By JD Lagrange – Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes has done some work since coming into the position, particularly at trade deadline. Most will agree that he could have done more and it’s not from a lack of trying. He was close to trading Jeff Petry and Shea Weber’s contract, but both deals fell through at the last minute. He has left himself a lot of work to do in the off-season so let’s look at the most pressing issues he is facing.
Shed Salary Cap
The site capfriendly.com shows the Canadiens sitting at $82,671,309 based on 17 players for next season. As the cap has been announced to go up to $82.5 million, that’s $171,309 over the cap. Below is the list of the team’s biggest contracts starting next season.
According to Hughes himself, he came close to trading Shea Weber’s contract. If he trades Petry, that’s $6.25 million off the books but the Canadiens’ GM is on record saying that he wants to replace him by another veteran. It’s unclear how much he would save. Jonathan Drouin, Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak, Joel Armia and Paul Byron have all been in the Rumour Mill at one point.
Jeff Petry had a horrible season, but he has turned things around since Martin St-Louis has been named head coach. He had asked for a trade due to COVID restriction and his family down in Michigan. In his season ending press conference, Hughes restated that he would try to accommodate his defenseman but that he would have to make sense for the Canadiens.
As mentioned earlier, Hughes came close to trading him at trade deadline but the deal fell through. Will this secret team revisit in the off-season? If that team is Dallas and they lose John Klingberg, there is a strong possibility, particularly the way Petry finished the season.
Everyone involved, Carey Price included, was hoping that by playing in the final 10 games or so of the season, we would have answers on the Canadiens’ goaltender’s health and future. Unfortunately, Price had some swelling in his knee. He has since received a second opinion and it seems like he might need another surgery.
Listening to him in interviews, Hughes doesn’t want to start the season with the same uncertainty as Marc Bergevin did last year. It seems like he will be seeking an insurance policy in the event Price misses a lot of time. As this will be Jake Allen’s last year of his contract, could the Canadiens be tempted to circle back on Washington Capitals’ Ilya Samsonov? There should be a few goaltenders available this summer.
Perhaps Hughes’ biggest decision will be to figure out if Shane is “Wright or not” as the team’s number one pick. Whether it pleases the masses or not, the team must do it’s due diligence when it comes to that pick as they simply cannot afford to get this… wrong.
With the Draft held in Montreal, you will not find a bigger stage for the Canadiens to either announce that pick or to make a blockbuster move that will shake Montreal. We are more than a few who think that it’s not as clearcut as some want to believe and that the Canadiens could have something up their sleeve.
Experience on defense
Particularly if Petry is gone, the Canadiens will need some experience on defense, particularly on the right side. One of the biggest mistakes fans make is seeing talented players and seeing them in too big of roles too soon. As André Tourigny explained a while ago, prospects need to play at a level where they can have success in order to better develop. If it means a year or two in the AHL, or an additional season in junior, that’s what Hughes will do.
I personally really like John Klingberg who, at 29, he would be a good veteran to lead this team’s defense until Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Logan Mailloux are ready to step up in bigger roles. Good skater and puck mover, he also fits the mold what Hughes and Gorton are looking for.
Reports (or suppositions) are everywhere about Martin St-Louis re-signing with the Canadiens, therefore removing the interim tag he was given when hired in February. It seems a little bit odd that this hasn’t been finalized already but I guess we’ll find out soon enough what the hold out might be.
We are about five weeks away from the NHL Draft, which is scheduled for July 7th and 8th at the Bell Centre. Traditionally, that’s the beginning of a very busy couple of weeks, with free agency starting on July 13th. Usually, activities slow right down in August, when hockey staff seem to all take the month off to recharge. It should be a busy summer for the Canadiens. Hang onto your hats, it could be a wild ride.