It didn’t take long for newly appointed General Manager to get to work. In an interview on TSN 690, the Canadiens’ newest employee said that he is already engaged in trade discussions with other GMs and that VP of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton was also discussing trades prior to finalizing his choice on Kent Hughes.
While some people call for a full rebuild, I personally feel like it’s not necessary to do so. But I guess, it all depends what they mean by “rebuild”, right? I’ve read some people claiming that the Habs need to rebuild like the New York Rangers did. Considering that they’ve acquired Panarin, Trouba, Zibanejad, amongst others, have Fox land on their lap, it really was a reset. And got lucky at the Draft lottery not once, but twice. A true rebuild is what the Detroit Red Wings and the Ottawa Senators are doing. It’s what the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes have been trying to do for years now.
When you add impact veterans while focussing on the Draft at the same time, it’s a reset. And that’s what Marc Bergevin started in 2018. Since then, the Canadiens have drafted 45 prospects and they still have 11 more for the upcoming Draft. They will be getting more picks by trading some pending UFAs by trade deadline. All they need to do is develop the young prospect coming up, draft well at the upcoming Draft, trade some veterans to free up some cap room and change the dynamic on the team. Basically, continue the reset started three and a half years ago.
What I can see Hughes and Gorton do is get younger and, as they both said, faster and more skilled. But they will still need and want some key veterans on the team, while filling some major holes in the line-up and in the organisation’s depth chart. Because the prospect pool is replenished for the most part, I fully expect the new team management to focus on younger players who are either NHL-ready, or close to being ready.
I have compiled a list of players to provide examples of the types of players that might be of interest for the Hughes and Gorton duo. Example of teams who are in the playoffs, or battling for a place, and players who are not impact players for them yet, but that the Canadiens might consider instead of draft picks. I have made one exception, as you will see. I have included a solid right-handed veteran defenseman, as it’s a huge need in the organisation.
Vitali Kravtsov (NYR)
He’s the first player that came to mind when the news came out that Gorton was hired in Montreal. It’s him who drafted Kravtsov back in 2018, 9th overall so he knows him rather well. And he had to agree to draft him. The Russian winger is currently loaned to the KHL’s where he has 13 points in 19 games. Big (6-foot 3-inches, 193 lbs), skilled, good hands, good speed and gritty. You don’t always have to sacrifice size to get skills and he’s one example of that.
Elias Pettersson (VAN)
It’s been a rough stretch for Pettersson whom, in my opinion, was rushed to the NHL by the Canucks, much like Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Not because of his skills’ set, he’s talented enough. But he hadn’t filled in yet, playing against the bigger and stronger NHL players. And like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton, he got hurt fairly regularly as a result. Now, his confidence is affected. At 6-foot 2-inches and 176 lbs, he would still benefit from adding some muscle mass but there’s no denying his skating ability, his vision, passing skills and his NHL quality shot.
Zach Senyshyn (BOS)
Along with Jake DeBrusk, Senyshyn has been rumoured to be dangled around by the Bruins as he too has requested a trade. Between the two, he’s the one I personally would prefer, even though DeBrusk is bigger. Not small by any means (6-foot 1-inch, 205 lbs), the Ottawa native has outstanding skating ability. He was selected 15th overall in 2015 and he’s struggling to find room on a very deep roster in Boston.
Akil Thomas (LAK)
Not long ago, we touched on how the LA Kings are good trading partners for the Canadiens, particularly now that Marc Bergevin works for them. The former Habs’ GM knows the Canadiens inside and out and most likely knows who could help the Kings. Thomas is someone I would try to get, not as a key piece necessarily, but as a high potential project. He has great speed, good vision and he’s a good playmaker who can also shoot the puck well. Again, not undersized at 6-feet tall and 195 lbs.
Jacob Perreault (ANA)
Benoit-Olivier Groulx (ANA)
I have put them both together as they’re both in Anaheim, but both young men have potential. The French Canadian aspect is an added bonus, but both can play hockey too. Perreault is the son of former Habs Yanic Perreault. Standing at 5-foot 11-inches and 192 lbs, he’s a similar size as Nick Suzuki. He’s a bit younger than the others mentioned in this article but the 19 year-old has 18 points in 24 games so far in the AHL.
As for Groulx, he is the son of Benoit Groulx, long time head hockey man of the Gatineau Olympics and current coach of the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Standing at 6-foot 2-inches and 200 lbs, he has good size for the NHL. Not only is the 21 year-old physical, but he’s a 200-foot center who is responsible and efficient in all three zones.
1st round pick for Ben Chiarot
This is the minimum, in my opinion, the Canadiens should get for Chiarot. I’ve stated before that the team could likely get a conditional pick based on how far they go in this year’s playoffs. The further the team goes, the higher the pick. Chiarot is having a good season on a bad Habs’ team and teams have seen, just a few months ago, how much they can rely on this physical specimen.
John Klingberg (DAL)
Pierre LeBrun reports that Klingberg could fetch the biggest return. LeBrun speculated it could be a package of a first-round draft pick, a prospect and perhaps another pick. He pointed out the Columbus Blue Jackets got a first and a third for David Savard before last year’s trade deadline. While that might seem too rich for some, it sounds about right considering the market, particularly if Klingberg agrees to a contract extension. He would buy time for Logan Mailloux, the Habs’ highest right-handed defenseman prospect, to properly develop.
So there you have it folks. Those are not necessarily the players that the Canadiens will get, but it’s the type of young players that the team could target. Once again, it’s based on the fact that they have tons of picks in the pipelines, and many more for the upcoming draft. Some of those are former first or second round picks, but they are closer to the NHL than a draft pick would be. And we’ve explained recently the realities of the Draft.
It is also important to note that I’m not saying that any or all of those players are available, although we have heard some of them being subjects of rumours. But a remember that a rumour is just a rumour until something happens.