Every team faces a few uncertainties in the off-season but this year’s edition of the Montreal Canadiens faces more than most. Some questions will be answered on draft day, some will be answered during the free agency period, some could be answered in the trade market and some won’t be answered until assessments are made at training camp.
With so much uncertainty it is virtually impossible to predict how the chips may fall. We can take a look and see how complicated the situation might be.
With the announcement that Price is making a visit to a doctor in New York in order to have his knee examined once again, warning bells can be heard faintly in the background. Is this a career ending situation or not? Price on the LTIR would leave the Canadiens with the same big hole in net but it would create a lot of cap space.
The status of Carey Price is the first big question facing the Canadiens and the final answer may be unknown for months.
Jeff Petry’s on-ice resurgence has created another question. His play since Martin St. Louis arrived has been among the best we’ve seen during his tenure in Montreal but there are other factors at work here … personal factors.
The atmosphere surrounding Petry has changed dramatically in the past 2 1/2 months and it is reflected in his play and in his body language. If Petry wants to return, the team should welcome him with open arms and if he wants to be traded they need to maximize the return on a valuable asset.
Question number two is what does the future hold for Jeff Petry.
Brendan Gallagher is another high profile player with the Canadiens and while some think he could be en route to a different team, it’s highly doubtful. Over the next three years Gallagher is owed $23.5 million or almost $8 million per year. It’s hard to see any team wanting to absorb that kind of contract.
While his return isn’t an absolute certainty it’s seems highly probably that we will see the familiar #11 toiling for the Habs next year. This question seems to be already answered.
For a variety of reasons Jonathan Drouin has made a career of being a question mark. This year it is the status of his wrist which was recently operated on. Because of that injury it is hard to know if he can successfully return to the NHL and he probably has little trade value until his play can be assessed.
It’s reasonable to assume that this question won’t be answered until training camp.
While the final structure of the defense hinges on what happens with Jeff Petry, there are a lot of other questions that need to be answered. Can David Savard contribute effectively when playing above the 3rd pairing? Are any or all of Justin Barron, Jordan Harris and Kaiden Guhle ready to be reliable contributors? Who will be the PP quarterback? Could it be Norlinder or will he even return to North America? What kind of defenseman do you want as your swing man or #7 defenseman? A defensive specialist, a Swiss army knife like Corey Schueneman or a PP specialist like Chris Wideman?
The multitude of questions arising out of the defensive situation may be the most complicated and challenging that Kent Hughes faces. Some will be answered sooner than others but the final picture isn’t likely to come into focus until late in training camp.
The entry draft may not affect or improve the team immediately but it could impact what happens in the trade and free agent markets.
Should the Canadiens draft Shane Wright the long term picture at center ice would seem to be more or less settled. But if they draft a winger or defenseman, Hughes may decide he needs to strengthen the team at center in one way or another.
Team needs will become more apparent once the draft is complete. In fact we might not have to wait until draft day; the draft lottery may bring that into focus sooner rather than later.
When a team suffers through a year like the Canadiens have had, there are questions surrounding every player. The few discussed here are some of the more prominent ones. Other veterans who face uncertain futures are Mike Hoffman, Joel Armia and Laurent Dauphin. Younger players looking to take the next step include Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling, Jesse Ylonen, Michael Pezzetta as well as a couple of players in Laval like Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Emil Heineman.
Kent Hughes and company have a mountain of work in front of them in the next 4-5 months and Habs fans will be watching developments closely. Get ready for an action-packed off-season.
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