By JD Lagrange – It’s been a long, tough ride for Habs’ fans this past season. With new management in place and with the first pick overall in their back pocket, the excitement is back and palpable. While still fighting and arguing about everything on social media, fans are excited about the Draft. Will it be Shane Wright? Or is Kent Hughes holding a surprise and dare tick off the fan base as his predecessor wasn’t afraid to do?
We have covered it in long and in large, the Canadiens’ GM has a long list of things to do. There are so many possibilities that we don’t know which way to turn, or where to start. Rumours are rampant and only getting stronger as the Draft approaches. Some are reasonable, others are wishful thinking by fans and media members. But as the Stanley Cup Finals are about to start, we do know that there should be some action starting in the next couple of weeks.
With COVID having restricted our travels and activities for two years, and with the price of fuel and the cost of living having gone through the roof, there will always be one thing left that is free: dreaming. And our dreams are all different… some more than others. The beauty of it is that dreams are our own and no one can judge us for having them. After all, why get upset at someone else’s vivid imagination? It’s not reality.
Please allow me to share at least the framework of what my dream would be. Of course, it would start with Carey Price being back at full strength and healthy. But we know as much about that as we know about life in other solar systems. So for this exercise, I’ll keep in mind what we do know about him, his uncertain future.
Four moves that I would like to see happen:
- Jeff Petry traded – $6.25 million in savings, and an unhappy player who pouted most of last season out of the dressing room. Bye-bye Jeff, thanks for your services.
- Shea Weber‘s contract traded – $7.857 million in savings. Thank you for grooming our young players and leaving a new culture on the Habs, and for sacrificing everything for this franchise.
- Mike Hoffman traded – $4.5 million in savings, I’ve never been a fan of his. We’ll keep Jonathan Drouin instead, who only has one year left to his contract instead.
- Paul Byron‘s contract bought out – $3.4 million contract, a buyout would save $1.87 million next season and cost $933k the following season. Love you Ti-Paul, but good luck with your new team.
Those moves would free up a total of $20.477 million for next season.
I would like to see the Canadiens do one of two things:
- To avoid getting into the Shane Wright debate and be accused of seeking hits for the website – a common excuse by those who disagree with selecting anyone else – let’s say the Habs select him. I would still like to see them trade Calgary’s pick (26th overall) and possibly their own second round pick (33rd overall) to move up to a top-15 pick. Perhaps add a prospect, player or pick to move even higher?
- Oh what the heck, it’s MY dream so I’ll go there anyway, whether it displeases some. Yes, I would consider trading back if ultimately, it makes the team better. I believe that more than the need “to be right” (no pun intended), that’s what every fan should thrive for. So I would try to pull a stunt like Brian Burke did in 1999 while GM of the Canucks, allowing him to pick the Sedin Twins. I strongly believe that the Habs would be a better team if they could select both Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley. Disagree? That’s okay, you are allowed to… as I’m allowed to my opinion too!
Acquire young talent
Ideally, I would like to see the Canadiens continue adding NHL ready young talent to their line-up. So I would target the following players:
- Vitali Kravtsov (NYR) – It’s official, he’s coming back to the NHL after signing a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Rangers. According to NHL Insiders, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be traded. Big, talented, fast winger drafted by… Jeff Gorton. I can certainly see him skating down the right wing alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, can’t you?
- 3rd overall pick (ARI) – While some media outlets have filled fans’ heads that the Canadiens could trade for New Jersey’s second overall pick, there is no way they will do that unless you give them Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield in return. But Arizona’s 3rd overall pick would be more attainable, and would allow the Canadiens to select one of Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley.
- Ilya Samsonov (WAS) – A simple insurance policy in case Carey Price can’t go, which is a very strong possibility. Hughes stated himself wanting more experienced depth at the goaltending position in that event. Samsonov, a pending RFA, isn’t expansive and he’s young enough that he still has the potential to break through.
- Right-handed defenseman – Not just a RD, but one that can play top-4 now, or relatively soon. Right now, the Canadiens top right-shooting defenseman is… David Savard! Then you have Chris Wideman and Justin Barron, who needs some maturing and developing, not on the top pair. It’s unlikely that the Habs will be able to draw a top UFA like John Klingberg, and Kris Letang would be way too expansive. But Etan Bear (CAR), Neal Pionk (WIN), Tyson Barrie (EDM), Matt Dumba (MIN) and John Marino (PIT) are all right-shooting defensemen who have been in the rumour mill.
There you have it. To me, if Hughes and VP of Hockey Ops Jeff Gorton managed to pull something like this, it would be an ideal off-season. It would give the team flexibility and add to an already growing talented prospect pool, by also filling glaring organizational needs. So tell me… what is YOUR dream?
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