Habs Salivating At Panthers’ Misfortune

By JD Lagrange – People of my generation have been raised to not laugh at someone else’s misfortune. But when you’re the Montreal Canadiens and you’ve gone through a season from hell, shattering man-games lost records… when, because if it, you had to liquidate your top players at trade deadline… it’s hard to feel sympathy for other teams going through a bit of a tough time. Particularly not when you own their first round pick!

That’s why you won’t see anyone around Montreal feeling sorry for the Toronto Maple Leafs having to play without Matt Murray, their starting goaltender, for… five weeks. Heck, Carey Price played 12 games in 2015-16, and the Habs are entering a second consecutive season without one of the best goaltenders in the game!

Aaron Ekblad

Now, the Florida Panthers – who traded their first round pick to Montreal in the Ben Chiarot deal – are missing a couple of key pieces as both Aaron Ekblad and Anthony Duclair are on the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR). Duclair, who scored 31 goals for the Panthers last season, had Achilles surgery in the off-season and will be out until January at least. Ekblad played 25 minutes per game last season for the Panthers, leading the team in that category.

But that’s not all the Panthers have lost from the playoffs’ team last year. From the post-season roster to now, they are without:

  • Claude Giroux (UFA)
  • Jonathan Huberdeau (traded)
  • MacKenzie Weegar (traded)
  • Ben Chiarot (UFA)
  • Joe Thornton (UFA)

You can also now add Ekblad and Duclair, at least for a few weeks/months, to that list.

The additions are somewhat underwhelming in comparison. GM Bill Zito has added:

  • Matthew Tkachuk
  • Colin White
  • Nick Cousins
  • Marc Staal

Tkachuk is a substantial addition, but they gave up Huberdeau and Weegar to get him. While it makes them a bit younger, that does not improve a team in the short to mid term.

Further, they don’t have a first or a third round pick at this upcoming draft. It is also important to note that this first round pick traded to the Canadiens has no lottery protection. Let’s be honest though… the Panthers won’t finish in the bottom 10 teams of the NHL for a chance at the first overall pick. But technically, if they were to miss the playoffs, Montreal could find themselves with another top-16 pick in addition to their own.

So forgive them if they don’t shed a tear about Florida’s misfortune.

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HabsTracks – May 10th, 2022

HabsTracks is a review, retracing the recent hot topics. This week, we’re looking at the Draft Lottery, the immediate goaltending future of the Canadiens, the options with Jeff Petry and the new Habs’ captain, amongst other things. Please feel free to comment and share with your friends.

Well folks, the NHL Draft Lottery is tonight and that’s when we’ll find out where the Canadiens will be selecting in the first round, or with their first pick anyway as they also have the Calgary Flames’ first round pick. Will they get to decide if they want Shane Wright? Here are the odds.

Now if the Canadiens happen to win the lottery, and if they select Shane Wright, what will they do with him next season? For sure, he would be at rookie camp and likely receive an invitation to the main camp. But if he performs okay, but he’s not outstanding, what will the Canadiens do? Is returning him to junior an option? It’s either junior or Montreal and Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton both want to put the emphasis on player development.

The last time that a high pick made an immediate impact on the Habs was Carey Price. Since then, Alex Galchenyuk and Jesperi Kotkaniemi both started in the NHL and while Galchenyuk managed a 30-goals season soon after, he never developed according to expectations at the NHL level. For Kotkaniemi, we’re still waiting. Remember that Wright is not considered a generational talent.

Much as been said about Carey Price’s future and it seems like he has received a second opinion, suggesting that he gets another surgery. His future is filled with question marks as he was still getting some swelling in his surgically repaired knee after games. His future is as much in limbo as it was a year ago and the Canadiens have 10.5 million reasons to be worried.

“I think that Price pushed too hard in the playoffs and it could cost him his career.” ~ Stéphane Waite

With the uncertainty surrounding Price, what will Hughes do about the goaltending situation? He could wait and see how Price is at training camp, meaning status quo. But from his recent comments, it is doubtful that he stays put this off-season. In late February, there were rumours to the effect that the Canadiens had some interest in Washington Capitals’ Ilya Samsonov. Don’t be surprised if the Habs circle back on him or look for an insurance policy this summer.

Another player whose future is uncertain is defenseman Jeff Petry’s. We all know that he had requested a trade and that Hughes came close to completing a deal for him at trade deadline, but the teams ran out of time to finalize the details. Since then, Petry has been red hot. Under Dominique Ducharme, Petry averaged 0.16 points per game. Since Martin St-Louis took over, his points per game average was 0.70. In fact, he ended the season on a 5-games points streak and had 7 points in his last seven games.

The Canadiens could use the good Petry but there are no indications that he or Hughes have changed their mind. The Canadiens’ GM said, in his post-season media conference, that if he trades Petry, he will look at replacing him with a veteran right-handed defenseman.

So who are the potential replacements if Petry gets traded? It could come through trade or via free agency. Here are some of the right-handed defensemen scheduled to be pending UFAs:

  • Kris Letang
  • John Klingberg
  • Anton Stralman
  • Justin Schultz
  • Colin Miller
  • P.K. Subban

Kent Hughes is on record saying that the team will name a captain for next season. A few names are circulating, including veterans Brendan Gallagher and Joel Edmundson. But don’t neglect Nick Suzuki, who is mature beyond his young age. He’s already the face of the franchise, along with Cole Caufield, and faces the media regularly with a calm rarely seen for a 22 year-old.

Joel Armia will be suiting up for Finland at the World Championships and it didn’t take more for the news to raise ire of some fans. I know, surprising, right? They are saying that he went back home for a family emergency and, according to those fans, he should not represent his country because of it. Of course, they don’t know that Armia was given permission by the Canadiens to go back as his wife was expecting a baby. Well folks, it doesn’t take months to give birth… It’s not the first time that fans overreact.

The Canadiens also confirmed that Josh Anderson will be suiting up for Team Canada. Meanwhile, Suzuki has declined the invitation due to a sore back, and Caufield said no to Team USA as he has played a lot of hockey in the past year and a half. Those two deserve the rest.

Speaking of Suzuki, he was announced as the Molson Cup winner this season. Defenseman Alexander Romanov was awarded the Jacques Beauchamps Trophy, given to the team’s unsung hero. No one will complain about those two nominations as they were the most consistent players all season long, aside from Ben Chiarot and Tyler Toffoli prior to being traded.

Everything has been said about the passing and funerals of Canadiens’ legend Guy Lafleur… If you would like to read our tribute, our staff wrote one recently. Here is Ginette Reno and her rendition of “L’essentiel”, at Guy’s National funeral.

Don’t forget, folks, that Cheering The Logo has a podcast. We are planning on being more consistent with it starting in the Fall, but we do have three episodes under our belt with more to come this summer, for special events.

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