The Montreal Canadiens have a busy offseason ahead and one of the biggest decisions to make is regarding Max Domi. Rumours have surrounded the 25-year-old forward for the better part of the last year and were amplified earlier this week when he removed references to the Canadiens from his social media profiles.
On its own, a subtle change to an Instagram profile is hardly enough evidence to signal an impending trade but it isn’t the only factor that could indicate Domi is on his way out.
Primarily, Domi wants to play center and has been more effective there since he joined the Canadiens. He isn’t the most reliable defensively but it allows him to use his speed better and forecheck more effectively. Not to mention the Habs already have three capable top two centers in Phil Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Nick Suzuki.
Additionally, after being eliminated from the playoffs, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin expressed disappointment in Domi’s playoff performance. He told reporters that at a certain point the player has to “take charge and perform”.
Going from 72 points in 2018-19 to just 44 this year makes it hard to determine Domi’s true value on the trade market. Regardless, there should be several teams looking to add a 25-year-old center just a year removed from a 28-goal season.
The question is, what teams could be a good match for Domi?
Rumours have been flying about big changes coming to Calgary after another early playoff exit and Matthew Tkachuk seems to be the only safe player. The Flames have been linked to pending free agent Taylor Hall because it’s believed that he wants to play in Calgary. If they can’t afford him, could they target Domi instead? Don Maloney, GM of the Phoenix Coyotes when they drafted Domi in 2013, is vice president of hockey operations for the Flames and could look at reuniting with his former first-round pick.
It’s hard to say who the Canadiens could target from the Flames roster. Naturally, Habs fans would love to add a player like Johhny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan; who wouldn’t? But it would cost much more than Domi to seal the deal, so a more realistic target could be Elias Lindholm or Noah Hanifin.
The Wild are another team expected to make changes after an early playoff exit at the hands of the Vancouver Canukcks. Minnesota is lacking scoring depth up the middle and should be looking to add a reliable pivot. Defenseman Jonas Brodin has been linked to the Canadiens in the past and the Wild have some expansion decisions to make.
Minnesota has four players with no-movement clauses: Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Suter, and Jared Spurgeon. Those four either have to be protected or need to waive their NMCs. If the Wild want to go the 7-3-1 protection route, they have to determine whether to keep Matt Dumba or re-sign and protect Brodin. If they choose to protect both, they risk losing a young forward to the Seattle Kraken.
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Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets surprisingly held around this season despite losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Sergei Bobrovsky to free agency. They were in a playoff spot when the NHL paused thanks to good coaching and solid goaltending. Even though they disposed of the Toronto Maple Leafs and hung around with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus has some holes to fill to get to the next level.
Beyond Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Jackets have a notable deficiency of skill at the center position. Sure, Alex Wennberg and Boone Jenner had strong postseasons. But Wennberg has been offensively ineffective since his 13-goal, 59-point campaign in 2017-18. Jenner, meanwhile, plays more of a physical game that’s better suited in a checking role.
Furthermore, Brandon Dubinsky’s playing future is questionable due to a persisting wrist injury.
Josh Anderson is a big winger that would give the Canadiens some added size and scoring on the right side. Montreal doesn’t have much grit up front and a player like Anderson would make them tougher to play against.
Of course, it’s still possible the Canadiens and Domi find a way to make it work; Domi could sign another short-term deal to bet on himself. He needs to accept a permanent move to the wing if he wants to stick around though. So far, he’s either been unable or unwilling to play his best hockey there. The more likely – and mutually beneficial option – is for team and player to part ways.
One thing is for sure though, as long as Domi remains unsigned and untraded, rumours are going to be rampant.