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Habs GM Kent Hughes ‘not looking to make a fire sale’ following Chiarot trade

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes made two major trades in the last few weeks but dimmed expectations for any blockbuster deals ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.

While Hughes said he wouldn’t turn away calls from other GMs before Monday’s 3 p.m. EST deadline but isn’t committed to giving away his players.

“I don’t want to say that we’re looking to move on from specific players right now,” Hughes said Thursday. “If we get phone calls on a trade that will make sense for us we will definitely consider it.”

“I’ve said it before, and I told the players, we’re not looking to make a fire sale here.”

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On Feb. 14, Hughes traded Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 first-round draft choice (which is top-10 protected), a 2024 fifth-round pick, forward Tyler Pitlick and prospect Emil Heineman.

Hughes traded away Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night for a 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick and prospect Tyler Smilanic.

Hughes is happy with the return on the Chiarot trade, which he called “the best deal we could do” at this point in time. Having a second first-round pick in the highly sought-after 2023 NHL Draft was also a priority for Montreal.

“ (Florida) didn’t have their first-round pick this year but in reality, even with other teams we were asking for a 2023 first-round pick,” Hughes said. “We already have three picks in the first 35 selections this year and we also have 13 picks in total so that was a part of the conversations.”

Hughes admitted to still be working on the possibility to ease his team’s cap flexibility. A storyline ahead of the deadline is the potential of moving Shea Weber’s contract. The Habs captain has been on long-term injury reserve since the start of the season and is unlikely to ever play again.

“We’re pursuing opportunities to give us salary cap flexibility,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to speak on how we’ll do it but if there are ways to do it, we’ll do it.”

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The Habs GM was also open about Jeff Petry’s situation. Trade rumours have been swirling around the defenceman since early in the season. Petry’s family also returned to Michigan early in the season.

“There’s not one specific player that we’re saying, `Hey, we have to move on right now,’ other than we’ve said publicly before, we’ll trade Jeff Petry if we can, given the family situation,” Hughes said. “But we’re only going to do that if it’s a deal that makes sense for us and makes sense for Jeff. Jeff knows that — I spoke to him about it.”

Chiarot and Hughes both knew the defenceman would be dealt before Monday. Hughes admitted that trading Chiarot was part of his plan since becoming GM and Chiarot knew it was a possibility since the start of the season.

“It’s part of the business, I’ve known this was coming for a while now so you have time to prepare,” Chiarot said after saying goodbye to his teammates. “I don’t think it’s quite as emotional if it just comes out of the blue for some guys, but I’ve known this was coming so I’ve had time to accept that.”

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For Chiarot, the Canadiens are not that far away from being a competitive team once again with Martin St. Louis behind the bench and the assets they were able to obtain this season.

“I think we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks that this team’s not as far off as maybe it looked for the first couple months,” Chiarot said. “If they get a couple more pieces in here in the summer, maybe have some young guys take another step, it’s a team that’s going to be competitive here right away, I think.”

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