Thursday, July 18, 2024

Trade Grades: Jets pay hefty price to bolster power play with Sean Monahan

On Friday morning, the NHL trade market continued to heat up when the Winnipeg Jets added veteran forward Sean Monahan from the Montreal Canadiens. The Jets got some badly needed power play help, but they might have been forced to overpay in a very shallow market for centers.

The Jets sent a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2027 third-round pick to the Canadiens in order to acquire Monahan, who has bounced back this season after injuries knocked his career off track for a few years. The main reason for Monahan’s rebound has been his performance on the power play, where he has tallied six of his 13 goals and 10 of his 22 assists.

On the Montreal side of things, a rebuilding franchise was able to add another first-round pick to its chest of draft capital over the next few years. The Habs had a highly-coveted player, and they took advantage of that after the top center on the market, Elias Lindholm, got dealt to the Vancouver Canucks one day earlier.

Let’s evaluate both sides of this trade and see which team came out with the better deal.

Winnipeg Jets

Let’s start with the positive side of this deal for the Jets. They’ve been one of the NHL’s best teams all season, but the one area where they have a clear need is on the power play. Winnipeg’s power play ranks 24th, converting on just 15.7% of its attempts, and that has to improve if the team is going to get through the gauntlet that is the top of the Western Conference.

Unfortunately for the Jets, that conversion rate is no fluke caused by poor puck luck. When it comes to creating expected goals and high-danger scoring chances on the man advantage, they have been a bottom-three team, according to Natural Stat Trick. Monahan should give them more of a presence in those high-danger areas.

Monahan got quite comfortable in front of the net on the Canadiens’ first power play unit, and that helped him revitalize his career. Coming into the season, Monahan hadn’t tallied more than 10 goals or 18 assists since 2019-20. This year, Monahan already has 13 goals and 22 assists, and 45.7% of that production has come with the man advantage. That’s no knock on Monahan. Those goals count the same as even strength ones, but that does seem to be where his effectiveness begins and ends.

Taking a more cynical look at this deal for Winnipeg, it seems like it might’ve been a knee-jerk reaction to the Vancouver Canucks adding Elias Lindholm on Wednesday night. That may not actually be the case, but that is how it appears on the surface, and the Jets probably did overpay to land a player who is essentially a power play specialist.

When the game is played at even strength, Monahan has really struggled, especially on the defensive side of things. The Canadiens have allowed 3.26 xGA/60 with Monahan on the ice at five-on-five, which is tied for 633rd among players with at least 200 minutes played, per Natural Stat Trick. Monahan hasn’t done enough at the other end of the ice to make up for those deficiencies either, and that has resulted in a five-on-five goals share of 45.2%, which ranks 527th.

Look, there is no question that the Jets have a much better roster than the Canadiens. Playing alongside Jesse Ylonen, Josh Anderson, and Jake Evans¬†probably hasn’t done Monahan’s five-on-five profile many favors. Monahan will be insulated with far better linemates in Winnipeg, and his underlying numbers should improve to some degree.

The Jets are competing atop the Western Conference this season, and they needed to improve their power play. Landing Sean Monahan should help them achieve that goal, but a first-round pick is somewhat of a steep price to pay for a player who hasn’t shown an ability to produce consistently at even strength. Grade: C-

Montreal Canadiens

On August 22, 2022, the Calgary Flames sent Sean Monahan and a first-round pick to the Canadiens in exchange for future consideration. That move alone is worthy of some high praise, but to flip Monahan for another first-round pick roughly 17 months later is an impressive piece of business by Montreal general manager Kent Hughes.

The Canadiens are still very much in rebuilding mode, so they took on Monahan’s contract to get the first-round pick, probably hoping they could flip him for another mid-round pick at a later date. I doubt the Habs ever thought they would get another first-round pick, especially after an injury limited Monahan to six goals and 11 assists in 25 games last season.

Far too often in this league, teams make one of two mistakes. Either they get frustrated with an underperforming player and ship him out when his value is at its lowest, or they get mesmerized by a player performing over his head in a contract year and overpay to retain him for almost a decade. The Canadiens did neither in this instance. Instead, they realized Monahan’s trade value may never be higher, and they took advantage of a thin center market.

As a result of his savvy dealings involving Monahan, Hughes now has two first-round picks to work with in each of the next two drafts. One of those picks is the Flames’ first-rounder in 2025, and considering how that team looks at the moment, that one could wind up being extremely valuable. Montreal has to be thrilled with how their future looks after getting a premium for a veteran forward like Monahan. Grade: A+

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