NHL trade grades: Flames make room for Nazem Kadri contract by dealing Sean Monahan to Canadiens

The trade:

Canadiens get: Center Sean Monahan and a conditional 2025 first-round draft pick.

Flames get: Future considerations.

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Sean Gentille. For weeks, the joke has been that Nazem Kadri was already a de facto New York Islander. Ah, Lou Lamoriellothe logic went. He’s got that seven-year deal sitting in a desk drawer, calibrated for release at a date and time only known to him and a circle of Omerta-bound associates. We know now that was, in fact, not the case. Kadri is on his way to Calgary, which necessitated at least one extra move — and here it is.

And hey, look at that, a win for both sides. The price tag for the Flames might be a little gasp-inducing — packaging a conditional first-round pick as a sweetener is rarely an easy sell, especially on a former All-Star entering the last year of his contract — but it’s exactly what Calgary needed to do. They entered win-now, damn-the-torpedoes territory when they signed Jonathan Huberdeau for eight years and $84 million. The end of that will be bad, just like the end of Kadri’s deal will be bad, but that’s the cost of doing business.

The Flames were good last year, second-round flop aside, and they could wind up being even better in 2022-23 with Huberdeau, Kadri and Mackenzie Weeger in the fold. Hard to believe for a team that also lost Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but here we are.

So, sure, moving Monahan came at a steep price. It was always going to; it’s easy to imagine the deal being even more lopsided for the Canadiens, given that moving Monahan was Calgary’s only viable course of action for adding Kadri. So it goes.

As for the Canadiens? Perfect move for a terrible team. No notes. The Habs, effective as their first offseason under Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes has been, aren’t winning anything in the immediate future. Why not add a first-round pick, even a late one, for the $6.375 million remaining on Monahan’s deal? If he comes back from another hip surgery and shows he’s still a viable middle-six NHL center? Great. Retain half of his salary, then flip him at the deadline for even more. Or just buy him out. Maybe the Islanders will be interested.

Canadiens grade: A:
Flames grade: B+

Shayna Goldman: The Flames are out here doing what they can to maximize their playoff window. Signing Nazem Kadri helps management do exactly that — it just requires a cap-clearing move.

On the ice, adding Kadri pushes Mikael Backlund down the depth chart to a fitting shutdown role on the third line. So, now there’s even less of a need for Monahan in Calgary, especially given his steep cap hit; he’d likely either shift to the wing or skate down the middle of the fourth line. Neither screams $6.375 million cap hit on a contending team.

A conditional first-rounder is a steep price to move Sean Monahan’s contract out, but it shows the value of cap space in this league (especially with the flat cap of the last few seasons). Teams that make splashy signings like this Kadri deal often have to move salary out somehow, so they only have so much leverage.

While it hurts Calgary to lose a first-rounder, it does have an extra over the next few years from the Panthers. Plus, the future really isn’t the focus — the later years of the Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau contracts show that. The emphasis is on winning right now, and this is the cost of business to balance the books.

That’s why the Canadiens came out of this trade so well. The final results in 2022-23 really don’t matter for Montreal, as long as their players progress and management keeps reaping future assets. And honestly, the Canadiens may not even be done here. While Monahan’s stock has rightfully dropped, if he can rebound after his second hip surgery — and that’s a big if — management can retain salary and move him later this season to a team that needs some center depth ahead of the playoffs. So, at minimum, the Canadiens gained a first-rounder they’ll happily take, and there’s room for more sprinklings on that return down the line.

Flames grade: B:
Canadiens grade: A:

Hailey Salvian. Trading one year of Sean Monahan and: a conditional first-round pick looks like a lot at first glance. Monahan is only 27. He was a 30-goal scorer only three years ago and scored at least 20 goals every single season when healthy. He has only one year left at $6.375 million.

But, we have to consider a few things here. Monahan hasn’t been healthy in a few years, with two major hip surgeries two years in a row and various other surgeries and injuries to his wrist — this is not a trade for a goal-scoring guarantee. Sure, Monahan could bounce back, but right now, this is a cap dump deal, and that comes at a cost.

When Toronto sent Patrick Marleau and his $6.25 million salary to Carolina in 2019, it cost the team a first-round pick. Marleau only had one year left on his deal at the time, too. Sticking with Toronto, it cost the Leafs a second-rounder to dump Nick Ritchie, who makes only $2.5 million for one more year. Cap space is hard — and expensive — to get.

Not to mention, once word got out that Kadri was signing in Calgary, there is no way that Brad Treliving was going to dump a contract for less than a major asset. Montreal would have known Calgary needed the money to make the signing official, which naturally gives the Canadiens’ front office leverage to ask for more.

The Flames probably didn’t have many other ways to create cap space. Milan Lucic is buyout-proof and has a full no-movement clause. Who else can you just dump without trying to replace them? It’s not Mikael Backlund. It’s not Blake Coleman.

I don’t love a first-rounder going out the door — which is why I give them a B — but this is how the Flames were going to continue to get better this offseason, by making room to add a player like Nazem Kadri.

Montreal continues to just do good work this offseason. The Canadiens add another first-round pick (they have five over the next three years) and an interesting asset in Monahan who could continue to be bad or pop off and be a trade candidate for more picks at the deadline.

Canadiens grade: A:
Flames grade: B:

(Photo of Sean Monahan: Sergei Belski / USA Today)

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