By JD Lagrange – The Canadiens have (finally) announced that they have agreed to terms on a new contract with winger Cole Caufield. The young prolific goals’ scorer will have at least 62.8 million reasons to smile over the next eight years! As predicted by yours truly, Kent Hughes has respected his team’s pay scale as Caufield’s $7.85 million cap hit is just below Nick Suzuki’s $7.875 million.
Selected 15th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft by the Canadiens, the 22 year old diminutive sniper has 53 goals and 84 points in 123 games so far in his young career, with a differential of minus -35. Since Martin St-Louis has taken over as the team’s head coach, Caufield has scored 48 goals in only 83 games. He was shut down last season with a shoulder injury, which he had surgically repaired.
No need to say, Habs’ fans are ecstatic at the news of this signing… and rightfully so. However, in spite of all of the excitement, this contract does not come without risks.
Let’s face it, the sample size is rather small here, and we’re not talking about his 5-foot 7-inches frame. Giving that much money over such a long term for someone who has only a season and a half worth of games under his belt and who suffered a major injury is a bit… unusual.
There is no doubt that Caufield can play hockey and if there’s one thing that he knows how to do, it’s to find the back of the net. But the questions remain about his sustainability, being able to not only play through an 82-games gruelling NHL schedule, but to stay healthy and keep producing at that pace.
Fans of his will claim that he can. The more pessimistic will say that he will not. The truth is that nobody knows for sure. Kent Hughes and the Canadiens’ management group are gambling that he will. There is a risk and all are well aware of it… whether they admit it or not.
With Michael Pezzetta recently re-signed for two years, there are three more prominent restricted free agents to re-sign by Hughes. Management must make a decision about offering a qualifying offer or not to Russian winger Denis Gurianov, who was making $2.9 million last season. Rafaël Harvey Pinard has opened the eyes of many people after being called up last season and he needs to be extended. The other one is Jesse Ylönen.
But beyond that, there could be a trade or two and none has more smoke than the one of the Winnipeg Jets’ center Pierre-Luc Dubois and his ties to the Canadiens.
The NHL Draft is set for June 28-29th so we still have a month of speculations ahead of us… at the most. In the meantime, rest assured that Hughes will be on the phone periodically with his counterpart Kevin Cheveldayoff, in Winnipeg, while preparing with his scouting team on whose name to call on the podium at the number five spot overall.
With the pieces left by previous management starting to come up through the system, and the moves and decisions from this current management group, the Canadiens are building something very interesting. Add to that the unusual approach by St-Louis, players are talking around the NHL and more and more will be considering Montreal as a prime destination… as they start winning.