiens had to meet their needs at center during the draft. Maybe they did with Dach, but even though the Habs know with 100 per cent certainty that he will become the rather special center Hughes has told the media he hopes the young striker develops into , they still need Dvorak.

Perhaps Dvorak isn’t the second-line center many, including ex-GM Marc Bergevin, thought the Canadiens were getting. However, he is an adequate mid-six having scored 33 points in 56 games last season, at a career-high 0.59 points per game.

That means Dvorak’s value is pretty high, especially with three seasons remaining on his contract at a respectable cap of $4.45 million. However, all of this really means the Habs, due to their cap issues, should seriously consider keeping profitable deals like his, as they are unlikely to become an issue down the road.

The case for the Canadiens to trade Anderson

Ideally, the Canadiens would trade Paul Byron or Evgeny Dadonov, who are pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs), or Mike Hoffman, who hasn’t proven himself to be the power-play boon the Canadiens have much needed. However, there may not be any takers for any of these offers, at least not until the next trade deadline and especially not before the season when teams are still determining their rosters. and their own ceiling situations. The same goes for Jonathan Drouin, who is aiming for a decent goal at the next trade deadline, once he’s had a chance to increase his value over the course of a contract season.

Related: Canadians Most Likely To Be Dealed For Cap Space After Weber Trade

Therefore, the Canadiens may have to consider trading Josh Anderson, who meets all the necessary criteria:

  • Large cap hit ($5.5 million)
  • In high demand in the NHL
  • Under contract until 2027, when he will be 33 and likely in decline

Obviously, there’s no denying that Anderson is a valuable asset. As a power forward capable of scoring more than 20 goals in a season, the Canadiens might find some use for him in the immediate future, but how about five years from now when the Canadiens are looking to challenge for the Stanley Cup?

Montreal Canadiens Josh Anderson
Montreal Canadiens forward Josh Anderson – (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Twenty goals is good. However, 20 can turn into 10 or less pretty quickly when you’re on the decline, with Anderson having missed 10 or more games in three of the past five seasons. Plus, Anderson is a less than perfect fit alongside Suzuki and Cole Caufield, which is logically why the Canadiens drafted Slafkovsky in the first place.

If you’re not going to play Anderson on the front row, the $5.5 million cap will end up hurting you. Finally, it is now. In the end, with all due respect to Anderson, he’s now the redundant, not Dvorak.

The argument may be that you can’t have too many strong attackers. So, no, Hughes can’t trade Anderson. However, he would be a player the Canadiens could easily get something valuable in return for them, instead of potentially having to give up an asset for someone to take an unwanted blow away from them.

Dvorak vs. Anderson

Simply put, there’s a good chance Anderson will find himself in the bottom six before his contract runs out, in which case he would be a hindrance. See Milan Lucic, who was 33 last season and literally 12th among Calgary Flames forwards in average ice time, for example. There’s no such risk with Dvorak, who has a critical role to play in the middle before his contract expires in 2025. If it’s him and Anderson, it’s clear which one needs to be exchange.

In all honesty, no one necessarily wants to see Anderson go, but this team just isn’t built to take advantage of everything he has to offer in the window he can realistically offer it. Hughes undeniably inherited a team in dire straits cap-wise, and part of cleaning up Bergevin’s mess is making tough decisions. Trading a fan favorite to Romanov to get Dach and help cement the central position was one of them.

Kent Hughes, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes – (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The fact that Canadians are where they are in terms of the cap is proof that positive general managers are not infallible. Mistakes are made, and while Anderson’s acquisition for Max Domi may not have been one on Bergevin’s part, neglecting to trade him before it’s too late may be the one of Hughes’ mistakes. It just so happens to be the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone.

On the other hand, unless it is at the trade deadline of 2025, before he becomes a UFA, there is no good time to trade Dvorak. Give him credit where it’s due. The whole Jesperi Kotkaniemi saga should have been handled better, but at least Bergevin acquired a functioning center in Dvorak. Considering they are rare in the organization, Dvorak should be safe. In fact, an insurance policy at the center is a payout that gets better for the Habs over time. Just like with Dach, patience is key.

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