By JD Lagrange – It’s funny how rapidly things can change in hockey. Back in the off-season, Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Kent Hughes gambled on not one, but two centers. First, at the NHL Draft, Hughes surprised everyone by trading away Alexander Romanov to the New York Islanders and, when the dust settled, acquiring Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks. Then on August 18th, he acquired Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames in exchange for future considerations.
Since the start of the season, there has been a surplus of centers on the Canadiens, which created a debate on social media as to which one of Monahan or Dach should play center or wing. With the team already having Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans down the middle, and with all of them healthy, the surplus wasn’t ideal. For a while in October, there has been a rotation between Monahan and Dach on the wing until recently, when Martin St-Louis decided to try Dach on the top line, to the right of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. That move immediately paid dividends.
With the way Monahan has been performing and seeing that his hips appear to be holding up to the grind of the NHL, there was a growing number of fans who felt like re-signing him was a possibility. That list includes yours truly and my colleague Bob Trask, amongst others.
And truthfully, seeing that Dach is doing so well on the top line’s right wing, the possibility of re-signing the former Flames remains strong. Seeing how dominant Monahan (55.4%) and Dvorak (55.6%) are in the faceoffs’ dots and how effective he is in all three zones, one would be hard pressed to want him on the wing now.
So what are the Canadiens to do now? Well, here’s the thing. I am not in the secrets of the Gods but there was a lot of smoke around the possibility of Kent Hughes trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois this off-season. Seeing that a trade was not going to happen soon enough, the Jets center/winger eventually accepted the team’s qualifying offer of one year, $6 million.
So what are the plans if you are Dubois, the Jets or the Canadiens, knowing that he wants to play in Montreal? Can the two teams agree to a trade value? If you consider that he has 10 points in 11 games so far and he is being utilized predominantly at center again this season, the asking price from the Jets is unlikely to go down. And what will be the cost of signing him long term?
I have a strong feeling that the future of Monahan in Montreal, aside obviously of his desire to stay with the Canadiens or not and agreeing to a new contract, resides directly the hopes and desire the team has in acquiring Dubois. By next season, Monahan will be 29 years old while Dubois will be 25.
Or perhaps, the Canadiens still intend in developing Dach as a centerman in spite of his success on the top line? Perhaps finding a scoring winger would be easier and cheaper than trying to pry Dubois from Winnipeg at a ransom price.
The possibilities are numerous, with a lot of moving pieces, as we can see. Good on you if you think knowing what goes through Hughes and Jeff Gorton’s mind, as I certainly cannot begin to pretend knowing anything about their true intentions. And truthfully, I doubt that they know at this point in time.