There’s still two weeks to go until the trade deadline but the Canadiens have got the ball rolling and the Canucks should take heed.

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The Montreal Canadiens have fired the first salvo ahead of the NHL trade deadline and the move is a template of what the Vancouver Canucks should be doing with gusto in the coming two-plus weeks.

On Friday, the Habs picked up veteran centre Eric Staal from the Buffalo Sabres for a pair of draft picks. Amazing what you can do when you have a stockpile of those.

Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin is in win-now mode. That much is clear. And in picking up Staal he’s adding a nice depth piece to his lineup.

He’s also likely going to be able to bring in blue-chip forward prospect Cole Caufield after his University of Wisconsin team was upset Friday and knocked out of the NCAA playoffs, but that’s another story for a different news outlet.

The picks are what matters here. Draft picks can, of course, be used to add players in the NHL Entry Draft. But they can also be used to make moves further down the line.


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Montreal is an example of how you can turn picks into currency: they flipped their own third- and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft for Staal because they already had two other picks in each of those rounds.

They have Chicago’s third-round pick from a trade in 2019 that sent Andrew Shaw to the Blackhawks, plus Washington’s third-round pick that is the culmination of a couple trades that started with the Habs flipping Nico Deslauriers to Anaheim in 2019. They have the fifth-round selections of Ottawa and Philadelphia, picked up in trade last season.

The Canucks have several players who could bring back draft picks at the deadline: Centre Brandon Sutter is already of interest to the Edmonton Oilers, while you have to think defenceman Alex Edler would still draw some interest in a trade, though he would have to be convinced to waive his no-movement clause.

Jim Benning may have said he would like to re-sign Tanner Pearson, but reportedly no calls have even been placed to his representation by the Canucks’ general manager. Pearson, who is still in a walking boot but is feeling optimistic about his progress after hurting his ankle against Ottawa just over a week ago, a source told Postmedia News, would be a fine pickup for any team’s third line.

All this is to say that with the Canucks now out of the playoff hunt, they should turn their attention to the long-term.

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No matter who’s in charge as GM next season, this team is going to need help on the blue-line in the long run: Edler is no spring chicken and, while Jack Rathbone looks to have a future, you need more than one guy to refresh your defence corps when it also includes thirtysomethings like Jordie Benn and Travis Hamonic.

If you were to acquire a draft pick or three in trade in the coming weeks, you could use those picks before this summer’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft to find a defenceman who another team is going to have to leave exposed. Like, say, Devon Toews in Colorado, who could very likely be left exposed because the Avalanche will have to protect Erik Johnson (he has a no-movement clause, forcing his protection), Sam Girard and Cale Makar.

Or one of Jake Bean, Brady Skjei, Haydn Fleury or Brett Pesce, three of whom will have to be left exposed assuming Carolina uses two of their three defencemen protection slots on Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin.

You can bet that both Colorado and Carolina would be interested in at least getting a draft pick for a defenceman they would otherwise be losing for nothing to Seattle.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction

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